Moe’s to Neumos: A Venue stands the Test of Time

The smell of late night Seattle street dogs, rainbow crosswalks, eccentric fashion and assortment of coffee shops that aren’t all Starbucks are all elements that capture the essence of of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. In the constantly changing city landscape, there is one venue that has stood the test of time for over two decades: Neumos.

It has become iconic in Seattle’s music scene, hosting genres from EDM to rap (throwback to Macklemore’s free concert a couple years back), and can be recounted in the college experiences of Seattle University students through the years.

However, not many people know that Neumos is actually “New Moe’s” and that the original venue was opened in 1994 as Moe’s Mo’Roc’N Café by Jerry Evercare. The venue has hosted greats such as Radiohead, Neil Young, No Doubt and Pearl Jam—tokens of a 90s grunge and rock movement long past.

Jason Lajeunesse, a co-owner and talent buyer who helped reopen Neumos in 2004, explained how he has seen the evolution of both the venue and local community.

“The neighborhood was considerably different. There wasn’t much where we were, with the exception of a handful of staples like The Comet, The Wild Rose and Barca,” Lajeunesse said. “When we opened, artists and musicians could still afford to live in the neighborhood and that’s whom the regulars were made up of. We still have those people performing and working with us, but, the clientele has broadened considerably and we see people from all over the region and the world visiting us.”

Steve Migliore, a radio host on rock station KISW’s BJ & Migs, was initially drawn to move to Seattle in pursuance of the grunge scene, being especially inspired by the famed 1996 Pearl Jam concert featuring Neil Young.

“I moved out here in 1997, so this was before Neumos was a club. I remember when it was called Moe’s,” Migliore said. “I was a huge Pearl Jam fan and when I moved out here I said ‘I gotta check this place out.’ At that time, Pearl Jam was one of the biggest bands in the world playing in a small venue.”

Since being relaunched, the venue has hosted a wide variety of musicians including Adele, Muse, Jack White, MGMT, The Shins, Diplo and Vampire Weekend. Lajeunesse states that live, quality performances from every genre forms the basis of what Neumos has to offer.

“We work with all genres of music, with a focus on indie rock, hip hop, electronic, punk and metal. While we continue to bring new themed events and programs to the businesses within our building, the live music will continue to be the backbone of what we do,” Lajeunesse.

Migliore observed the music evolution firsthand with his band Peter Parker, even practicing and performing with the band Harvey Danger, famed for their 90s hit “Flagpole Sitta.”

“I’d say it’s more eclectic now,” Migliore said. “You had your punk bands and your rock bands, loud and rock-dominated. You slowly started to get more alternative pop bands coming in. We played with Death Cab for Cutie and Harvey Danger.”

Blake Matthews, a native Seattleite and musical blogger who networks with local musicians, shared his own experience with the more recent musical progression of Neumos.

“One of the first times I visited Neumos for a music show was in 2008, for Lykke Li. I was super into that Drake song ‘Little Bit’ that featured her vocals on his tape ‘So Far Gone.,” Matthews said.

Matthews believes that though Neumos has come far from its roots as Moe’s, it will continue to have a significant musical presence in Seattle’s community.

“You’ll find many artists, local and domestic, trying to crawl into new music spaces and styles because the focus isn’t on a specific genre anymore. Neumos will continue to be a staple in the CH neighborhood and will probably not be affected. I’ve seen everything from rap, to alternative rock, to neo soul here,” Matthews said. “While Neumos may not fit every demographic out there, it will always have two sides of the spectrum and I think they will always have the upper hand in being the most musically forward.”

Migliore is optimistic about Neumos’ future, referencing the venue as an excellent place for musicians to perform.

“They’re in such a prime location Capitol Hill,” Migliore said. “They seem to be the center of Cap Hill! It’s a great sounding room, and it’s a room where even if you don’t fill it up it won’t be embarrassing. You could fill up the venue and feel like you’re a rockstar. It’s crazy to think it’s a historic club now…it’s great for those mid-level bands who have gained some attention as well.”

Lajeunesse is confident that Neumos will continue to play a role in sustaining Seattle’s music scene as musical interests continue to shift and change.

“Ultimately Seattle has changed, but it’s still a city that supports and appreciates good music. I think Neumos has created a consistent cornerstone for music in both our neighborhood and city,” Lajeunesse said.

Furthermore, Lajeunesse believes that Neumos has cemented itself as a diverse venue that has grown to reflect the changing audiences and interests of today’s music industry.

“We will have been a live music venue for more than two decades as Neumos, and this time compounded with the period of the 1990’s has and will continue to solidify us as a legacy venue, as long as we continue to deliver quality bands and experiences for the fans and the musicians themselves.”

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