On Sunday, March 16, Seattle will experience a musical first. The Seattle Chapter of the Washington Restaurant Association (WRA) will bring together food from fifteen Seattle restaurants and musicians right out of their kitchens and dinning rooms. Seven area bands who have a connection with the food industry will be playing throughout the night at the Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Avenue S., starting at dinner time, 6 pm.
Echoing many ticket-holders' and performers' sentiments, singer/songwriter Kate Graves says, "The Seattle Soundbite show is celebrating my two favorite things: food and music." But it is more than just this combination. Many bars and restaurants offer live music. What the WRA has created, however, is not only a twist on a marketing event to get the association's name out there but a way to raise money for two great causes.
"We started thinking music and neighborhood restaurants, and it morphed into having restaurant-employee bands perform. What restaurant doesn't have musicians working for them!" said Lori Magaro, Marketing and Public Relations at Ray's Boathouse Restaurant, as well as a WRA committee co-chair with Tom Buckley, VP of Sales and Marketing at Caffe Vita Coffee Roasting Co. Employee-bands seem to be a phenomenon in this industry, though they do exist in white collar and blue collar jobs. However, there is something unique about the making of music by those who make or serve food.
Both music and food are basic to humanity it seems. For Alfonso Gonzales, percussionist with the Latin band Picoso, "Music is a very integral part of life," he says. Growing up in Puerto Rico, he recalls, "Everybody played an instrument and everybody sang." And, of course, food was always present.
"There's a connection between food and music," says Ian McFeron, who also will be performing Sunday. "It's a deep-rooted human experience, offering community and sustenance." And perhaps it is a sustenance that goes beyond the body, but feeds the soul.
Magaro and Buckley found a way to stage this platter of food and music in a spectacular venue. "It was one that bands would be psyched to get the chance to play in," Magaro says. They negotiated with the Showbox SoDo and set up the event. The Showbox SoDo has been around since 1939, hosting the premier artists of each era. Its ballroom has seen the talents of Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong, while also hosting newer acts like Pearl Jam, King Crimson, Les Claypool, Steve Kimock, and Medeski Martin & Wood.
The seven employee-bands who will be playing Sunday are a varied lot and come from some of the trendiest restaurants in Seattle. "I've been working food service since I was fifteen...busser, hostess, server, manager, banquet coordinator, barista, catering. You name it, I've done it," says Kate Graves who has been able to combine music with that rich food experience. Born Anchors, an alt-rock band, has a musician from Ray's Boathouse, and the Ian McFeron Band, a rootsy rock group, boasts a drummer from Ray's Catering. Members of Disjoined Isotopes, a hip-hop band, all work in local restaurants (Serious Pie, Palace Kitchen, Le Pichet, Daniet's Broiler, and Union Square Grill). Sideways Reign, a jam rock group, has bandmates who work at Olympic Mountain Ice Cream and The Robin Hood Pub.
High-energy rock band, Sunday Night Blackout, comes out of Via Tribunal. Then there's Alfonso Gonzalez of Picoso, who is the chef-owner of La Isla, a popular Puerto Rican restaurant that started out as a food vendor at the Fremont Market, offering food and salsa music. La Isla emerged as the only Puerto Rican restaurant in the Northwest, serving up some of the freshest fresh-caught seafood in the region, and Picoso springboarded into one of the hottest Latin bands in the region.
The fifteen restaurants will be serving "street-style" food for purchase at the event. Here's who's serving what.
Café Campagne - Tarragon & citrus crab salad on gougere
Coastal Kitchen - Cebiche potato pods
El Gaucho - Steak sliders
Lark - Pork belly tartine with quince preserves, and wild mushroom tartine with fried quail egg and truffle butter
Palace Kitchen - Palace tacos
Purple Cafe & Wine Bar - Syrah brownies
Quinn's - Wild boar sloppy joe's
Ray's Cafe - Alaskan halibut gyros with grilled onions and tzatziki
Red Door - Shredded pork sliders
Serafina - Handmade pizzelle with chocolate hazelnut mousse, vin santo whipped cream and fresh raspberries
Southlake Grill - Coconut prawns with chile dipping sauce
Tango - Queso azul
Tavolata - Hot pockets
Via Tribunali - Handmade pizzas
Volunteer Park Cafe - Braised pork "piggies in blankets" with caramelized onions
All proceeds from the evening's event will benefit The Vera Project and ProStart. The Vera Project is an all-ages music center that is youth run. Their mission is to foster personal and community transformation through putting on music shows, offering area youth opportunities not only to play but to participate in all levels of music production. ProStart is a WRA-funded high school program that mates industry professionals and classroom teachers with students in an accredited two-year program to help them launch successful careers in the hospitality industry or to go on to college.
If you are in the Seattle area, come on down to the Showbox SoDo. It only costs $15 for a night of music, but bring some extra cast because the aroma of all that gorgeous food will be hard to pass up. Great food and great music–what could be better?