I used to go to shows. Not in the theater sense, but the musical sense. Not concerts–these were too small and too cool for that–concerts, what are those, Beethoven? The bands your mom listens to?–but “shows.”

This would be when I was in high school, the three or four years previous to and including the year 2000. I’m a little older than I used to be. Your average show had anywhere from three to six bands, most of them local, nearly all the rest from the I-5 Corridor across the state, meaning Seattle/Portland/Bellingham/Olympia, and would be attended by anywhere from 20 to 300 people, almost exclusively of the 15-29-year-old age bracket.

Shows didn’t cost much. $5, maybe as high as $10 if they’d roped in one of those Seattle bands like 764-Hero or GreenAppleQuickStep that everyone was certain would make it big in a year or three. $5-10 bought you 3-4 hours of a dark, sweaty, ear-stomping dancing, moshing, head-bobbing night out with your friends, normally capped off by an extra couple hours at Denny’s drinking coffee, rehydrating, and recapping whatever you’d just seen.

For those of us who hadn’t yet become cool enough to drink beer and bang each other, it was about as great as high school got. It was for me, anyway. I was something of a nerd. Not in a bullied, social pariah way–I had a good group of friends and a nice social life. But we didn’t have many outlets besides going to Denny’s and watching movies and playing GoldenEye and Mario Kart in my parents’ basement. It was that kind of town. We were that kind of kids. For me, each show was something to look forward to, a place to get outside myself and jump around, to leave sweating and dazed into the cool desert night.

The main and best place for shows was a place called the Hoedown. The Hoedown was, as the name implies, an old barn that had long ago been converted into a semi-commercial venue, meaning it had a small stage, a back room for the bands, and a floor maybe 30 x 50 feet. The perfect size to pen in a couple hundred kids without feeling too open or too cramped. No concessions or anything like that–the bands set up card tables by the front door to sell their CDs. Other than that, it was rafters, spiderwebs, and dust.

I don’t think the Hoedown exists anymore. Not as a showgoing venue, anyway. Even when I was in high school, the place had a checkered past, constantly being bought out, shut down, and reopened, plagued by noise complaints, older kids smoking and drinking in the parking lot, and (I can only guess) spotty revenues. The Tri-City music scene moved on to other places. An old club above a bar in Richland. An agricultural warehouse at the fairgrounds in Kennewick. An upscale motel in Pasco. Kids aged out of the scene while others hung on, becoming minor local fixtures or “Hey, is that weird old guy hitting on your girlfriend?” Bands disbanded, reunited, switched members, changed names, moved away, moved on.

I still see signs for shows when I’m back in town, hear ads for them on the high school radio station where I DJed my senior year. I more or less ended my showgoing days once I headed to college. I’ve been to a handful since, mostly to watch Gosling aka Loudermilk, the local heroes who actually did move to Los Angeles and get a record contract. And a song on a soundtrack. A tour with Motley Crue and Megadeath. A proper album, The Red Record, which I bought in the Circuit City in Union Square in New York. (Their second album, it should be noted. I’d long ago bought their first, Man With Gun Kills Three!, at its 1998 release at the Hoedown.) According to Wikipedia, they broke up in 2006. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve gone to a show.

I’m remembering all this because a couple nights ago I dragged out my Birdsaw album Fainting Room. Birdsaw was a somewhat unusual Hoedown player, given that they came all the way from San Francisco, which is the furthest I can remember any band traveling from. Sadly, they didn’t get much of an audience for their trouble. 40-odd people, maybe, just enough to form a couple lines in front of the stage with a few people milling around near the doors.

They deserved better. Their lead singer, Robin Coomer, was a tiny redhead who looked like you could fold her into a briefcase, but her voice was massive, a soaring, haunting, belting force so loud it should have shattered her ribcage. I was entranced. The band was great, too, a sort of dark, glittering, energetic guitar-rock almost as creepy-pretty-spacey as the vocals. Forgive me if I’m not getting this across. I’m not a music writer.

They did a giveaway of a copy of Haunted by One Question, promising to hand it over to whoever danced the hardest. I was the runner-up. I’m reasonably certain the winner was a plant. The other 38 people mostly stood there, a few of them bobbing their heads.

Birdsaw was my favorite band I ever saw at the Hoedown, so much so that I not only bought the album they’d brought with them, Haunted by One Question, but I emailed them to find out when they’d be back in town next. Sometime, they promised. There may have even been a date attached. They never made it back. Not that I saw. If they did, I’d already moved away.

I burned a copy of that album, gave the original away to a friend. I just about wore the CD out on my Discman on 10-hour trips to Montana. In 2000, I bought their followup online, Fainting Room. I graduated college, moved back to the Tri-Cities, moved to Idaho, moved back to the Tri-Cities again, moved to Los Angeles, where I am now. I still have Fainting Room. I listened to it just a couple nights ago. It made my hair stand on end.

I don’t know what happened to that burned copy of Haunted by One Question. It wasn’t in my CDs. It’s somewhere in my old bedroom at my parents’ house, I think. I hope.

Because it isn’t online. It isn’t on Amazon. It isn’t on iTunes or Pirate Bay. Googling “birdsaw ‘haunted by one question'” turns up 37 hits. I imagine there are a few hundred copies of it out there, bought at shows in places like Richland and Boise and Eugene, but 13 years after its release, it may as well not exist beyond a couple hundred CD collections across the country, most of which, given the new age, have likely been relegated to a couple hundred dusty garages, basements, and closets.

There are times it feels like the internet has everything. Everything of substance, anyways. Everything that was ever made public. The crowdsourced encyclopedia is virtually a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Amazon and iTunes and Myspace collect all the music that’s ever been recorded. Failing legit means of distribution, some pirate somewhere will have the seed you need. The internet’s become a collective memory of everything we have now and ever will have in the future.

But things still go missing. Things fade out and fall away and disappear. Good things get lost. If that burned CD isn’t somewhere in the closet of my old bedroom, I may never hear it again.

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