From the moment I walked into the Pink Door last Tuesday night, I felt transported into a rare world I recognized, but had never actually been to. A world of meager copyright regulation, and a time when the music industry cared more for selling sheet music to small time performers than for creating a brand-name out of a musician. Obviously a far cry from the Corporate Pop-Star idol worship we now suffer through presently.
The Pink Door isn’t typically associated with music shows, and it was a surprising to hear that entertainment was on the menu. Upon entry in the bar at The Pink Door, it became clear that The Pink Door is also a venue. It felt like an early 1900’s bar, complete with low lighting. It’s hard to actually give Robert Rial and Bakelite 78’s a specific label. Rial himself had a hard time describing his music within the bounds of genre specification. They play songs spanning jazz, blues, country and early rock and roll. The term “Bakelite” refers to an old form of plastic, and “78” is a reference to the RPM of old records that “Tin Pan Alley” music used to be recorded on.
Bakelite 78 at the Steampunk Exhibition Ball 12/05/2009:
The Bakelite 78 perform at The Pink Door 04/06/2010:
The entire band was dressed in coats and ties, top hats and the women in frilly dresses. They all dressed the part of a relatively obscure music scene. The band performed with a trumpet, stand up bass, guitar, clarinet, drummer, and a pianist. Their sound was lively, engaging, and broad. I was riveted and watched the band for the entire time I was there, but there were many patrons at The Pink Door that were simply enjoying drinks with their friends, barely looking at the stage. Bakelite 78 makes music that is technically executed and appears simple, yet is deceptively complex. The band seamlessly changed gears from bluesy rock to jazz. It felt like being shown a documentary film about pre-Depression era America. The singer of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Jimbo Mathus, produced and contributed to the last Bakelite 78 album.
Bakelite 78 ended their set with a rendition of the classic “Goodnight Irene”, a sad and solemn goodbye to a lost love. Robert’s voice cried with every note. “Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams…” Perhaps the only place we can experience the world from which the Bakelite 78 still live.
You will have the opportunity to see the Bakelite 78 play every Tuesday night in April at The Pink Door (1919 Post Alley, Seattle, 98101) for free starting at 9pm. You can also catch them on May 7th at The Jewelbox Theatre at the Rendezvous (2322 2nd Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98121) at 9pm.