God’s Favorite Beefcake Shall Not Be Moved

This piece is not an obituary or memorial. It is not a news story either. Tragedy affects us all in different ways, and I am writing to try to process what happened in Seattle, Washington on May 30, 2012 and understand how the local music scene was affected by the loss of two of its musicians. Seattle is the city I have spent most of my life in, and for me the Cafe Racer shootings hit very close to home.

God’s Favorite Beefcake

I could start by trying to prove that I am allowed to be upset because of my proximity to the event. I could say how I drove past the cafe every time I went to visit my parents in the neighborhood I grew up in, or I could list the number of people who I knew who had friends who knew the victims. All this would schdo is make the tragedy about me and how I was affected personally. In these situations of chaos and tragedy, once one gets outside the immediate circle of relation, the rest of us are left with the need to justify why we are upset, as if we require a reason to care. This city is my home. Innocent people tragically lost their lives. What more justification is needed?

As someone who never frequented Cafe Racer, I will do my best to paint a picture of the setting. From my understanding, Cafe Racer was more than just a place to get coffee and hot dogs. The cafe was full of local music and art. The staff and regulars were welcoming, kind people. People went there to work on their novels, get coffee before work, and finish homework late at night. No one could’ve predicted the devastation that would occur there.

Drew Keriakedes (a.k.a Shmootzi the Clod)

One of the bands that regularly played Thursdays at Cafe Racer, God’s Favorite Beefcake, lost two of its members in the shooting. Drew Keriakedes and Joe Albanese were mainstays of the cafe and Seattle’s eccentric folk-vaudeville scene. Their lives and the other victims lives–Don Largen, Kimberly Layfield and Gloria Leonidas–have been celebrated through music. As the sun began to set on the day of the senseless killings, musicians gathered in the street around the cafe to pay tribute to those who lost their lives. Grant Brissey, a writer for Seattle’s alternative newspaper The Stranger, described the scene as a “defiant celebration in the face of tragedy.”

Since that fateful night there have been a number of tribute shows for the victims, as well as fundraisers for their families. The fact that there are still more concerts planned demonstrates just how many bands and musicians were affected by the loss of their compatriots. I attended “Innocent When You Dream” on Tuesday 6/19, which was a large fundraising concert spanning two bars in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, The Tractor and Conor Byrne. Raising money was not the only objective, though. The cover was $10, but according to the Facebook event page, no one would be turned away for lack of funds. This night was an opportunity for mourning as well as celebration, and everybody was welcome.

The music started at 5 p.m. and was still going strong when I left around 11:30 p.m. I chose to stay at Conor Byrne the whole night, but there were plenty of people hopping between venues in order to see their favorite local acts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many people in suit vests and hats all in one place before! I was struck by the strong sense of family and camaraderie displayed by the people who had gathered at the bar. Some people were there to perform and others were there to be supportive. In one way or another everyone needed love and support. The environment was one of openness without judgement or qualifications.

God’s Favorite Beefcake, 6/19/12 at Conor Byrne in Seattle. Photo by Zoe Kool

The first performance I saw was God’s Favorite Beefcake, who introduced themselves as “Mom’s Favorite Sex Tape.” The bawdiness of the name proved to be characteristic of their songs’ lyrics as well as the musicians’ on-stage banter. There was also a through line of humor and humility that lasted the whole night. Life is too precious and short to take things so seriously, a concept that everyone in the bar that night understood.

God’s Favorite Beefcake is the type of band that utilizes an eclectic variety of instruments. There was an accordion, violin, clarinet and trombone, which are all fairly common among the band members. I was impressed to see a woman playing the spoons and another playing the musical saw. These talented musicians wove each instrument’s unique sound together to produce haunting melodies as well as raucous drinking songs where the whole crowd joined in and sang along, with so much dancing and stomping. It was oddly prescient how many of the songs, all written prior to the shootings, seemed to be personal eulogies for the lost band members. The foresight on the song “Hello G’bye” gave me chills, with lines like “Hello my friends, I came by to say farewell / It’s been nice to know you, and I’ll see you all in Hell.” What struck me most was the skewed sentimentality conveyed by the line “Isn’t life a beautiful train wreck?” After all, the ability to see beauty through the pain will help us all heal our wounds.

That night the music was raw, and the drinks were potent. One member of the crowd yelled, “Drew and Joe will never be forgotten!” and the room erupted with cheers as people’s eyes began to tear up. Or maybe that was me holding back tears, profoundly moved by the resilience of the community and the vigorous desire to celebrate life. I just wished that I had known the words to the songs and could have sung along as I swayed back and forth to the music. This article is about just that; perhaps this will prompt more people to read about and listen to the band that affected the Seattle music scene so greatly.

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caferacerseattle.com
caferacerlove.org
godsfavoritebeefcake.bandcamp.com

Comments

  1. It is the finest testament to Joe and Drew that you felt connected and welcomed at this event, despite not being a Racer regular, or knowing every word in the Beefcake song list. It brings a smile to my face to think that the doors of this church of loonies stand wide open and inviting to you and others like you that find something for yourself in here with the rest of us. Come on in.

    Had you complimented Drew directly, he would have said quietly and with his shy honesty, “Well thank you, ma’am”, while holding his right elbow in his left hand and looking shyly down toward the ground, stroking his straggly beard with his right hand.

    And you would have felt his genuine appreciation for your kind words.

    Welcome to the community they starred in. Things are changing a bit as we rearrange the seats, but you are always welcome to draw up and chair and join us any time. I guarantee the music is gonna be great…

  2. Thank you, Christian. I truly felt honored to be involved with something so special, and I look forward to staying connected to this amazing music community.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been amazed at the depth of acceptance and camaraderie at each of the memorials… as well as the number of people who shyly wander up and apologize for not “having the right” to be so affected by this tragedy. I wish that I could do more when I hear this than hold them close and tell them that it’s ok, they’re not alone and they’re always welcome. There is no need for justification when it comes to mourning.

    These were amazing people, and they’ve evoked strong emotions within anyone who knew them (even if it was only for a short time)… but even if they weren’t, everyone should be affected by this event. I can’t think of anything else that so strongly reminds us that life is short, that darkness can fall at any time (and happen to anyone), and that TODAY is the day that we should love deeper, laugh harder, reach higher for the stars and further out for more hugs (and sometimes beer). TODAY is the day to try a new instrument, eat dessert first, and spend time playing with your dog in the sun instead of doing laundry,

    When the cafe opens again, I know I will not be the only one stopping by to sit, remember, laugh, cry, and make new friends while remembering the old. And I know for a fact that no justification will be needed for that, either.

  4. i never saw this blog until now…I was the gal playing the spoons.

    I don’t know what spurred my “must go back and listen to all of the tunes” today, but while clicking through silly picture after silly picture…and old familiar songs that will forever be humming through my bones, and in the back of my head…i came across this…and just wanted to say “thank you.”

    Thank you for the kind words, and thank you for showing your support and, in doing so, illustrating what a beautiful thing a community is, at large.

    I’m sure you know that racer is open again…and I work thursday nights. Come by, say hello and make yourself at home :)

    – jill

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