116: the Spirit of NWHC
In 2001, before the age of cell phones and gmail groups, Champion made all our band decisions on a private message board that only we had access to. Some of the posts were serious, some were inside jokes and most were a mixture of both. When we finished recording our second 7”, we took to this forum to brainstorm names for the new record.
Count Me Out had recently released the phenomenal “110” LP and someone suggested—jokingly, of course—that we call it “111,” as in, one more than “110.” From there someone joked about calling it 116, for the number of games the Mariners had recently won, tying the all-time record for most wins in a single season.
Backing up this story a bit, the Mariners went into the 2001 season as a unanimous underdog in the AL West. They had some success in the mid to late 90s, but in recent years, they had lost Junior, lost the Big Unit and had just completed the triple threat, with A-Rod skipping town. This team had some nice pieces, but they didn’t have enough firepower at the plate to compete with the A’s and they certainly didn’t have the aces you need in your pitching rotation.
The 2001 season was a magical ride for Seattle sports fans. The feeling in the air was VERY similar to this Super Bowl season for the Seahawks, with the obvious exception that the Hawks finished the job and won the title. But that feeling was the same through the Mariners’ magical 2001 season.
Everywhere you went, the Mariners were the kings of Seattle. I rode the bus home from work and strangers would ask other strangers with headphones if they were listening to the game and what the score was. Mariners shirts were on every back and M’s hats were on every head. It was a thrilling time for the city. Not only was this the best baseball team Seattle had ever seen, but according to win-total, this was (at least tied for) the best regular season baseball team in MLB history. The fact that they were underdogs heading into the season only helped this all seem so much more exciting.
At this same time, the underdog Seattle hardcore scene was churning out wins at a similar pace. Champion was starting to tour more consistently and putting out its first release on Bridge 9, a label that was releasing the best records in hardcore at that time. Stay Gold was talking with the almighty Indecision records. Himsa had a fresh lineup with John Pettibone from Seattle’s legendary Undertow now singing and was blowing up with their refined sound. Left With Nothing was at their apex, Contingent shows were tons of fun, Countless Sins put out an awesome demo and there were lots of cool young bands popping up. Excursion Records was experiencing a bit of a rebirth with a few new bands and its Power of Ten comp 7”s, which highlighted some of those newer bands.
We also had one of the coolest venues ever, in the Paradox (the one of the Ave). There were some incredible shows at this spot. But to give you an idea of the kind of excitement of this time period, Champion’s Count Our Numbers record release show at the Paradox drew 300 people. THREE HUNDRED… for an all locals lineup of Champion, Himsa, Stay Gold, Youth at Risk (a really good skate punk band with members that ultimately went on to Aiden, Murdock and Rat Path) and One False Move (young high school kids playing fast old school HC). It was insane… I remember distinctly, during Himsa, standing on the side of the stage and looking out on this crowd with such a sense of pride and enthusiasm that this many kids came to see five SEATTLE bands.
So with that context in mind, you can probably see how the “116” joke could have picked up legs and that the idea that the Mariners 2001 season could be metaphor for the exciting things happening in the Seattle hardcore scene at the time. We ended up calling our 7” “Count Our Numbers,” but the name “116” was used for the song on that record that was about Seattle and included guest vocals from Chad Repp from Stay Gold:
“And the rain keeps coming. I haven’t see the sun in days. I remember the kids that were there for me when I needed them the most. Because of them I’ll never leave this place. My heart dropped anchor, this is where I’ll stay. This is the one place I’ll never be alone, and the only place I can call my home. Coming from where my love gets its start. These grey clouds more than tattooed on my heart. From 15 kids screaming out loud that we want more. We won’t back down. We want more. I look at you and see how we fill these rooms. Can’t you see that it’s ours? Count the numbers, count the hearts. Can’t you see that it’s ours?”
Maybe a year before that 300-kid locals-only show, we were lucky to get 15 kids out. And since that time, there have been plenty of 15 kid shows. 116 is a song written about a time and a place, but the spirit of 116 is not just about a time and a place. It’s about the heart of this place. There was a lot to be excited about in 2001, but there’s just as much to be excited about right now. NWHC is doing some amazing things. At the top of the list, Rain Fest is one of the best three fests in this country. That means on a yearly basis, kids from all over the world WANT to be in Seattle in May. What?!
There are some great established bands in the NW, like Power, Wreck and Ill Intent and there are awesome young bands like Safe and Sound and Singled out who are starting to do big things. Outlook recently broke up, leaving a whole in Olympia’s heart, but Hysterics and Gag and Blank Boys are carrying that torch and running twice as fast. There are sweet venues from Everett to Centralia, and more and more Portland and Vancouver are doing things with Seattle. It’s not just about Seattle anymore, it’s about NWHC.
Hardcore scenes are a fragile thing. There are so many things that can ruin a blossoming scene: violence, vandalism, trash talk, dishonesty… it takes so much work and so much time to build up a scene, but any of these selfish things can destroy everything in the blink of an eye. Like Jim and Chad wrote in 2001, this scene is ours. With that ownership comes the responsibility to make it what we want it to be. It doesn’t matter if there are 15 kids screaming in a room, or 300.