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Seattle music venues reopen after more than a year shuttered

Seattle venue Neumos and its sister club Barboza are opening their doors again for the first time in more than a year.
Rebekah Way
Seattle venue Neumos and its sister club Barboza are opening their doors again for the first time in more than a year.

Live music is making a comeback in Seattle. Local venue Neumos and its sister club Barboza welcomed fans back after more than 15 months without live shows. Both hosted entirely local bands for their grand reopening shows Thursday night.

Several hours before the reopening, a few staff members are bustling about the otherwise empty building to get everything ready. There’s a feeling of joy throughout the place.

“This is the moment that we’ve been waiting for, right?" said Evan Johnson, talent buyer at Neumos and Barboza. "It was not only a stripped away version of my job, but also just kind of our livelihood. We put on events, that’s what we do here, and everything about a concert was against what we needed to do to stay safe from COVID.”

It’s a sign things are starting to get back to normal for local musicians, as more venues are slated to open later this summer

Andy King is Neumos’ assistant general manager and a drummer in the Seattle-based band Spirit Award, who played in the reopening show.

“I’m very, very excited, and overall, I think I’m thankful to still be doing it. And we all are. We’re just really excited to get up there and play again,” King said.

The building that both Neumos and Barboza are located in is operating at full capacity. That means up to 1,000 people could be in the building if all the rooms are full, including the venues’ companion bar, The Runaway.

Johnson said they do have some new rules in place. Those who can provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from the last 24 hours do not have to wear a mask or social distance. People who cannot provide those things must wear a mask when they aren’t actively drinking.

Other venues in the Seattle area are expected to reopen in the coming weeks. They include the Neptune Theatre, Tractor Tavern and Conor Byrne Pub. 

Rebekah Way is an on-call news host at KNKX. She began her career in public radio as a news intern at KNKX, where she's also worked as an interim producer and reporter. Rebekah holds a life-long passion for music and also works as a professional musician and educator in the Seattle area.