Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hammerbox, Gits and others perform at benefit for James Atkins

Hammerbox, top, Gits, below. (All Cat Rose photos)

Text: Andy; photos: Cat Rose

It was a night you never wanted to end.

Emotions were flowing, there were smiles a-plenty and the tunes -- oh, the tunes -- tied the special evening all together perfectly. All the music put forth was from the heart, and people soaked it all up and put their thoughts, vibes and funds in the right place.

This was a night to support James Atkins, who is battling esophageal cancer.

"We've gotta take care of our own," said primary benefit organizer and guitarist/vocalist Ben London from the stage prior to Alcohol Funnycar's set Friday evening at Chop Suey in Seattle. Gretta Harley and Carrie Akre also provided lots of support in setting up the event.

Hammerbox bassist Atkins wasn't able to perform, but he was present at the sold-out benefit. With a grin on his face, he watched from a reserved section adorned with couches and close friends as his former band cranked out a batch of songs in his honor in the headlining slot.

When reunited Hammerbox singer Akre pointed at Atkins and asked if he was enjoying himself and if the band was playing well, he raised one arm in the air and gave a nod of approval. Akre smiled and paused for a bit, letting that touching moment linger, before leading the band into another tune. Along with Akre, Hammerbox featured original members Harris Thurmond on guitar and Dave Bosch on drums. Fiia McGann (Goodness) took over bass duties and nailed Atkins' parts.

The band's 10-song set featured "Hole," "Hed," "Blur," "When 3 is 2" and other standouts.

"Everybody's been so happy and that's what matters," Thurmond told the crowd in between songs.

Added Akre from the stage: "It's been an overwhelmingly wonderful night and we're proud to be here."

A second show took place on Saturday afternoon, and according to London, they raised more than $17K for Atkins over the weekend.

You can visit Atkins' funding page at

It was a reunion for many attendees on Friday, from band members (of their own groups and other bands that shared stages, beers and special bonds with) to gig-goers, who showed up night after night to support bands like Hammerbox, the Gits, 7 Year Bitch, Alcohol Funnycar and Coffin Break in the '90s in Seattle.

One woman was overheard asking a guy at the show: "Do you remember me?" They shared a hug and reminisced about the old days.

So, yes, you see the Gits mentioned above ... It's true, they reunited for this benefit with Rachel Flotard (formerly of Visqueen) on vocals. Flotard brought the spirit of Mia Zapata (RIP) with her emotion-packed vocals and energy, and the crowd ate it up during the six-song set: "While You're Twisting, I'm Still Breathing," "Another Shot of Whiskey," "Seaweed," "Social Love, "Guilt Within Your Head" and "Second Skin."

Guitarist Joe Spleen (Andy Kessler), bassist Matt Dresdner and drummer Steve Moriarty's eyes were locked into each other's during the impassioned set.

Toward the end, their thoughts turned to Atkins.

"It's a good feeling. We're gonna help James get through this," said Dresdner to the crowd.

On Zapata, Flotard noted: "It's been a powerful thing to learn and sing these songs, and think about the woman who sang them and how important she was to all of you (loud applause) and to the men behind me. So, thank you and we love you James."

Prior to the Gits' set, 7 Year Bitch singer Selene Vigil-Wilk took her turn on stage and belted out some songs from her former band while backed by London, AFC bassist Tommy Bonehead and drummer Jason Finn (Presidents of the USA, Love Battery).

Vigil-Wilk smiled and slithered her way through the set, which featured "The Scratch," "You Smell Lonely," "Crying Shame" and "Knot." The enthusiastic crowd was with her the whole way.

AFC rolled through its set and engaged the crowd with solid tunes like "Aggravation," "Red Wine," "Shapes" and a host of others from their catalogue. Rob Dent pounded away on drums, as he did with openers Stag, which also featured London on guitar. London gets a special award for notching a hat trick during the evening.

Coffin Break was also in the house and plugged away at tunes like "Someday Maybe," "Kill the President," a stellar cover of Husker Du's "Diane" and more. Rob Skinner (bass/vocals), Peter Litwin (guitar/vocals) and Dave Brooks (drums) were spot-on, and a couple of our Facebook friends from afar were stoked that they were back together for the show.

Harley, formerly of Maxi Bad, played solo with electric guitar in hand and a powerful voice to draw in the crowd. She displayed some of her own solid tunes and tossed in a nice cover of Soul Asylum's "Sometime to Return."

With singer Steve Mack out front kicking and dancing away, Stag got things moving with their infectious rock set laced with tons of melody. "Elegant Man" and "These Times" were standouts from the crew, which also features John Randolph on guitar and Pete Everett on bass.

A memorable evening, for sure.

** Cat Rose photos below:








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