“There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do.”
Sound familiar? It’s one of the common laments of teenagers on a Saturday night. Sure, there are movies and malls, but what about an inexpensive place for teens to hang out with their friends, listen to music and let off some steam without getting in trouble? With the closing of all-ages clubs, the lack of teen-friendly musical entertainment in the greater Seattle area has reached critical proportions.
The Stroum Jewish Community Center hopes to fill this void by reviving the popular Black Box Coffee House at its Mercer Island facility, a monthly “club” where teens can hang out, watch local bands perform and hone their own skills during open mic sessions. After an 18-month hiatus, Black Box opens its doors again on Saturday, Feb. 17, featuring Elijah and the Lions from Bainbridge Island, Chuck Noris from the U-District, Say Nothing from Federal Way, Mercer Island’s The Project and 1441.
Eighteen-year-old David Stern, who helped organize the last Black Box series, was instrumental in putting the programming back on the JCC schedule. Patrick Rigby, 18, and Justin Ayers, 16, will help organize and publicize the events, along with the guidance of the JCC Youth Programs Department. The plan is to run a kinder, gentler Black Box that will be easier on the facility and the budget than last time around, when well-known bands such as Gas Huffer and Murder City Devils played the JCC auditorium to large crowds.
Thanks to a Youth Peer Support Service grant from the Mideast King County Community Network, Black Box is equipped with its own stage and sound system. As the program builds up steam, Stern hopes to line up three or four bands to perform each time, with sideacts during intermission.
“We want to keep this super-local and super-independent by tapping into the smaller scenes in places like Vashon, Bainbridge and Issaquah,” he said. “We plan to move away from hard rock and feature more acoustic, blues and jazz.” Coffee and snacks will also be for sale, increasing the coffeehouse atmosphere.
A recent graduate of Mercer Island High School, David has been a member of the JCC since childhood. He has long been active in the local music scene, performing in his own band, working at the high school radio station and feeding his love of obscure musical instruments by trying to learn as many as he can. He no doubt picked up some of his musical, organizational and networking skills from his mother, Claire Stern, who coordinates educational outreach for Seattle Center’s Experience Music Project.
David sees the Mercer Island facility as a “great middle ground between Bellevue and Seattle,” attracting teens from both sides of the water. The JCC is the largest provider of Jewish teen programs and services in greater Seattle, and its location is a real plus for Eastside teens who have trouble getting out to Seattle on the weekends.
So next time you feel those Saturday-night blues coming on, grab your hat and head to the JCC for an evening of music and fun, as long as you’re a teen.
The first Black Box Coffee House takes place Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the JCC on Mercer Island, 3801 E. Mercer Way (E. Mercer Way exit off I-90). It is open to young people in grades 7 and up. Tickets are $4 at the door. For more information, or to perform at a Black Box, call JCC Youth Program Assistant Laura Fefferman at 206-232-7115, ext. 267. Josefin Kannin works in the JCC’s marketing department.