After 17 years, last song for legendary Capitol Hill’s ’80s night


Rock Lobster at Neighbours, originally uploaded by decidedlyodd.

We come to bury the ’80s — not to praise them. But it seems they’re not really dead. And Trent Von, he’ll be back. Next Thursday, in fact. This Thursday night at Neighbours, Capitol Hill’s longest running ’80s night comes to a close after an unfathomable seventeen years of dancing. Rock Lobster is dead.

“It’s the only night when I could drop the volume and hear the entire crowd sing back to me,” DJ Trent Von tells CHS about his beloved dance night and the music that made it happen for enough time to have raised a child to adulthood.


“We love Rock Lobster. The music just makes everybody so happy.”

But Facebook — launched 20 years after many of the albums in Von’s DJ crates were created — tells the tale. Rock Lobster comes to an end Thursday night:

Yes, that’s right! After a VERY long 17 YEAR run we will be OFFICIALLY calling it QUITS on Seattle’s LONGEST RUNNING ’80s NIGHT, “ROCK LOBSTER”! 

For this last night of ROCK LOBSTER I will be:

1. Starting at 8PM for those who want to say goodbye to the night they grew up with (and still be home before 11PM).

2. I will be playing ONLY be playing CLASSIC ’80s, NOTHING ELSE!!!!!

3. And as always, we will be going all the way to 3AM (and believe me… that’s still NOT ENOUGH time to play ALL the music or requests, but I’ll sure as hell TRY).

SO BRING YOUR PARTY (early if you can’t stay late) and DANCE TILL YOU DROP one last time @ ROCK LOBSTER!!!!!

DJTvon

PS, This is gonna be a hard gig to do. It’s been a big part of us for over 17 years. I knew this day was coming, and for now it’s just days away….. I know it will be like losing a dear friend when we’re finally faced with the moment.

Von tells CHS, while he wasn’t ready to be done, the business end of things for the weekly dance night had been fading for the last few years. “We’ve been seeing a steady dropoff for the past four years,” Von said. “We just don’t see how we can go on any further.”

Von, who makes his living as a Billboard-reporting DJ with dance nights around the city and events and who spins for station C89.5, says he and Neighbours aren’t parting ways and that he’ll be back next week to lead a Thursday night dance party at the Broadway/Pike club just like always. But don’t expect any Romantics in the set. Von says he and Neighbours are still working out what the new night will be about. It won’t be ’80s.

“It’s the economics of the night,” Von said. “It makes sense. I found where my audience went. [It’s now] Thursday mornings vs. Thursday nights.” Von says fans of ’80s music are still out there and that radio and special events are a better way to reach them. “They got lives and kids now, you know.”

They also have an ethos Von says, of course, defined best in song. “Generation X — they really do have a philosophy of forever young. Alphaville — Forever Young. We haven’t followed any rules about growing old.”

Except, maybe, not going out on Thursday night’s any more. 

Rock Lobster was born in Neighbours on a different Capitol Hill. It was the early ’90s. Mark Finley, Von says, was the first drag queen to host the night. As the Hill gentrified, exploded in growth, changed, the dance night continued. But by 2003, the drag queens were already gone.

In Thursday night’s finale, Von says he plans on “doing it old school. No ’90s. No fluff. People will hear what made Rock Lobster: alternative ’80s music.”

For Von, the only tinge of regret was the change over the years and the constant push toward commercial music. “With the younger kids, we were getting requests for Madonna and Prince.”

“Commercial top-40 ’80s music had a high burn factor then — and it has it now. Alternative has something a little deeper to it.”

That’s why, Von says, you’ll hear the “biggest screams” when a song like Soft Cell’s Tainted Love comes on.

After 17 years, the 43-year-old Von says the connections he’s made with younger DJs are what makes him happiest about his long Rock Lobster ride.

DJ Skiddle, DJ PBear. DJ Kazan. This one is for you.

The next song also goes out to everybody who ever danced with DJ TVon. 

“I’m very proud. I really started something with that night,” Von said. “To help people escape their day, their work and their reality — it’s just so awesome to be part of that.”

DJ TVon in the wild (Image: Trent Von via Facebook)

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17 thoughts on “After 17 years, last song for legendary Capitol Hill’s ’80s night

  1. I was a bouncer / bar back at neighbors years and years ago, and served the door at rock lobster for a nice long stretch back in the late 90’s. Some of the best nights of my life. the club boom was on point back then – neighbors on thursday, old vogue on friday, catwalk on saturday, sunday was your roulette. Good times.

  2. You know, it’s funny to me how Neighbours says that the reason that they’re stopping 80’s night is because the turnout isn’t that great anymore. I’ve been going to 80’s night for the past few years and I feel like one of the biggest reasons why people stop going is because they play literally the same 80’s songs every single time, and not all of them are even that danceable. I understand that there’s only so many 80’s songs to go through, but even the ones they choose could be a lot better. I hate to be negative about it because 80’s night is a great idea, but Neighbours in general would be ten times better if they played better music. They need to get new DJ’s or something.

  3. Amazes me how so many of us can step up to save Seattle’s longest running dance night. And so many of us showed up last night that Neighbours has decided to continue the night. I mean, who would say no to that many customers?

    Last night was incredible. I was seeing people there I haven’t seen in 10 years. Alternative 80’s is the soundtrack of my life and Rock Lobster delivers a dance night exactly the way you heard it in the 80’s at your favourite underground discotheque.

    No Michael Jackson, no “Humpty Dance” or the standard stuff you hear in clubs all the time. This night is unique and it really takes someone like Trent Von who has a good understanding of alternative and underground music.

    Rock Lobster proved to be the beat that will never stop in this town.
    Never stop! Never stop! Never stop!….Never stop!!!

  4. Yeah I was there last night as well. Very interesting how they did an audience poll asking who wants Rock Lobster to stay and the crowd went wild. So guess the night isn’t dead. I’m not very happy with Neighbours very transparent PR stunt. Soon after that happened I closed my tab and went to Rplace. I don’t like havingmy emotions toyed with. Sorry.

  5. @dman

    It wasn’t a PR stunt – if last nights turnout was lousy it really would have been the last Rock Lobster.

    But hundreds of people were outraged over this and there was a lot of pressure on Neighbours to keep this night going. This was more of a customer satisfaction move than a PR stunt.

    The new Rock Lobster will now start at 8pm. Hopefully this will set a trend in Seattle where Vancouver BC has their clubs opening around 7pm.

  6. This was most definitely not a PR stunt, although I can see it coming across that way. It wasn’t until facebook and the local blogs blew up with support that Neighbours said ‘hmm. maybe this is a mistake’. But it wasn’t until last night when they saw all the people lined up outside that they knew *for sure* that they were going to keep the night going after all. Just because people make noise online doesn’t mean that they are motivated to actually come out. If it had been a mediocre turnout then that would have been Trent’s last night spinning that format.

    When Trent was on stage he said ‘It’s up to you guys’ to the crowd. Sure, he was taking a ‘vote’ for the crowd at the moment, but he actually meant that in a very literal sense. It *is* up to them, because if after this week at least some of people don’t come out and support the night, then it will end. You can’t keep a night going for nostalgic reasons if no one is coming.

    They *are* changing the format of the night somewhat. Trent said he is starting earlier (8PM instead of 10PM) and going back to the more alternative 80s sound that he used to play. And it sounds like later in the evening they may be switching the night over to more 80s/90s mainstream for the younger crowd that tends to come in late and prefers that music (this is not confirmed but that was the impression I got talking to some of the staff later on). I really can’t see Trent spinning from 8-3 every week, that would be a lot of work for a single DJ. They also now have the underground open on Thursdays as well so you can go up and down at will and the DJ down there is spinning current electropop and house.

  7. I’m confused why they thought they would have a low turnout…it’s an iconic event for many people. People almost always turn out for things billed, “It’s the LAST _____!!!”

    I was shocked they didn’t announce the finale a MONTH ago, then do a countdown: “It’s the Third to Last Rock Lobster!” and so on, and turn it into a huge goodbye party.

    And, where were all the hosts? No Mark Finley? No Glamazonia? That’s kind of rude they weren’t included.

    It’s lovely they decided to keep it but I’m not sure that moving up the start time an hour is going to keep the party going for very much longer…yeah, they breathed some life into the “old girl” but in a couple months, how many 40-55 year olds will still be popping in? There’s a reason that “Seventies Nights” have died out…the core fans of time specific music tend to age out from regular night club attendance.

    It might be wiser to make this monthly, get a talented new host and some live entertainment, and make it a special event. Otherwise, it’s doomed.

  8. Im so glad that after the phenomenal response of what was supposed to be the closing night, they decided to KEEP ROCK LOBSTER ALIVE! LONG LIVE ROCK LOBSTER & Thanks for all the years of amazing music Trent.
    Thank you for the shout out in the article as well. Appreciate the love – DJ KAZAN.