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!!!!!
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.”