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Thursday, May 31, 2012 - Page updated at 08:30 p.m.

Cafe Racer described as artsy, quirky hub of alt-rock community

By Javier Panzar
Seattle Times staff reporter

Friends and fans of Cafe Racer Espresso gathered near the coffee house and bar Wednesday and described a neighborhood gathering place that is quirky, artsy and beloved.

Many said the cafe where five people were shot Wednesday was a music mecca that brought diverse bands and artists to the neighborhood. Students and staff from the nearby University of Washington would frequent the cafe in the evenings, while older residents would drink coffee and other beverages during the day.

The cafe hosted weekly sessions for new and experimental music and became the center for an avant-garde jazz scene nurtured by Cuong Vu, an assistant jazz professor at the UW.

The cafe was heralded as Seattle's "alt-rock hub" by The New York Times in 2010 for its plethora of musical offerings.

Neighbor Christopher Assaf said he enjoyed taking his 5-year-old daughter there to hear music throughout the week. Though the cafe served alcohol and could get loud, Assaf said it was always a welcoming place for kids.

"It was a kind of musical dream," he said.

David George Gordon, who played harmonica with the cafe house band every Thursday until last year, said the cafe also attracted whimsical performers and artists. The venue was a popular gathering spot for people in Seattle's burlesque and vaudeville scenes.

Scott Faulkner, a Seattle resident who belongs to a cartoon collective that meets at the cafe every Wednesday, said the place became a natural home for artists, thinkers and musicians in the city.

"Everyone who hung out there and liked the place is saddened, but we will do whatever we can to make it the place we love," he said.

Though the cafe had been started by owner Kurt Geissel, Gordon said it was Drew Keriakedes, killed in Wednesday's shooting, who brought the musical energy to the cafe. Keriakedes led the house band "God's Favorite Beefcakes" and brought in other artists to the venue, Gordon said.

Over time, many said, the cafe became the center of their community. And they want it to stay that way, even after the tragedy.

"A lot of people will be mourning this place, this is certainly a loss of innocence," Gordon said. "That word 'community' gets bandied about a lot, but that was what this place really was. And I hope it continues to be."

Javier Panzar: 206-464-2204 or On Twitter @jpanzar


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