Business

Neumos in Seattle, in a Pandemic: 'What Seemed Impossible, Is Now Inevitable'

Nuemos Steven Severin
Roy Atizado

Nuemos owner Steven Severin.

As co-owner of Seattle’s popular independent venue Neumos in Capitol Hill, Steven Severin has been a staple in the Seattle music industry for more than 20 years. Roughly 10 years ago, he helped create the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association to bring together the area’s live event insiders, and for the past 16 years has helped run Neumos with its sister club Barboza and the accompanying Runaway bar.

As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be speaking with Severin regularly to chronicle his experience throughout the crisis. (Read the last installment here and see the full series here.)

Editor's note: This interview was conducted Dec. 11. Since then, there has been considerable movement with the new federal COVID-19 relief package that includes Save Our Stages.

How has the last week been for you?

I have never hit refresh on CNN more times than I have in the last week. I’m just hoping for this stupid stimulus package. The SOS [Save Our Stages] Act is still in there. I saw the bill. It is so real and we fight every single day to make sure that we stay in that stimulus package. We really need this to happen, like now. Congress needs to get it all hammered out this week so they can take it for a vote. We are going into Christmas and people have lost their businesses, are unemployed and Congress can’t get it done. It is unfathomable. 

This guy who is part of [Washington campaign] Keep Music Live -- business guy who was pretty late coming into the whole thing -- would say at first that [getting federal funding] was impossible. He would say, "There was absolutely no way y'all are going to pull this off." Now his saying is, "When I started, it was impossible. Now it is inevitable." I had said that a couple times with the NIVA [National Independent Venue Association] folks and there are so many superstitious people. I would have to say, "Dayna [Frank, president of NIVA] put your hands over your ears." In order for something to happen, you’ve got to put it out in the world. So I say, "It’s gonna happen. We’re going to get the SOS Act." I do think what seemed impossible, is now inevitable.

What is going on with Keep Music Live?

We’re doing this thing called the 12 Days of Giving. If you donate a certain amount of money you get a ticket entered to win different packages or prizes. One of them is a jersey T-Pain left at a venue in Bellingham when he did a two-night run there. He played there and left his jersey. [Laughs.] It’s just been asking different companies like ‘can I have a snowboard so we can auction it off?’ People have been pretty rad. We got a Jack Daniels guitar. When it is rock’n’roll and you have some type of a raffle, there always has to be a Jack Daniels guitar. It’s like an unwritten rule. [Laughs] You have to wonder, do they actually sell those guitars? Could I actually go into a store and buy a Jack Daniels guitar? It’s kind of funny.

Is there anything you’re going get to enjoy this holiday season?

I get to see a live show. We're doing a livestream with this local band The Blacktones. They are one of my favorite local bands. I think with their next record they could really blow up and take off. We’ve been doing these different corporate parties where we have rock stars doing Zoom calls for these companies that can’t do their regular Christmas parties. We have different artists and one of the things we did was record The Blacktones at Neumos. We will also probably stream the whole thing at one point. We are doing this party called the Green Room Resolutions on Dec. 30, which is going to be open to the public. It is going to be less talking about what we do and more entertainment. So we may use a Blacktones song for that. So I get to go stand in the corner as far as I can from people with my hat and glasses and 17 masks. I get to see some rock’n’roll for the first time since March.

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Indie venue First Avenue in Minneapolis currently has a “venue bucket list” shirt on sale right now. How does it feel to have Neumos included as one of those nine venues?

Those shirts are so rad. I was so excited to be asked to be part of that. The other eight venues on there are legendary venues around the country. I was like, ‘Holy crap. I get to be part of that?’ I don’t necessarily feel like I am in the same category [as 9:30 Club in D.C, The Troubadour in Los Angeles, Mohawk in Austin, Exit/In in Nashville, The Metro in Chicago, First Avenue in Minneapolis, 40 Watt Club in Athens and Tipitina’s in New York] so to have been asked was really fucking cool. I have no idea who they decided who got to be on it, but they asked and I said, ‘Of course I want to be on that shirt.’ 

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