11 Questions: Aaron Roeder

I live in Whatcom County because of Aaron Roeder. While there are other influences, it was because of Aaron that I didn’t move out of town six months after I moved here when the relationship I had been in (the reason I moved to town) had ended. I had been to his bar, the 3B, before moving to town (saw the Screaming Trees there), but in the fall of 1992 I caught The Magnolias and saw the magic of a 3B show. The crowd and the band were electric and I was in love – what I had dreamt about in high school and at community college, I had suddenly found. Within six months, I was at the 3B four or five nights a week and becoming part of a crowd that I had worshiped – musicians. And for Bellingham musicians, the 3B was home. It was THE place to be, THE place that had incredible music every weekend (The Flaming Lips, Drive Like Jehu, Rocket from the Crypt, Flop as well as tons of great local bands like Medilicious and Loaf). I was in heaven, just like everyone else who got to spend time at the 3B – there was something magical about it that always slips from description, words don’t do it justice. Over the years, because of the welcoming arms of the musicians and the 3B, I became part of the local music scene, booking and playing shows and eventually starting the magazine. I fell in love with Bellingham and Whatcom county, the bands and the people because of Aaron Roeder and his bar – he gave us all a home to be at, to play, to learn, and to experience good music and good friends.

We all know the story, the 3B closed as 2006 began, changing the town forever. Aaron went on to be a rock ‘n’ roll chef for awhile, cooking for bands while on tour and most recently he purchased Cap Hansen’s, another home (minus the music) to musicians and music fans alike.

It was only fitting that Aaron would be our 11 questions as What’s Up! celebrates turning 15. If I hadn’t fallen in love with his bar, the magazine never would’ve happened.


Tell us a lot about yourself? What’s your background?

Funny you should ask. It all started when I was born a very small black child which took me to the wonderous, fantastical world of model trains. You see, my cousin had a sense of humor and could see my fascination with boxcars and urged me to take up the hobby but this was before for the internet and being in a small town, news didn’t move that quickly through that part of the world.  It took close to 20 years before I realized I didn’t HAVE to build model trains that were full scale! There were other options! You could buy very small plastic trains that came in a box as a complete set that you could glue together and paint on your kitchen table.  The trains I built when I was six were very heavy and very big.  They were….real trains.  Now that I think about it they were…I was building full size, real trains.  And man they were heavy. Really, really, really heavy.  I guess the joke was on me. Somewhere my cousin is laughing.  And now there’s Cap’s!


Minus your time as a rock ‘n’ roll chef, you’ve stayed in town – what is it about Bellingham that has always drawn you here? 

I love Bellingham and always have. Family roots go back to the 1850’s here so perhaps there’s something to that.  It seems to have some kind of “center of the universe” qualities to it, wouldn’t you say? Bizarro things, bizarro people. Lots of art that spins through this revolving door of change.  Being a college border town undoubtedly excites one’s sense of having to be creative.  Whether through being pressured & exposed to the greater way of learning up at the university or one simply trying to figure out how they’re gonna get across that border while running from the law, Bellingham is that stop where one has that last cup of coffee or that last drink right before something big happens.


In March of 1998 (15 years ago this month), Slim Dunlap played the 3B and later said it was the best bar he’d ever been in. What was it like having one of the Replacements say such a compliment?

Ah Slim. I have kind of a hazy memory about it but I do remember there was virtually NO INTEREST in him whatsoever as it became shownight and I could tell it was going to be one of those horrific shows where someone amazing takes the leap of faith on Bellingham and all you hear is the sound of crickets. God, I still get the sweats from those shows. It’s not that I was going to lose money but rather I didn’t want these performers to feel unappreciated. It took me a LONG TIME to be able to deal with that aspect of doing live shows.  I digress.  So upon knowing this was going to be one of “those shows” I pretended that there was an electrical fire in the bar and created a sort of CSI Hollywood crime scene so upon arrival he would walk up on this poor little club and town that was so looking forward to hearing him play but couldn’t because of THE GREAT ELECTRICAL FUSEBOX FIRE OF ‘98! So I just closed the bar, paid him his guarantee and we had a few beers and talked for hours. One of my idols played right in the palm of my hand.


Do you miss the 3B?



You toured all over the US and parts of Europe with the Mono Men – a band that helped revive garage rock. When did you first pick up drum sticks? Did you have any inclination at the time that it would lead to a life in music?

My folks, God bless ‘em, bought me a drum kit when I was five, I believe. I sort of beat the shit out of it in a relatively short amount of time and then that was it. Then in the sixth grade I played snare in our school band and took private lessons from a nice man with no thumbs and that kind of freaked me out so I quit playing. Then just decided to start again when I was 20 and it was full steam ahead. Learned to play to The Clash, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello.  Strike that. I never really learned to play and I mean that sincerely. I never practiced by myself once I started playing in bands. I only played when the band played as I purposely didn’t want to become proficient. I like the sound of someone who kind of struggles with their instrument a little. Just a little though.


In your eyes, how has the Bellingham music scene changed over the last 15 years?

I’m probably not the guy to answer this.


What was the first show you ever went to? What do you remember from the show?

This is a fond memory! My first show was when I was in the sixth grade and a friend of mine’s high school aged, stoner, older brother took me and some friends to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to see The Police right after they released their first record Outlandous D’Amour.  Great fuckin’ show. That would still hold up to any punk rock show I’ve ever seen.  And yes I do mean punk rock. Great record as well if you haven’t heard it. Highly recommended. Of course they evolved into a turd of a band but that’s besides the point. Right after the show, ‘stoney’ brother posed as a major L.A. radio jock that was going to do an interview with the band and got us all backstage in the green room which was the equivalent of capturing the Eagles Nest at the time. I raided the veggie platter and got to shake Sting’s hand after he walked in the room freshly showered and wearing only a terrycloth robe! I would have said nice to meet you but my mouth was full of carrots and ranch.


It’s a Saturday and there isn’t anything to work on at Cap’s, what are you doing to enjoy the day off?

There is never a time when there isn’t something to work on at Cap’s.  The Gods have it out for me.


What were the top five shows you saw at the 3B? Is there one that really stood out above the rest?

I’ve been asked this many times over the years and it always changes so I guess there really in no consistent best. X always jumps to mind first. Teengenerate and pretty much any Japanese band (they are the world power of rock and roll after all), Bob Log III of course, all of the Garage Shock shows, Ohio Players, Flaming Lips, Melvins, Screaming Trees… Christ, I can’t even remember three-quarters of the bands that played and so few, and I mean that, so few, ever disappointed.


 Do you have a memory of your time at the 3B that stands above the rest? What is your favorite memory as owner of the best rock ‘n’ roll bar in America? 

I really don’t. There were so many wacky things that went on under that roof. Elvis Deathday parties where Pete Crandall (spelling?) dressed up as Elvis and we put a toilet on stage and you could have a polaroid taken sitting on Elvis’ lap while he’s sitting on the toilet, all the times the monkey suit made an appearance, the pinball tournaments where we would put the pinball machine on stage with a spotlight on it and put microphones on the speakers and the crowd would taunt and berate whoever was up playing… Deadbolt (a band) grabbing a hippie out of the crowd and shaving their head was one….but mostly it was the overall ‘sense’ of the community’s participation that created this amazing piece of performance art for 16 years. A big thanks to all including the best staff a bar could ever hope for.  Bellin’ham, you were and still are the tops!


If you didn’t live in Bellingham, where would you live? 

Clark County Detention Center.


How do you think the Ms will do this year? Have you been back to spring training since the infamous 2001 season?

Myself and the lovely Jordan True were fortunate enough to attend spring training last year and it was of course, magical. That place is freaking heaven to me. Our choice in rental cars, the Dodge Charger, helped us around Peoria at mach speeds allowing us more time at that sun-soaked Peoria ballpark. I am a sucker. I am a rube. I am a dolt. I am forever a Mariner fan. Long live the serpentine fork. Long live the “Swung on and BELTED!” Long live the ball that dies two feet below the lip of the right center wall. Long live Niehaus. They will finish fourth in the A.L. West.


Any last thoughts?

I love you Mom.