Correction: An earlier version of this article misreported the Thunderdome Car Museum was collecting food bank donations in lieu of an entrance fee for Chickwire’s next show on May 5. This is incorrect – the museum is collecting cash donations for itself instead of the usual entrance fee.
The local band Chickenwire is as good at riffing on their instruments as the players are at riffing off each other in a conversation.
Many famous bands — Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys — are as known for their music as they are for their inner-group drama. But the Enumclaw group is a completely different case, and the close-knit relationships Auggie Vereecken, John Ghosn, Michael Chang, and Seth Polson have formed over the last several years are clearly displayed both on and off the stage.
Vereecken, who as lead singer and song writer is the de facto leader of the band, credits their closeness for why playing music together is “effortless”.
“Comraderie,” drummer Polson added. “I got a bunch of guys I get to hang out with all the time… it’s like family. Pretty friggin’ cool.”
”That’s the word,” bass player Chang put in.
Chickenwire started 20 years ago and has been a staple of Enumclaw’s music scene ever since. Its original name was “The New Frontier” (“Terrible,” Vereecken said) but they took on the new name, inspired from the scene in the movie “Blues Brothers” where chickenwire prevented beer bottles and other trash from hitting the band onstage, early on.
“We haven’t had anyone throw beer bottles at us, or any vegetables lately,” Vereecken joked.
Polson met Vereecken during a jam session in the first year of the band’s life; Ghosn joined on when he answered an ad for a lead guitar player on Craigslist in 2006; and Chang came on scene around 2012 when Chickenwire’s player was late to a gig (he was part of the opening band).
If you haven’t heard Chickenwire play, their music is best described as either country rock or Americana, depending on who you ask.
“It’s a funny thing, because I’m really the only country guy, and these guys are more rockers, so when we get together, it turns into…” Vereecken started, with his band mates interjecting with “country rock.”
Ironically, Vereecken was wearing a very similar red shirt to the one Elvis Presley famously wore (minus the ascot) during the interview. A framed and autographed photo of the King of Rock and Roll stood behind a tiki-style bar installed mere feet away from the band’s practice space.
Above them as they play are numerous guitars and basses Vereecken has collected over his life, including the first guitar he ever played. Off in the corner is a jukebox from The Rainier Bar and Grill after the restaurant was remodeled; on the wall is a dart board from the Cumberland City Hall Saloon, where Chickenwire first played as the house band in its early years.
“Boy, those were the good old days,” Vereecken said in a followup interview. “There was a bar fight nearly every weekend and we would just turn up the volume.”
When they’re not playing at The Chalet, Fill’s, the Yella Beak, or on Cole Street at Sundays on Cole or the Enumclaw Street Fair — Vereecken said Chickenwire has “conquered” Enumclaw by playing all over the Plateau — the band members are off doing their own things.
Vereecken is retired (“well, sorta”), but that only seems to make him busier than ever; his “free time” is spent building an off-the-grid cabin on his property atop Mount Baldy (also known as Baldy Hill).
Ghosn is similarly retired, but newly so, “So now I’m an investment manager, senior maintenance, on my own property,” he said, to the laughter of the other members.
Chang, who appeared to be the “chiller” member of Chickenwire with his denim button-up, goatee, and thick-rimmed shades, works as a machinist at Parker-Helac in town.
Finally, Polson is a teacher at Thunder Mountain Middle School; “he tries to teach us, but it’s failing,” Ghosn said.
While Chickenwire plays around town all year long, their next performance is this Friday, May 5, as a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Thunderdome Car Museum, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Entrance fees to the show are being waved in favor of cash donations.
Given the venue, the band is dusting off some car- and road-themed songs like “Driving My Life Away” and “Highway 410”.
“A lot of cool stuff has happened on this highway out here,” Vereecken said, which is why he wrote a song about it, noting the Greenwater River, camping, and how the band will use it to head up to Crystal Mountain to ski.
“It’s like a lifeline,” Polson added.