I hadn’t been to the Comet since it closed down fairly suddenly a few months ago. The Old Comet was the haunt of aging metalheads and semi-pro alcoholics looking to move up to the “dying in a gutter” phase of their careers. In a way, the fact that they hosted local shows on a dilapidated stage gave the joint a thin veneer of respectability. Without earnest Seattle-area rockers stomping away in the back on second-rate equipment, the Comet’s only selling points would have been dim lights and cheap Rainier.

Since then, the bar has been closed, ostensibly for good, haggled over, refitted, and reopened. It says something about the tone and tenor of the Old Comet that when the previous owner changed the locks suddenly in the middle of the night (not even telling the people who were scheduled to work shifts the next day), the only thing they took was the sound system. They didn’t even bother to pull down the hundreds of one-dollar bills stabled to the ceiling.

They were probably afraid they’d catch something from them.

So it was an interesting experience stopping in to the Comet last night while I was waiting for a show to start at Neumo’s. The place has changed significantly. For one thing, I could see clearly, due both to sobriety and adequate lighting, two phenomena with which the Old Comet was completely unfamiliar. There were what appeared to be actual booths installed around the place and I even saw a few people eating what appeared to be palatable food. The old stage (that I once had to help physically haul a drunkard off of when he decided that the bassist in my friend’s band “really wanted a hug”) was gone. In its place was more seating and some arcade machines.

I would imagine the lifespan of an arcade machine in the old Comet would be measured on the order of hours, if not minutes.

The clientele had changed, seemingly over night, as well. Staggering, shouting crustoids had been replaced with what appeared to be a collection of models from a University Student Handbook. One or two even looked like they might have seen the boring end of a steady job.

All around, people laughed and enthused, and generally appeared to be the sort of people who had a life outside the orbit of the Comet. A life that contained goals more worthy than “try to get totally wasted off this $10 I found in a boot out back of Dick’s.” It seemed like it had turned into a genuinely nice place.

Next to me, at the bar, two impeccably assembled women groused over their microbrews. Two locals of the sort I’d never seen in my dozens of nights watching local metal shows in the Old Comet. “I miss the old Comet.” Said one. “It was so much more…” the second said, searching for a word, not even needing to raise her voice over the sounds of Classic Rock. “Real.” She finished.