This was the marquee at the Show Box last night:
Here are my tickets, so far, for February’s shows.
What year is it again????
A few months ago, Love Battery’s Ron Nine was interviewed by The Stranger, and in the article, he was asked for his thoughts on the “g” word.
“Speaking for myself, I always kind of rebelled against the word ‘grunge.’ Now I embrace it. It comes to mean that scene at that particular time, and I’m proud to have been a part of it.”, said Ron.
You know, perhaps Ron has a point. Perhaps it’s time for “Generation X” (the other taboo “g” word) Seattle to finally embrace the most evil of “g” words. After all, it wasn’t all bad. Were it not for grunge, can you imagine what housing prices would be in Seattle right now?
Were it not for groups like Mudhoney, Tad, Nirvana, and Soundgarden, there’d be a whole lot of real estate investors eating cat food right now. Not only that, but chances are, you’d still be able to drive from Northgate to Sea-Tac in less than half an hour, in rush hour. Were it not for Sub-Pop’s clever gimmick, Californians would still live in California, instead of in Bellevue, and they would have absolutely no interest in knocking down half of Capitol Hill, eager to replace it with hipster habitats complete with two parking spaces and a dog run.
Yes, my fellow Seattleites, God Bless grunge, for helping to make Seattle what it is today.
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Alright, to be fair, Microsoft is to blame for at least some of it, but my point stands.
Deep-down, however, a large part of me does, begrudgingly, agree with Ron. That which was labelled grunge was less about a style of music, than it was about a set and a setting … namely, Seattle in the late 80′s to early 90′s.
As a prototypical member of Generation X, “grunge” is also synonymous with my young adulthood. I was in my late teens when the term “grunge” became a thing in Seattle, and though I may have appeared trendy, I’d already looked the part for years. Long hair, check. Plaid, check. Corduroy, check. A generally unkempt appearance, oh mega-motherfucking-check on that one.
It also didn’t help matters that I was in a band, or that years earlier, while teaching myself to play the guitar, I had discovered that, if you turn up the distortion real high, it compensates for the fact that your playing sucks.
What do you do when you just can’t fret the entire barre chord? I mean, the first two strings are easy enough, and I can get the third down usually, but do I really need to hold down the G string with my middle finger AND fret the B and the E strings as well?
With a gain of 10 and a fuzz pedal in the chain, the answer was “no”. No I didn’t. I did not need to hold down the G string, and I sure as hell didn’t need to fucking pin the fucking B and fucking E strings to the fucking fretboard with the fucking fleshy part of my fucking pointer finger.
All I had to do was crank the amp, play a couple of strings, and holy shit, I can probably get a record deal.
On second thought, no, grunge really wasn’t so bad after all.
I work with one of Andrew Wood’s old classmates. Every now and then, he talks about his high school days, and about how Andy would come to shop class baked, and come to other classes so high that he couldn’t stay awake. Once, he told me about the time that Andy and his friends were trying to play the guitar in music class, and being so high that they couldn’t play anything at all. Having heard enough, the teacher finally said something to the effect of “If you don’t know how to play, at least turn up the distortion to cover it up.”
And so they did.
Thus, a genre was born.
Fast forward, what is it now … 15, 18, 20 years … and the world has moved on, but I haven’t. I got up this morning, got dressed, and before I went out, I caught a glimpse of my own reflection, and I realized just how little has changed. Long hair, check. Flannel, check. Corduroy, check. A generally unkempt appearance, uh, I would have to say check.
Oh, and I still can’t play the guitar for shit, but I can still make one hell of a racket.
Perhaps it’s time to finally get that “Grunge Fo’ Life” tattoo I’ve been considering for decades.
I digress …
For the past few years, I’ve been predicting a “grunge” resurgence.
After Kurt’s untimely passing, the whole grunge thing experienced quite a backlash. Some people cut their hair, got manicures, turned down the volume, and started using the word “amazing” in every sentence.
Others put on a baseball cap, turned it backward, and started saying “yo yo yo” through microphones connected to devices that made it sound like a robot was having an orgasm.
And others went back to the safe haven of radio-friendly R&B, fueled annually by a fresh crop of alumni from the latest season of American Idol.
Then, something strange happened.
After about ten years of this mellowing-out period, this, this … revolt against sincerity and the enthusiastic adoption of manufactured, pre-frabricated sameness, there were signs.
Like a beam of sunlight after a violent hurricane … like a flower growing out of a mound of shit … we began to see signs. Signs of hope. Signs of a second-coming.
Alice in Chains began touring again. We all missed Lane, but there was more music to be made. Music like Check my Brain and Black Gives Way to Blue. Pearl Jam, who kept going the entire time, released their best record in years … perhaps, even, since Ten. Love Battery began playing shows around Seattle, Tadgarden played at the Show Box, and then, and they said it would never be done … Soundgarden reformed.
After fifteen years, fifteen long, arduous years … the people finally said “Enough!”
“That’s it!”, they screamed.
“That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”, said Popeye.
At some point in the last couple of years, Generation Y stood on the world stage to be judged, only this time, instead of a chubby bass player, a pilled-up choreographer, and a sarcastic Englishman, the judges were us. The general population. The people of planet earth.
You know, some words are too offensive for even me to say.
I’ll give you a hint, though.
Following is a list of the 2012 American Music Awards “Artist of the Year” Nominees:
The list of favorite “Rock” albums was as follows:
Justin Bieber – Believe
Maroon 5 – Overexposed
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
One Direction – Up All Night
I don’t need to say anything more, do I?
At the end of last year, a benefit concert was held for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The bill was loaded with some of the most popular rock musicians … ever. I couldn’t help notice while watching, though, that few of the musicians were younger than 40 years old, and most were well over 50. This may have been a harbinger of things to come.
In the past few years, it’s become increasingly apparent that, as lame as Generation X may have been, as went our sperm count, so went Rock music. We were pretty much it. The culmination. The climax. The grand finale.
To be fair, there are still some young, local bands that still do rock. I’ve seen them with my own two eyes, and some of them are phenomenal. Bands like Fidlar in LA and He Whose Ox is Gored here in Seattle.
Their peers, however, the core music-buying 18-34 year old members of their own generation, have abandoned them. In favor of who? In favor of Justin Bieber, Drake, Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Rihanna, One Direction, and Nicki Minaj.
And so, the second-coming is inevitable. It’s been inevitable for some time. The triumphant return of Generation X. The Baby Boomers too.
It needs to be done, because there’s no one left. It’s not as if we didn’t give them time. It’s not as if we didn’t give them a chance. We’ve waited for the Y’s to tune down the guitars, turn up the amps, and let it go. We’ve waited patiently, and then waited some more.
Alas, it looks as if their time may just about be up. We don’t want to do it. We don’t want to drown out our kids’ music, with that of our own. We don’t want to scream until we’re hoarse, while they play tambourines and ukuleles. Our bedtimes are 11pm now, and that shit hurts in the morning anyway.
Somebody has to do it, though.
Somebody has to keep the noise alive, and last night, somebody did.
Last night, I stood in the Show Box, and I watched as Mudhoney slayed the crowd. Mark Arm looks every bit as insane when he sings now, as he did 20 years ago, and when the opening bars of “Touch Me I’m Sick” reverberate through the stack, well, let’s just say that no doubt is left in the venue that Mumford and Sons will not be making a guest appearance.
Afterward, Tacoma’s own Sonics, yes … The Sonics whose main songs were recorded in the 1960′s … took the stage, and they proceeded to bury that which Mudhoney had just killed. Boom bap, nobody saw it coming, they just came out and owned the stage. I’ll put those guys against any band formed post-2000, and I’m not just saying that in a nostalgic braggadocios way, either. Jesus Christ those dudes can rock, and their songs, songs such as Psycho a Go-Go and Strychnine sound better now than they did when they were recorded back in the day. It was just incredible, and it’s not even the last show I’ll see before next weekend.
Thursday, I’ll be in attendance as Soundgarden takes the stage at the Paramount, and next month, I’ll be at Neumos for yet another Mudhoney gig.
As I stood on First Avenue after the show last night, staring up at the marquee, ears still ringing, I realized that the pendulum has begun to swing back. The backlash to the backlash is underway.
Seattle is one month into 2013, and it already looks strikingly similar to Seattle 1993.
To be fair, Seattle 2013 looks a little more wrinkled, grey, and chubby than its younger counterpart, but if you close your eyes and listen … just listen … you’ll be hard-pressed to tell them apart.
As for long hair, flannel, and corduroy … whether or not those will also make a comeback … well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m already there.
I never truly left.