I caught the first of two reunion shows in Seattle for Treepeople last night at Neumo's on Capitol Hill. You're probably already Googling the band Treepeople, which will surely lead to the subsequent work of lead singer/guitarist Doug Martsch's next Boise-connected band, Built to Spill. Maybe you already know their further connections with The Halo Benders, and the incredibly influential K Records from Olympia. Heading down the ol' band genealogy road never fails to entertain me, whether or not it does much for you.
Yet aside from more of this "six degrees of Seattle separation" shtick, I'm actually more interested in bearing down on the pleasure to be had from a spirited show on a random Wednesday. The bottom line being that I still love seeing live music.
I'm not aiming to be mean, but I was also reminded last night of just how, um, let's just say weathered so many of my Gen X compatriots appear as our median age careens toward (or beyond...) 50-years-old. The joy, nonetheless, lies in seeing the varied shades of my graying generation truly bobbing along to noisy riffs. Let's face it folks - Gen X is heading toward AARP territory. I, for one, hope we fully steer into that skid.
My thinking about last night also loops around toward a rational view of why I even dare to offer something as inherently silly as a walking tour for the grunge-serious or at least curious.
To start, let's further call out Gen X's demographic shortcomings. We're the smallest population slice on the tray here in the good ol' US of A. Surely we play well with others, but that's a point still worth mentioning as the baby boomers and millenials and whatever the hell you want to call my daughter's generation are fighting for influence over the mainstream culture with numbers we simply can't match. Of my generation's serious cultural contributions, the most influential surely must be seen as the growth in the late '80s to '90s of hip hop. But the rock mashup that's become comfortably known as grunge has (at least in my mind) become harder to trace.
From another angle, I mean it as a compliment to the fans of Pearl Jam when I say they are more akin to classic rock fans than to that of any other genre. Their concerts are huge, their audience is global, they are followed like the Dead but with much nicer accommodations expected and found out truckin'. But aside from their admirable longevity and continued output of studio albums over what will soon be three decades, there certainly isn't a caravan of bands still out there applying salve to the souls of my generation. The simple logic of aging mean that other bands from the grunge era are increasingly relegated to retooling and reunions. At best. Which means that people looking to tap into quality sharable nostalgia from the '80s and '90s have to dig a little deeper. That act can be rewarding, though, when the beloved resurface.
Digging just a little deeper on last night, Treepeople added Troy Wright on bass, to fill the gap left by the tragic loss of Pat Brown in 1999. Pat's younger brother, Scott Schmaljohn, and Martsch were a joy to watch shred and connect and just plain bloom in the familiar spotlight on the stage. I've always focused an inordinate amount of attention on the drummer, and Wayne Rhino Flower did not disappoint with the way he chokes up on his sticks and drives so passionately through song after song. Theirs was a solid hour+ of grungy glee, shared by all.
Although my sample of what others thought of the show is limited. The best conversation I had was with an epic-length-grey-goatee-wearing superfan named Adrian during the break after the second opener. We started in with parkour jokes about Neumo's upper level, and effortlessly shifted to shared concerns over recently mangled joints and a grudging appreciation for yoga or whatever zen bullshit works best to keep us rock solid so that we can see decades of more adventures. Including these sorts of shows. Whatever others thought about last night, I hope to join them or their ilk out for more of the same very soon. Thank you, Treepeople. Thank you, Seattle. And thank you, too, for reading.