alice in chains

Getting ready for that final mic drop

If you’ve paid attention to any of the blog posts or updates on my “socials” about Grunge Redux tours, you’ve probably noticed a tendency to cry wolf about the end of this side project. Put all of that aside. Because now I’m really serious. I’m hanging it up. But if you get to this in time, maybe you can join me for one of the last storytelling loops around Belltown. Before I do, however, a few notes on the historic importance of this time of year seems in order.

30 years ago, Sub Pop held Lame Fest at The Moore Theatre. That show on June 9th, 1989 came before most people turned their ears and eyes to the Pacific Northwest. That’s certainly not to invalidate the hard-working bands of all stripes who’d long since been working to create a distinctive blend of punk, metal, garage and amalgamated fuzz. It was just long before it seemed the sounds from Seattle (and the greater Pacific Northwest) would take over the airwaves. One epic sold out show with three local bands on the bill didn’t change the world. It did, however, give us a signpost to reflect back upon if people ask when the hype actually got serious.

Fast forward from Lame Fest less than five years later and you’re looking at the “best of times/worst of times” conundrum that was 1994. That was the year that four bands who called one city home (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains) independently topped the Billboard album charts. It had never happened before. Nor since (especially given how success is now quantified). That was also a year of foundation-shaking tragedies, as evidenced best by Kurt Cobain’s suicide in April.

As I lead people along a path that points out landmarks with backstories from The Moore Theatre to KEXP’s forward-leaning Gathering Space, far too often the connective tissue worth seeing firsthand is being balled up and tossed aside. The point of this side project for me isn’t to fixate upon the sadness of the era. This was a vibrant, rockin’ place, nonetheless full of contradictions and murky as an alley mudpuddle. For every $50M+ mixed-use construction project newly added to the cityscape, there lurk in the shadows countless stories of artistic evolution and sonic inspiration. I’ve tried to point out some of what I remember, sprinkled liberally with what I’ve learned along the way from others. For all those people who came along on one of my tours during their first trip to Seattle, I’m forever humbled by the role. And to each story shared from another’s perspective on what the Seattle scene meant to them, I pay homage with my utmost appreciation.

The bottom line for me is that another door is opening. A few months from now, I’m moving overseas for a year. Big adventures await and I’m very excited to have the opportunity. I’ll be back in the late summer of 2020. Will I pick up my record bag again and head out with the same mission in mind with respect to Seattle’s music history? I simply don’t know. At the rate that things are changing around The Town, there might not be anything left to point toward. When I hear, for example, that the stretch of Second Avenue between Bell and Blanchard is up next for redevelopment, I’m far from alone in wondering what will be gained. Just as I wonder what will be accomplished by the redevelopment of that stretch of Fourth Avenue where Studio X/Bad Animals and other recording studios thrived until as late as last October. I find solace in the belief that storytellers find ways to connect the past with the realities of the present and hope for the future. Maybe I’ll be one of those storytellers performing the function for visitors or longtime Seattleites who simply want to be reminded of what had been there before. If so, I’d be honored. If not, maybe someone better will figure out a way of explaining what happened to the grunge era’s legacy in Seattle. Either way, I believe a whole gaggle os someones should do so. Because nostalgia isn’t just a way to sell things. It’s a duty to keep alive what’s real and good and worth remembering.

Don’t presume that I’m melancholy about this transition. I’m just adding a bit more backstory, in case you were curious about why someone would pursue the folly of keeping grunge era memories on life support. My kernel code has always been to steer lovingly into meeting new people and to talk openly about an era that continues to reverberate with Seattle’s heart and soul. Maybe I’ll see you out there, sooner or later. Maybe you’ll find it on your own. Rock on, regardless.

New deets for Grunge Redux walking tours in May and June

No one should aim to dwell too much in the past. But who doesn't love an entertaining ride in the ol' time machine every once in a while? If you set the flux capacitor for 27 years ago right about now, you'd be able to make the grand opening of the Crocodile Cafe (with The Posies and Love Battery on the bill). Looking around Belltown in the Springtime of 1991 might seem delightfully primordial. Or well past prime for those locals who'd grown up going to venues well before the Teen Dance Ordinance starting shutting them down. No one, however, could have foretold that two of the biggest-selling albums of the entire decade (Pearl Jam's Ten released that August and Nirvana's Nevermind in September) would soon come from here. Who wouldn't get a charge out of skipping that rock back to before Seattle largely became an adjective and grunge became a noun in common worldwide usage?

Or what about a trip back to 1989 around the time of "Lame Fest" at The Moore (with Mudhoney, TAD, and Nirvana introducing their first and only Sub Pop album Bleach). Or the turbulent watershed year of 1994 when Seattle's Big 4 (Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden) all hit #1 on the then-still-important Billboard Album chart. You could easily wear out the dial flipping back and forth between the dates that could showcase Seattle's unlikely rise and evolution as a music City of sizable awesomeness. 

Thankfully, you don't have to. You can instead sign up for one of my Grunge Redux tours

As we leap into May, I've got three tours on the calendar, and another 5 scheduled in June. I'll be on the road in July, but then back in August with a prescheduled slate of tours the week of Pearl Jam's "Home Shows" and Sub Pop Records's sure-to-be epic 30th Anniversary Party. Nothing's rock solid, however, since even the most beloved side projects get shelved when the proverbial band gets back together. 

This is, nonetheless, a rather long-winded wink wink nudge nudge way to say that there are available spots on my Happy Hour tour this Friday, 5/4, starting at 4pm. As usual, we'll walk an approximately two-mile path through Belltown and finish up at KEXP's Gathering Space in Seattle Center. The many stops along the way make this a two-hour-plus-a-skoch storytelling journeyTickets are $50/person, although cheaper as pairs or even more so in larger groups. I'll happily reply with timely answers if you lob back questions. Or I'll send along all the logistical details you'll need if you pick out tickets that appeal to you.

In the past month alone, I was been delighted to lead around folks from Germany, Denmark, Scotland, England, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit and the Great Pacific Northwest. As always, people ranging from the most casual of music fans to the randomly obsessed lobbed back new insights along the way. Snippets from those conversations and other newly discovered grunge-y gems factor into the storytelling I'll be doing along the way. If you've not yet heard my backstory on this, my love for that era's music developed both prior to and after making my own way out West in 1993. As I like to say (on purpose), "grunge is people." One of these times on this evolving loop around Belltown, I'll figure out just what I mean by that. 

But in all seriousness if you're looking for a more tangible sense of what gets covered on my Grunge Redux tours, I've dug deeply for places where the essential music of the mid-1980s through later-1990s was both created and consumed. The course of a few hours gives us time to explore a workable overview of the grunge era in Seattle and beyond. More material will come your way later to inspire additional exploration. I'm happy to proclaim that this ain't no sucky suicide and sadness tour. Although I certainly don't shy away from giving those chapters their due inclusion. I'm just firing up the wayback machine, and hopefully connecting some of the dots you might have missed along the way. With more than a few yucks thrown in. Hopefully. 

Whether or not you can make it on a tour, feel free to pass this or future friendly promos along. There are no guarantees of how long I'll be offering this. Passion projects are like that. I'm nonetheless happy to accommodate y'all and any special requests that arise so long as I do.

Regardless, here's hoping we cross paths at a show sometime soon. Be well, and rock on always.