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.