Seeing Filthy Friends (and feeling damn good about it)

I caught the West Coast tour kick-off for Filthy Friends (and Eyelids) last night at Neumo’s. The show hit all the right marks for the age and style of fan that I assuredly have become. Both bands delivered accomplished sets. Recognizable icons filled the stage. The crowd grooved but no one got hurt. And we all got back on the road elsewhere at a very agreeable time. As my wife just commented when I gave her my morning coffee recap, “sounds like the perfect Dad rock evening.” Yes, indeed.

Filthy Friends (left to right) - Kurt Block, Scott McCaughey, Corin Tucker, Linda Pitmon, Peter Buck

Filthy Friends (left to right) - Kurt Block, Scott McCaughey, Corin Tucker, Linda Pitmon, Peter Buck

Before you take that as snark, dear reader, allow me to add a few deets. Filthy Friends are a true supergroup made up of Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney, and various side projects), Peter Buck (R.E.M., ditto), Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks…), Linda Pitmon (Zu Zu’s Petals…) and Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows…). They live in Seattle, Portland, and NYC. They concentrated on their new album (“Emerald Valley”) released last week. Add up the amount of performing years experience on the stage and the tally would reach well into a second century. In other words, they’ve each forgotten more about rock ‘n roll than any of us will ever know firsthand. They do their jobs and look like they’re having fun up there.

Tucker and McCaughey

Tucker and McCaughey

Admittedly, I was there to see Scott McCaughey first and foremost. He’s one of the often uncredited icons of the exponential growth in Seattle’s music scene through the mid-’90s. By the time I’d rolled into town back in ‘93, The Young Fresh Fellows had already earned an honorary emeritus professorial position locally. Do yourself a favor if you’re not acquainted with them and give a listen to “The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest” (1984) on Spotify. While you’re at it, check out Fastbacks “Very, Very Powerful Motor” (1990)…but I digress. The point being that I always loved McCaughey’s unpretentious swagger on stage. Which made the news that he’d suffered a stroke back in 2017 all the more jarring. The good news is that he’s doing great. He now looks like Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown in the “Back to the Future” movies. And while the interplay between the players may not be as natural as a group who’ve been together for years in the van and on the stage, they made me just plain feel good about being out to see a show at my favorite club on a Thursday night. Even when a group of well-soused, much younger club goers weaseled their way in front of me prior to the encore…including one oversized dood who appeared to be as over-wide as he was over-tall and over-served…I couldn’t help but laugh at myself for even getting a slight bit annoyed at the pluck on them. It is rock ‘n roll, after all. Long may it live. Especially if it gets me out, inspired, and then home not long after 11pm on a weeknight.

Seeing Treepeople well outside of the forest

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.