nirvana

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.

Looking back on the anniversary of "Bleach" dropping...and forward

It's been a few months since I put up one of my periodic time capsule-heavy how-you-doin' updates. Today seems like an especially apt time to do so. Because on this date, Nirvana's first album "Bleach" was released back in 1989. While the album was well-received by critics, it barely reached the broader public still quaintly thinking of Seattle as an out of the way "noun" rather than a soon-to-be ubiquitous "adjective" (as in "Seattle sound" or "Seattle band" or the like). The relative lack of promotion eventually led Nirvana to leave Seattle's own Sub Pop Records. "Bleach" sold just 40,000 copies by the time their next album "Nevermind" fully cracked the cultural firmament two years later. However, it would go on to become Sub Pop's biggest selling album (1.9M and counting). Not bad for an album that cost just over $600 in studio time to record. 

Music journalists eventually dug way deep to learn that Cobain wrote most of the lyrics for that first batch of songs in a "pissed off mood" (Kurt's characterization, not mine) the night before their first recording session with Jack Endino at Reciprocal Records in Ballard. The sound was somewhat shaped to fit what Sub Pop was looking for at the time. But the energy and the originality and the off-kilter melodic fury endures. I still spin it from time to time. In fact, that's what's playing in the background as I write this. 

As I also like to point out at the start of my Grunge Redux tourssix days prior to "Bleach" dropping was an especially fortuitous date for the 2000-ish lucky people who made it into Sub Pop's "Lame Fest" at the Moore Theatre. The kind, naive people running that venue misjudged a billing with Nirvana, Tad and Mudhoney on the marquee. Hardly anyone aside from the in-the-know local fans thought it could sell out (which it did). Surely including the management of The Moore, who chose to send home early their security. And maybe not even Sub Pop, who were (reportedly) banned for a decade from that neighborhood venue as a result of the mayhem that resulted. 

Shifting forward to the now-ish...two months on down the line, we'll all most likely be lamenting "where did the summer go?" Before then, I've got big plans. Travel, family fun, a pile of work that's staring me down. Not that you asked, but I like to keep y'all in the know. Regardless, interspersed until mid-August on some special dates, I'll be running more Grunge Redux tours. Then after Pearl Jam finishes up their first Seattle shows in five years and Sub Pop throws itself a 30th birthday bash out on Alki Beach, I'll be dropping the ol' tour guide record bag (aside from a few charitable outings and the occasional special request). My subtle wink wink nudge nudge point here is to say that I'd love to have you join me for one before I stop doing encores. Next Friday even. Which could be an unseasonable warm day. What better time to skip out of work early and make a few Happy Hour cooling stops wrapped up in my uniquely Seattle storytelling experience? Tickets are available. Questions, as always, are welcomed and answered as soon as I can get to them.

Or you can also check me out for a limited time on Airbnb. If you've joined me before and want to say something about the experience, reviews can be placed there. No pressure. Just another friendly nudge.

Now if you'll excuse me, time to get back to rocking out. I hope you're doing the same...or will be soon...on this room-temperature and sunny Friday.

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.

Grunge Redux Happy Hour tour this Friday...Brunch tour on Saturday, 4/14

30 years ago this month, a series of curious events occurred that would eventually shift the plates of Seattle's seemingly sedate cultural bedrock. Sub Pop Records signed a lease on office space in Belltown on a metaphorically significant April Fools Day. Nirvana played their first two Seattle showsMudhoney also played their first show, seven years after their lead singer, Mark Arm, unintentionally coined the much-loathed yet essential term "grunge" in a letter to the long-since defunct punk zine, "Desperate Times." To go further down that rabbit hole, Mudhoney formed from the split nucleus of the band Green River, which also led to the formation of Mother Love Bone. For the non-geeks out there and/or anyone else still reading, Pearl Jam formed in part from Mother Love Bone, after the tragic death of their lead singer, Andy Wood, in 1990. As one might say in a deep, movie-trailer quality voiceover, "in a world where few bands dared to believe they could succeed...now there were many...and soon there'd be many many more."

Whether or not its obvious, I've continued to polish the chrome and tweak the carburetor on my Grunge Redux walking tour through parts of downtown Seattle. And without being a noodge...too late...I want to point y'all toward my revised calendar for upcoming tours. 

This Friday, 4/6, I'm doing another Happy Hour tour starting at 4pm. And then the Saturday after next, 4/14, I'm doing my first Brunch tour starting at 10:30. In both iterations, 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 journey.

If you've not received or just not bothered to read through one of my promos previously, there's more detail on my website along with a schedule through AugustTickets are $50/person, although cheaper as pairs or even more so in bigger 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.

As has always been the case with my Grunge Redux tours, there's an element of improv drawn from the particular interests of those along for the walk. Feel free to tell me what you yearn to hear covered. Please bear in mind that you needn't be versed in the grunge era (which I bookend with stories that place the action between 1985 and 1996-ish). Or if you're a Seattle music super geek, I still believe I can add to that with deep cuts and thoughtfully researched connective logic. All ages are welcome, although there will be opportunities for the grown ups to stop briefly for beverages along the way. In which case, the all ages ticket holders get to play in the figurative street.

I believe this immersive history tour makes an essential boom era in Seattle's history return to life. Imagine the Underground Tour of Pioneer Square. But with careful research, fresh air and even fresher shtick. I'd be stoked to show y'all some of what I've learned along this path. Regardless, I hope you're well and ready for whatever new stories are being currently generated all over the Great Northwest.