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 shows. Mudhoney 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 August. Tickets 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.
Concert billing from the second show Nirvana played in Seattle, on April 24, 1988.Read More
Today's the anniversary of the first time the Ramones played in Seattle. When they rolled through in March of '77 to promote their second album, they'd just been screwed over on ill-chosen gigs in Bremerton and Aberdeen. Thankfully, some enterprising local punks with an eye toward much greater things took a chance and suggested an all-ages Seattle show. The result became legendary. Booked in the totally posh Olympic Hotel's Georgian Room...currently advertised as the "only downtown Seattle dining option offering traditional afternoon tea service"...the Ramones pulled off an epic show. Connections were made. Everyone got paid. Halfway across the country, I was in elementary school. Nonetheless, I can imagine what an effect it had on the 400 to 500 lucky punks who were downtown that Sunday night.
Not that long thereafter...and 40 years ago this past Sunday...Seattle's gestating DIY punk scene got its first real (albeit short-lived) venue. The Bird. Even though it only hung on at 107 Spring St. for three months before getting booted into a more vagabond floating life around Seattle, promoters started thinking big(ger). It wasn't long before Seattle would get Larry "The current (Unofficial) Mayor of Georgetown" Reid's gallery/club Roscoe Louie in Pioneer Square, the U District's Rainbow Tavern (at 722 NE 45th St. next to the Blue Moon) would become a room with pull, and a Jewish bingo hall previously named the Talmud-Torah would be rechristened Seattle's most influential big room, The Showbox. Others followed. Inspiration(s) ebbed and flowed. The story continues...
That Ramones show, those evolving venues, the punks who were figuring out they could link up what had been a long-ignored cultural outpost here in Seattle with the broader national story: these are just a few of the pieces that fell into place for what would become the massively over-exposed grunge era here in Seattle. For me, searching for those layers and hunting for puzzle pieces across Seattle's landscape is an endlessly fascinating hobby. Maybe you can join me on a tour sometime soon to check out what's out there and worth pursuing? The stories themselves bring me great pleasure. But seeing where they actually unfolded? That's the best part.
As an aside for location nerds who (like myself) are always looking for the backstory, don't forget that the Olympic Hotel is also on the original site of the University of Washington dating all the way back to 1861 (previously called the Territorial University of Washington before statehood arrived in 1889). There's a plaque out front. And it's worth looking across the street at the ruins beneath the former Rainier Square mall and the oddly exposed base of the Rainier Tower (designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who also designed the former World Trade Center in NYC). So many layers of downtown Seattle stories, so little time.
I should thank Peter Blecha's research for HistoryLink.org and Steven Tow for his book "The Strangest Tribe" for whetting my appetite to explore more of this amazing chapter in Seattle's history. It surely didn't seem like it at the time, but those few phone calls to promoters back in the 1977 continue to reverberate up through the current moment. Amazing how culture can do that for a place, doncha think?
Nevermind the clichés. Grunge Redux, my always-evolving and deeply-researched storytelling tour, returns! Peek into some of coolest corners of the over-exposed yet still somehow superunknown grunge era. Dig deeper into the dirt around this Town's musical roots. Gain insight into what led to the sonic boom that turned "Seattle" from a proper noun into an adjective (think "Seattle band"). And connect a whole lotta dots for a clearer picture of the upheaval caused by the music and culture that came from here.
Expect to walk a path where many influential bands from the mid-80s through the late-90s cut teeth, stumbled repeatedly, and earned cred. Stops will feature largely unmarked notable locations worth remembering throughout Belltown and beyond. This short-term side project will split up and go our separate ways at KEXP's Gathering Space in Seattle Center.
This will be a motivated trek...with a few well-timed pit stops...covering approximately two miles. Be prepped to walk and withstand the elements (chilly temps are forecast through the weekend). No matter how long you've lived in Seattle, expect that you'll hear funny and real stories that provide a new context for an influential era.
Send me an email (eric "at" seattlegrungeredux.com) if you'd like in. I'll respond with detail(s) of where to meet. Space is (very) limited. Payment will be up to you...this is a one-time offer before I roll this out more regularly...I typically charge $50/person. Future tour offerings will occur approximately twice monthly.
Please note that my tour isn't connected with The Croc's gathering later Saturday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Bird (Seattle's first punk club @ 107 Spring St.). Although that gig's highly recommended.
You know you want to know more about Seattle's grunge era. So why not join me for the walk that rocks? Rain or shine, it'll be a good time.