seattle history

Tour schedule update, and KUOW's "The Record" segment on "What Killed Grunge?"

February’s almost over, which means that my Grunge Redux tour schedule kicks back into gear. I’ve recently led some special tours (including one awesome group of high school age music fans from Seattle on a particularly rainy January day). I’ve done some special advance scouting travel for an August overseas move (more on that later). But for those interested in regular walking tours around Seattle’s fascinating cultural geography, I’m happy to announce that I’m getting back out on the streets.

As always, you can drop me a quick line if you have plans to visit Seattle when you don’t see a tour on my schedule. More often than not, I’m open to thoughtful pitches and special requests. There’s really nothing else out there like what I do for those obsessed or at least curious about the Pacific Northwest’s grunge era history. As I’ve often said on my tours, “I’m not trying to ‘out cool’ anyone.” This is a labor of love and my (self-appointed) ambassadorial duties have introduced me to an expanding atlas of far-flung tour takers. So far, people from a few dozen countries and more than 30 American states have toured with me. Why not jump into the mosh pit yourself? It’s a friendly, invigorating way of seeing a slice of Seattle - both past and present.

I need to add some links to some recent media that has featured Seattle Grunge Redux. I’ll preview them with a link to a recent conversation on Seattle’s NPR station (KUOW) that I was honored to join. Host Bill Radke’s from “The Record” brought a few of us into the studio - Ean Hernandez (from Seattle band Sicko and many other bands with a signature pop punk ethic) and Gretta Harley (writer, musician, educator with a new album coming out this weekend from her latest band, Love and Fury). and yours truly. The segment used the 25th anniversary of Green Day’s “Dookie” being released as an intro to ponder when the grunge era and Seattle’s presumed dominance came to fade away. I had recently come back from a trip to Africa, so my jet lagginess took the edge of my insights. I did the chance to voice my opinions that marketing shaped much of the world’s view of Seattle and that nostalgia is actually a worthy lens through which to view the music from the grunge era. Give it a listen and let me know if you have any thoughts to contribute.

I’m going to expand upon my usual sparse posting here to reinvigorate the conversation. Let me know if you have any questions. Sign up for a tour. Or just check back. More to come…

Back on the road (with new dates scheduled)

The rumor(s) spread (by me…) about the extended hiatus of my Grunge Redux tours have been quashed. Due to popular demand, I’ve added some new scheduled tours starting on Valentine’s Day (with more to come). I’ve actually been out rockin’ and rollin’ on the streets of Seattle often enough recently that I should offer a fuller update. That will come soon, I pinkie swear. But the bottom line for anyone curious about when you might be able to book a storytelling journey into Seattle’s fascinating past/present/future is the band is back together! If I can call myself a band (I can’t) as a solo artist (loosely speaking, of course) out on the road (here in Seattle) trying to entertain and educate the crowds (generally limited to less than 10 people).

I should mention a special tour I ran earlier this week for a cool, thoughtful bunch of local high schoolers. Plenty of musicians in the group, with a super-cool adviser who got our “field trip” approved with the administration of their Seattle-area high school. If you’re also angling at a special group event, feel free to give me a holler. No promises. But I definitely love the chance to tailor the research I’ve done to audiences with special interests.

As visual evidence, here we are outside MoPOP. Good looking crew, I must say.

School of Learning More About Rock.jpeg

It's been fun, but the time has come to end this chapter.

Without spending on advertising…aside from a few days of testing out Google Adsense and realizing that clicks mean next to nothing in terms of connecting with actual people…some pretty awesome people found their way to my walking tours during the past handful of months. I’ve done a few tallies to illustrate the dynamism of who’s come along (here’s a brief snapshot). I’ve met visitors to Seattle from 18 countries. I’ve had along journalists from right here, a German “Rolling Stone” reporter, and a documentary TV film crew from France. I showed around as many as 15 people in one group (a hopeful mistake) and as few as just one woman visiting from South Korea (a total delight). There were boundlessly positive waves of Pearl Jam fans especially around the time of the Home Shows in August. So often there were tough questions asked that drew me obsessively deeper into the research of Seattle’s cultural history. We’ve experienced the sudden loss of Paul Allen, watched the unfolding debate over The Showbox, awaited the evolution of the former Galleria Potato Head/Black Dog Forge space into something new and exciting, appreciated MoPOP’s Pearl Jam exhibit and the unveiling of the Chris Cornell statue, celebrated with Sub Pop their first 30 years of going out of business, and prepared for places like Studio X/Bad Animals to leave behind their Belltown digs. The list of discussion worthy points along the way through Seattle’s landscape and history goes on.

And now it’s time for me to drop to mic.

I have one more tour scheduled for this week. Given the current warm and sunny weather, it should make for yet another lovely walkabout. I even have a few more fun details to share that I recently learned from both the Andrew Wood documentary (available from Seattle’s awesome Public Library) and the obsessed folks behind Northwest Passage’s reporting on the story behind the Deep Six compilation by C/Z Records back in 1986.

Whenever I finish a tour, I scrutinize what I forgot to mention. I don’t have a script…as might prove obvious to most…even though I have some reliably retold tales and a good memory for detail. Although I shouldn’t push the analogy too far, I’ve seen this little side project take on the elements of a live show. In that light, the thing that I’ve learned above all else from this particular performance is that I respect the power of nostalgic yearning. I often say that I don’t want to ever fall into any form of “your band sucks” criticism as we conversationally amble through music history. That’s not to say I’m without strong opinions on what music then or now matters. Either here in Seattle or beyond. I’ve simply tried to offer an entertaining mix of stories tied to the places from whence the stuff came.

If you’ve found your way to this humble post and want to reach out in hopes of still scheduling a tour, I’m always open to hearing your pitch. But I’m not planning to put up anymore regularly scheduled tours for the foreseeable future. Not that you asked, but the year ahead will be an extremely busy one for me and my family. I have a book project that demands my immediate and full attention. My family and I are planning for a sabbatical year starting next August in Ethiopia. I’m thinking about developing this material further for a self-guided podcast/audio tour. Yada yada yada. We all have our plans and dreams and day-to-day distractions. I’m nonetheless glad to have met all the people I did while trying to share a small slice of Seattle.

This isn’t the end. The conversation will continue. Thanks for checking in. Holler back if you have questions. And rock on.

Pearl Jam's "Home Shows" and Sub Pop's 30th Anniversary...pump up the volume on an amazing week of Seattle activities

The summer's been hot and the news has been steamy in Seattle. A brutal report about Dave Meinert's sexually abusive actions shocked many, and the backlash has been severe from all quarters (I will continue to mention his background, but with the essential update that came from that KUOW story last week). News of The Showbox's possible demise and/or pending landmark status may be stirring people into action (I strongly suggest signing the Change.org petition as I've done to do whatever's possible to protect this essential big room venue, and putting your words into action as I'm also doing). 

And this all comes as Pearl Jam prepares to play their "Home Shows" in less than two weeks from when I write this. I've sold out my Grunge Redux tours for that week, and the far flung members of the "Jamily" arriving soon have reached out with much excitement and earnestness. MoPOP long ago tapped into that energy by organizing a new exhibit set to open on Saturday, August 11th.

Sub Pop's 30th Anniversary Weekend celebration adds an equally amazing river of energy to that week's festivities. KEXP has kept them fresh in everyone's mind as they've played something off the entirety of Sub Pop's 1200+ release catalog for months counting down to the parties themselves on 8/10 and 8/11.  

It's a head-spinning mix of awesomeness. To show some of my priorities...and to give a hopefully helpful cheat sheet for that week...I'll offer the following list of activities that deserve to be on your schedule. In chronological but certainly not entirely complete order:

Saturday, 7/28 @ Georgetown Records - Punk Flyer Retrospective 1979-85

Wednesday, 8/1 on-air with KEXP - The Home Shows spotlight (from 6am to 6pm Best Coast Standard Time)

Thursday, 8/2 @ KEXP's Gathering Space - Storytelling Session with members of the Black Constellation collective

Tuesday, 8/7 @ MoPOP - Member Preview Day of "Pearl Jam: Home and Away" exhibit at MoPOP

Tuesday, 8/7 @ Optimism Brewing - MoPOP + Optimism "Pop Culture Trivia Night (focus upon Pearl Jam)

Thursday, 8/9 in Magnuson Park/NOAA Campus - Chris Cornell tribute

Thursday, 8/9 @ KEXP's Gathering Space - Storytelling Session with Mudhoney

Thursday, 8/9 @ Nordic Museum - Danish music journalist Henrik Tuxen's book talk for his fascinating bio titled "Pearl Jam: The More You Need, The Less You Get"

Friday and Saturday's redonkulously interesting lineups of Sub Pop Concerts @ Seattle Center's Mural Amphitheatre and West Seattle's Alki Beach. Check the SP30th website for all the updates.

Saturday, 8/11 @ MoPOP - the opening of "Pearl Jam: Home + Away" exhibit. Expect that it will sell out incredibly fast. 

Please note that I will be adding more details and/or suggested events for that whole week soon. 

Plus, I've got just two more tours left before the end of the summer (Tuesday, 8/14 and Saturday, 9/1). Some other fascinating media outreach has cropped up. So there's much going on, and much to look forward to. Rock on y'all.

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.