EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Sub Pop 20 – Sat.

 

Editor’s Note: BLURT’s Gillian G. Gaar,
embedded as she is in all things Seattle and with a long legacy of covering the
NW scene, is filing daily reports from the Sub Pop Records’ 20th Anniversary bash. For general info about what’s going on, read our earlier
preview HERE. Then check out Gaar’s travelogue through all things Sub Pop
  you can also read yesterday’s
breakdown of Thursday-Friday happenings, and tomorrow she’ll recap the Sunday
concert.

 

 

By Gillian G. Gaar

 

Saturday, July 12

 

SP 20 — Marymoor Park, Redmond
WA 

 

Time was, you’d never have expected the phrases “Sub Pop” and
“family friendly” to go together. Yet there they were: a punk rocker wearing
bondage pants and a hat sporting a pentangle, next to a little girl romping
around in a red dress with white polka dots. The first day of the SP 20
festival drew a sell-out, inter-generational crowd; evidently, the kids who
grew up listening to Sub Pop bands have now seen fit to bring their own progeny
to experience the finest in “grunge,” past and present.

 

 

 

 

A section of the park (which is quite large) was cordoned off
for the event, with two stages side-by-side, which allowed for rapid-fire
changeovers; no downtime between sets. There were the usual overpriced food and
beverage offerings (one unfortunate attendee found a staple in his collard
greens), and if the beer price of $6 a cup made one grumble, there were at
least an impressive nine selections of brew available (causing one woman to
learn Black “Butte” Porter isn’t pronounced “Butt”). Among the booths promoting all-ages Seattle venue The Vera Project, skateboarding
for girls (and women), and Obama ’08 (“We’ve given out a few thousand stickers,”
a staffer proudly informed BLURT), there was actual swag to be had: the
“Official Free Thing” compilation CD.

 

Music got underway shortly after noon, with a fine garage rock-tinged
set from New York’s
own Obits. At the same time, outside the SP 20 gates, another garage rock
flavored Sub Pop act, Girl Trouble (whose lead singer, Kurt Kendall, sounds
like the brother of the Cramps’ Lux Interior), miffed at not being able to play
the event proper, pounded out an acoustic set while tossing bags of chips to
onlookers, an act later deemed “punk fucking resistance!” by John Robinson, the
Fluid’s lead singer. Back at SP 20, a pair of Canadian bands followed; the
Constantines, who turned in a sizzling set, and Eric’s Trip, the first Canadian
band to be signed by Sub Pop.

 

 

(Obits, Constantines,
Eric’s Trip)

 

 

 

 

 

Loud continued to be the order of the day for a while; how
do The Helio Sequence manage to kick up such a (pleasing) racket with only two
people? Then it was time for a little old school rocking on the second stage,
starting with Seaweed, still as tight as they were back in the day, even
drawing Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt down to the front. Not to be outdone,
the younger Pissed Jeans, whose first Sub Pop album came out last year, were
just louder than loud.

 

 

(Helio Sequence, Seaweed, Pissed Jeans)

 

 

 

 

The press area, off to the left, was actually a decent
enough viewing place, with picnic benches, shade, and, most importantly, free
beer (the Elysian-brewed Sub Pop “Loser” pale ale). But the real action, as
always, was in the VIP area, where folks chowed down on ribs and soft tacos,
made frequent visits to the ice cream truck, and drank more beer. David Cross
was seen being interviewed by Billboard (he was most looking forward to the Vaselines); Linda Derschang, of trendy
Seattle nightspot Linda’s Tavern was on hand; Eugene Mirman, dismayed at the
length of the food lines, instead exchanged pleasantries with BLURT; former K
Records co-owner Candice Pedersen was spotted; author Michael Azerrad was still
hanging out; and BLURT found the time
to talk shop with LA Times scribe Ann
Powers, who was once a Seattle resident herself, before she moved on to the
bright lights big city. Indeed, as much as the bands represented the musical
side of the Seattle
scene of the last 20 years, the backstage attendees featured many of the movers
and shakers that helped get the scene up on its feet.

 

 

(Fleet Foxes)

 

 

 

It was somewhat ironic to see a man wearing a t-shirt
reading “I don’t give a fuck how they do it in California” as the Fleet Foxes
began their set, for the Foxes’ croonings on “Sun Giant” were straight out of
the Beach Boys’ playbook. There was actually a hush over the crowd during their
set, though that mood was broken soon enough when the Fluid took over the
second stage. John Robinson wore a nifty purple shirt and black vest, and was
soon leaping about, holding the mic stand above his head, and finally jumping
into the crowd for a spate of body surfing.

 

(Fluid)

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then came Mudhoney. Who doesn’t
love Mudhoney? Only fools, my friends. And they didn’t disappoint, not only
bringing back classics like “Touch Me I’m Sick” and “Sweet Young Thing (Ain’t
Sweet No More),” but also more current, timely tunes like “Hard-On For War.”

 

 

(Mudhoney)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The (bitter) sweeter-than-thou Vaselines couldn’t have
provided more of a contrast. The reunited group’s first ever Seattle
show (indeed, their first ever US show was July 9 at Maxwell’s in Hoboken)
had all the songs most people know because Nirvana covered them (“Son of a
Gun,” “Molly’s Lips,” “Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam”), interspersed with plenty
of ribald commentary. Despite Frances McKee’s pleas to make it a “smut-free
zone,” she then cheerfully informed the crowd the band’s extended absence was
due to her being kidnapped and sold into white slavery, with Eugene Kelly
unable to pay the bill. “Just give Frances $20,” Kelly deadpanned
back, “and you can dry hump her.” McKee later queried whether the crowd’s low
energy level was due to all their “dry humping in that field over there.” Alas,
no such activity was observed by BLURT.

 

 

(Vaselines)

 

 

 

 

 

Iron and Wine then provided the calm before the storm, with
Sam Beam simply standing center stage, quietly playing acoustic guitar, not
something many people can do while still holding one’s attention; his cover of
the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” was a highlight. Then the energy
ratcheted back up again for Flight of the Conchords, who unfurled a jolly cache
of tunes to end the evening on a high note, “Robots (The Humans Are Dead),”
“Boom (She’s So Hot),” “Jenny,” and “Ex-Girlfriend” among them. Comedian Todd
Barry was brought onstage for “Business Time,” and all and sundry were then
sent home at a reasonable hour.

 

 

(Iron and Wine, Flight of the Conchords)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, oddly, BLURT saw no one wearing a backwards baseball
cap — once the trademark of “grunge” fashion — the entire day.

 

 

 

Photo Credits:

 

Shawn Brackbill
(courtesy Sub Pop)

 

The Fluid by Brian Tamborello/courtesy Sub Pop

 

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