EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Sub Pop 20 – Sun.

 

 

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, has been filing daily reports from the Sub Pop Records’ 20th Anniversary bash. For general info about what was on tap, read our earlier
preview HERE. Then check out Gaar’s travelogue through all things Sub Pop
  in addition to her Sunday report,
below, you can read about the Thursday-Friday happenings and the big Saturday
concert
.

 

 

By Gillian G. Gaar

 

Sunday, July 13

 

 

SP 20 — Marymoor Park, Redmond
WA 

 

 

 

The second day of SP 20 was a more laid-back affair for much
of the day than Saturday had been. Attendance was a bit lighter, though the sun
just as hot, and security just as vigilant at chasing away folks hanging around
outside the gates, lest they experience too much of the show for free (I saw
cops telling some folks sitting at a picnic table waiting for the friends who
had their tickets, “It’s time for you to do your waiting in the parking lot
now”).

 

 

But in general, the day started off in a mellow fashion.
First up were the Ruby Suns, down to a duo for this performance, with Ryan
McPhun holding down most of the fort on vocals, drums, and turntables, the band
veering between bright pop and soothing trance sounds that were rather at odds
with the bright sunlight. Grand Archives produced swaths of swirling sound in
their set, a motif continued by Blitzen Trapper, with a folky undercurrent
bursting through their layered harmonies.

 

 

(Ruby Suns, Grand Archives, Blitzen Trapper)

 

 

 

 

Things began taking a harder edge with Kinski, whose
hard-driving instrumentals created a powerful droning that was stealthily
hypnotic, especially after you’d been sitting in the sun drinking beers for a
few hours. Foals, who suffered a few equipment problems at the start of their
set (“Every time we come to Seattle shit breaks”), played a sharp, brittle
dance rock that harkened back to the cool, clinical beats of ‘80s new wave.
France’s Les Thugs turned in the first truly blistering set of the day,
pounding out a ferocious punk assault, once some minor sound problems had been
worked out; this was the kind of sound that fought its way out of Seattle’s
clubs on the route to “World Domination,” as Sub Pop co-founders Bruce Pavitt
and Jonathan Poneman would say.

 

 

(Kinski, Foals, Les Thugs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

One fun thing about SP 20 were all the vintage t-shirts
people unearthed for the event; Green River’s
“Ride The Fucking Six Pack,” Soundgarden’s “Total Fucking Godhead,” and the
classic “Loser” tee (with a Sub Pop logo on the back). Ben Scheelhaase, of
Medford, Oregon’s Vile Donations (myspace.com/vdoregon), who’d picked up just
such a shirt at the event, was lucky enough to acquire the signatures of Mark
Arm (Mudhoney), Chad Channing (Nirvana), Jack Endino (ace producer), and
Charles Peterson (photog supreme) on the shirt during the day. Asked what he
liked about Sub Pop bands, Scheelhaase replied “Everything!”

 

 

I myself wore a “Lamestain” shirt, drawing on the fake
“grunge slang” Sub Pop employee (and now vice president) Megan Jasper had
infamously made up for a New York Times reporter back in 1992. “I never thought it would make it into print,” she told
me, and indeed, who could ever have believed that we “grungesters” actually
used expressions like “Swingin’ on the flippity-flop” (for “hanging out”)? But
a “Lexicon of Grunge” duly appeared in the Times’ November 16, 1992 issue, with rival label C/Z Records quickly printing up some
t-shirts with various slang terms.

 

 

Just as much revelry was going on backstage, with Kobe beef
burgers available, kegs soon drained dry of “Loser” pale ale, and such folks as
Jack Endino, Kevin Whitworth (Love Battery), Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron
(Soundgarden, who couldn’t be persuaded to reunite for SP 20), Chad Channing
and Channing’s neighbors, Carrie and Vince Stamper, hosts of Tractorfest, the
biggest unknown music fest in Washington state (which this year will feature
burlesque acts; no, the fest has no tractor pulls). All of which thrilled Chris
Pugh, guitarist with the reformed Swallow (who didn’t perform at SP 20, but are
recording for Seattle-based Flotation Records). Pugh was busy interviewing
attendees for a documentary on Seattle’s
pre-grunge scene which he hopes to have done in two years. “It’ll have many many
hours of footage,” he promises, and so it should after that length of time.

 

 

I also briefly caught up with Frances McKee (Vaselines),
when Brandon Summers of Helio Sequence graciously let her cut ahead of him in
the beer line, taking time to praise the Vaselines’ set as he did so. I did the
same, then expressed my doubt that she wasn’t getting any “action” on tour, as
she’d bemoaned the previous day onstage. She laughed and said if she had, “My
husband would probably have something to say about that,” wise words in this
era of YouTube (and internet blog postings). On learning I was an Actual Media
Person, she insisted on giving me a copy of her wonderful 2006 release Sunny Moon, which I agreed to take on
condition that she sign it for me, which she did: “Lots of love Gillian, From
Frances.” Ah, how sweet.  These are the
perks, folks.

 

(Frances’
CD)

 

 

As the evening began, the crowds in front of both stages
began to thicken in anticipation. A reunited Beachwood Sparks kicked off at
6:40, and though singer/guitarist Chris Gunst admitted they hadn’t played in
some time, their set betrayed no sign of nerves. Their alt-country stylings
(including “Confusion
Is Nothing New” and “Silver Morning After”) offered a clear demonstration to
anyone paying attention that Sub Pop may have been rooted in “grunge,” but
they’ve had little problem in embracing other genres as well.

 

(Beachwood
Sparks)

 

 

 

 

But of course, if it hadn’t been for the g-word, there might
not have been an SP 20 at all, which is why the Green River reunion was the
day’s — heck, the entire festival’s — main event. Mark Arm, wearing the same
“Green River Summer Camps” t-shirt he wore at the band’s warm up show July 10
at Seattle’s Sunset Tavern, proved once again he’s Seattle’s answer to Iggy Pop
(and aren’t we glad to have him!), as he writhed around the stage, contorting
his body like a pretzel, surpassing even Mudhoney’s performance the previous
day. Classics like “Swallow My Pride” and “Come On Down” were present and
accounted for; Arm playfully accused the Melvins of stealing “Leeech” from a
Green River demo and taking it for their own, Led Zeppelin style (“Making us
the Willie Dixon of grunge…but we’ve melded the legal power of Pearl Jam and
Sub Pop and we’re going to crush those bastards!”); and the audience got a
mini-grunge history lesson with Arm introducing the band members by referring
to their previous bands undoubtedly unknown to most of those in attendance
(Jeff Ament and Bruce Fairweather, Deranged Diction; Steve Turner and Stone
Gossard, The Ducky Boys; Alex Shumway, Spluii Numa).

 

(Green River)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“And I’m the evil genius behind Mr. Epp,” Arm cracked with a
grin. At the end of the band’s set, Shumway dove into the crowd, and the rest
of the band tossed out brand spanking new “Ride the Fucking Six Pack” t-shirts
(Shumway later hurling a handful of drumsticks in the same direction), causing
an even greater frenzy than the mini moshpits that had broken out.

 

 

Wolf Parade didn’t throw out any t-shirts or drumsticks, but
managed to work the crowd up in their own way, such as choosing “Kissing the
Beehive” (from their latest album, At
Mount Zoomer
) to perform, which burns along for a heady 10 minutes. Was it
odd to end the festival celebrating a Seattle
label with a band from Montreal?
The crowd didn’t seem to mind, swept up in the delirium of such numbers as “An
Animal In Your Care,” “I Am A Runner,” and “Soldier’s Grin.” As the last band
on stage, they were actually allowed to do an encore, choosing “I’ll Believe in
Anything,” from their debut album, Apologies
to the Queen Mary
. Those quick on the uptake can catch both Wolf Parade and
Foals at Neumo’s in Seattle
this evening (June 14).

 

(Wolf Parade)

 

 

 

For a label known for its penchant of hyperbole, it was
somewhat odd to not have Pavitt and Poneman take the stage at some point to
engage in some self-congratulatory badinage. Instead, the two could be seen in the
crowd throughout the day, checking out the bands, clearly still as interested
in experiencing music the old-fashioned way as they were when they started
their label.

 

 

And so it was perhaps fitting that at SP 20, they chose to
let the music speak for itself.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits:

 

Shawn
Brackbill/courtesy Sub Pop

 

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