EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Sub Pop 20 – Thurs/Fri

 

 

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
today, tomorrow and Monday.

 

 By Gillian G. Gaar

 

Thursday, July 10 & Friday, July 11

 

Bruce
Pavitt/Jonathan Poneman Oral History – Experience Music Project (Thursday)

Opening Night Party
– The Space Needle (Thursday)

Green
River
, The Press
Corps., The Fluid – Sunset Tavern (Thursday)

Comedy Show w/Flight
of the Conchords, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Eugene Mirman, Todd Barry – Moore
Theatre (Friday)

 

 

As the architectural
icon most associated with Seattle, it’s not surprising that the Space Needle is
the focal point for celebrations; flying the Seattle Seahawks’ “12th Man” flag when the football team made it to the Super Bowl, or setting off
fireworks from the structure’s top on New Year’s Eve. Still, it was a bit of a
jolt to see a giant flag with the Sub Pop logo flying from the top of needle,
unfurled on Thursday, July 10th, as the inaugural event of the
record label’s 20th anniversary celebrations.

 

 

 

The rest of the day
brought a history lesson, a party, and a “secret” show that left a packed house
of attendees all hot and bothered. The evening began at the Experience Music
Project museum, where Sub Pop co-founders Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman
were interviewed for one of EMP’s Oral Histories by senior curator Jacob
McMurray. And there was a surprise guest in the house; Seattle Mayor Greg
Nickels, who read aloud the official proclamation naming July 11-14 as “Sub
Pop’s Utterly Lost Weekend,” further urging the city’s residents “to join me in
celebrating Sub Pop’s questionable taste in music, generous nature and
improbable solvency.” As for the talk, Pavitt and Poneman shared various nuggets
of trivia (had it not been for Poneman’s skill in urging the phone company to
not shut off Sub Pop’s phone during the first year, the label may have made
good on its “going out of business” slogan rather too soon), and assured those
endeavoring to start up labels that though there is now much more competition
in the marketplace, the rise of the internet has also led to greater media
opportunities.

 

Then, following
Poneman’s final words, “Let’s party!” invited guests decamped to the Space
Needle, where a party was held on the “Observation Deck” (a mere 100 feet up,
as opposed to the restaurant, where Elvis dined in It Happened At The World’s Fair, which is 500 feet up). In the
elevator on the way up, Pavitt joked to BLURT he heard a rumor there was no free food or drink available (knowing our
penchant for such things), but not only was plenty of each on hand, there was
even a special brew for the occasion: “Loser” pale ale, crafted by the Elysian
Brewing Company, a sweet, hoppy brew that at 6.5% alcohol provides a nice kick.
The event had a feel of a high school reunion — a very cool high school reunion
— as past and present Sub Pop employees and bands reconnected; BLURT spotted Kim Warnick (Fastbacks),
Steve Fisk, Mark Pickerel, Carla Torgerson (Walkabouts), author Michael
Azerrad, and Carla DeSantis (of the late ROCKRGL magazine). Kelley Stoltz, Death Vessel, and Sera Cahoone provided musical
entertainment, though attendees seemed to spend most of their time waiting in
the long drinks lines.

 

(Kelly Stoltz, Sera
Cahoone)

 

 

 

 

But the label had
created a dilemma for attendees; those at the Space Needle party missed a
“secret” show at the Sunset Tavern that occurred at the same time, featuring
spots by Green River and The Fluid (warm-up sets for their SP 20 appearances
this weekend), and an ad hoc group with members of both bands, billing
themselves the Press Corps. Mark Arm didn’t pull quite the stunts he used to
during Green River’s heyday (at one memorable show he leapt from the stage to
swing on a light fixture, which began breaking apart; “Not one of my brightest moments,”
he says today, adding, “I was pretty high on MDA”), but he did manage to dive
into the audience, later surfacing on the bar. Fluid singer John Robinson also
made forays into the crowd, which moshed like it was 1989, even attempting a
little stage diving, though most present seemed to have outgrown such
tomfoolery.

 

(Green
River)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday night’s entertainment included a
comedy show — yes, Sub Pop has released comedy records — with a lineup boasting
a few Flight of the Conchords alums
(yet another act playing SP 20), beginning with host
Kristen Schaal, who kept the program moving
with such chipper commentary as “Happy birthday, Mr. Sub Pop! And the weather
is perfect today…even if this is the suicide capital of the world.” Todd Barry
also wryly lauded Sub Pop with the observation “Years ago when other labels
wouldn’t sign me — [Sub Pop] also wouldn’t sign me,” dropping hints that the
evening’s set would make a great live release on the label. Eugene Mirman even
devised a special “Memories of Grunge” video in honor of the occasion, donning
a blonde wig and flannel shirt while claiming credit for suggesting Sub Pop
bands try using two names (“Green River…Pearl Jam…Soundgarden”) and that before
the term “grunge” was conceived he’d wanted to call the new Seattle music “jazz
not.”

 

(Kristen Schaal,
Eugene Mirman, Todd Barry)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Political commentary
was a prevailing theme, with Barry hitting on the hypocrisy of “narrow minded
fake liberal fuckers,” and Mirman disparaging an anti-abortion slogan he’d seen
at a rally (“America
is better than abortion”) as a “grammatically incorrect protest sign.” Patton
Oswalt conceded that George Bush material was no longer edgy, given the
president’s general lack of popularity, comparing people who’d liked the prez
back in 2000 to Creed fans (“Okay! I was wrong!”), before going on to somehow
compare Republican candidate John McCain to both Syd Barrett and G.G. Allin in
less than five minutes.

 

(Patton Oswalt,
David Cross)

 

 

 

 

 

Both Oswalt and David Cross, each a
proud atheist, took shots at religion, Oswalt providing a particularly good
destruction of how religion was invented and manages to continue provoking
havoc in the world. Cross also went off on an amazing absurdist rant about the
latest useless product he’d seen advertised in the Sky Mall catalogue — the Time Mug, with a clock built right into
the mug, thus eliminating the need to look at your watch. But when a baby in
the audience began squawking, he missed the opportunity to plug the title of
his first Sub Pop release — Shut Up, You
Fucking Baby!

 

 

In a nice coincidence, the venue, the
Moore Theatre, was where the first Sub Pop “Lame Fest” had been held June 9,
1989 — a show that had Mudhoney, Tad, and Nirvana sharing the bill.

 

 

 

 

(Additional reporting by Kris Sproul and Mike Ziegler.)

 

Photo
Credits:

 

*Green River courtesy/copyright Kris Sproul

*Sera
Cahoone and Kelly Stoltz by Shawn Brackbill/courtesy Sub Pop

*Moore
Theatre comedy show (Kristen Schaal, Patton Oswalt, Todd Barry, Eugene Mirman, David Cross) by Shawn
Brackbill/courtesy Sub Pop

 

 

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