Citizen John

It's not often a song or artist can truly capture what a city is feeling. I don't mean the hap-hap-happy songs about the wind in Chicago or the winters in Minnesota; I mean the true emotional feeling of a town, the day-to-day struggle. I used to hear songs that described the mood of our town. For me, it started with the very first Mudhoney or Love Battery songs from the late '80s. The music obviously came from a rain-soaked, darkened place, and it pulsed with an anger that spoke to and represented an underground audience that related to every drunken cry, every distorted chord. As is well documented, the mainstream picked up on this sort of emotional music and fed it to consumers—who could feel and enjoy the songs but could never reach that place where the music came from. Then there was Candlebox, Matchbox 20, and Creed. They too built a wall of angst, but behind it was an empty room. Now Seattle's got its own symptoms of bland alt-rock bluster. I no longer hear the association with the old Northwest, the folks who were poor and beat down with no recognition of what was popular out there in America. What I hear now is the result of making music to make money and attempts to make big fat labels drool over the possibility of having the next Presidents or Sweetwater. But I've recently stumbled on a man whose music taps into the familiar feeling of our Northwest—his name is Graig Markel, and he's just released his solo debut, Versus on Venus, on Mag Wheel/Recovery Records. Whether it's a soulful sadness of feeling alone and betrayed or his longing for somewhere where the sun shines or how this wet springtime almost killed him, Graig takes a look at the world around him; as a result, his music is more reminiscent of Seattle circa the first part of this decade, a more honest, and more blunt, time.

If you want to hear the only honest DJ left in Seattle, tune into KCMU 90.3 FM from 6 to 10am, where Citizen John lives.

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