Sub Pop 20

“The new thing: the big thing: the God thing: a mighty multinational entertainment conglomerate based in the Pacific Northwest.”

Bruce Pavitt wrote that in 1986. It was printed on the spine of the Sub Pop 100 compilation, Pavitt's first venture into vinyl territory. This was a step up from his days of compiling mixtapes and cutting and pasting the Subterranean Pop fanzine he conjured as a "student of punk rock" at Evergreen State College. Though he meant his hyperbole to be taken ironically, it now reads as an eerie premonition: Sub Pop is a big thing, an entertainment mini-giant that has cracked the Billboard Top Five, licensed songs to film and television, made a lot of money, wasted a lot of money, gained legions of admirers, made a lot of enemies, made a lot more money, and--somehow--made history. Sub Pop began when Pavitt moved to Olympia from Illinois in 1979. But it officially opened for business 20 years ago, after Pavitt made a connection with another Midwestern transplant, Jonathan Poneman (both were then living in Seattle). With Poneman's $20,000 investment, they released an EP by a band called Soundgarden. Soon after, they followed it up with a 7" by a band called Mudhoney. It wasn't long before Sub Pop's roster would boast TAD, the Afghan Whigs, The Fluid, and many others, not to mention a sludgy trio called Nirvana. And the label has continued to be crucial to the Seattle scene: It could be argued that Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes would not have received the exposure they did without Sub Pop's international appeal. But to put it in simpler terms, Sub Pop put this city's music scene on the map for good. Nowadays, it's hard to find someone who doesn't equate Seattle with Sub Pop. Therefore they have every right to throw a big 20th-birthday party for themselves. This weekend--from the big two-day concert bash at Marymoor Park to Friday's comedy night at The Moore to the numerous secret shows around town to the big honkin' Sub Pop flag flying from the Space Needle (seriously)--Sub Pop pretty much owns our city. It's only right that they own this week's music section as well. In the following pages, you'll be hard-pressed to find an inch of text unrelated to the label that grunge broke. So, happy 20th birthday, Sub Pop... you old bastards!  

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