SP20 Gives the Seattle Scene a Reason to Believe

“Watching the Sub Pop flag fly from the roof of the Space Needle, I felt that civic pride swell in my chest so quickly that my eyes started watering.”

Early this year, I was interviewed for an episode of The Local Music Show for the Seattle Channel. The topic at hand was the current state of the Seattle music scene, with the then-recent closure of the Crocodile an unfortunate touchstone. I lamented the chilling atmosphere that Mayor Greg Nickels has generated with his anti-nightlife agenda, the rapid march of gentrification, and the increasingly prohibitive cost of touring due to skyrocketing gas prices. Though I trumpeted the rise of the 206 hip-hop scene and burgeoning local labels like Don't Stop Believin', Light in the Attic, and Aviation, I did not paint a particularly cheery picture.When I was asked what I thought the Seattle music community needed to put itself back on the map again, I essentially said it needed a sense of pride both in its worth and potential and in its historic value. At the time of the taping, I really felt as though our civic pride had taken a bit of a spiritual hit, and I wanted to see it rebuilt.Last Thursday morning, when I looked up from the KEXP parking lot and saw the Sub Pop flag flying from the roof of the Space Needle (it had been unfurled moments prior by SP founders Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, while longtime publicist Steve Manning looked on), I felt that civic pride swell in my chest so quickly that my eyes started watering. It sounds cheesy, but seeing that iconic symbol on the day of the 20th anniversary celebration made me goddamned misty-eyed, and the events that unfolded over the next two days only reinforced that sappy sentiment.At the party on the Space Needle's observation deck later that night, it was clear that my emotional reaction was being shared by a substantial and close-knit community. From early Nirvana drummer Chad Channing to actress Kristen Schaal, better known as the Flight of the Conchords' fictional superfan Mel, everyone seemed to have their perma-grin on, and even when the lines for free liquor began to snake around the perimeter of the Needle's circuitous layout, the celebratory vibe didn't dwindle.Later that same night, Green River and The Fluid played a not-so-secret show at the Sunset to an obscenely enthusiastic audience. Hitting the Space Needle party and making the mad dash to Ballard made for some tricky timing, but it was entirely worth the sprint. Reliably agile front man Mark Arm led Green River through a satisfying and gleeful set, prowling across the club's bar at one point and generally making the packed house go bananas. As dramatic as their reappearance was, it was still The Fluid's set that brought everyone to their knees, including a blissfully happy Kim Warnick, looking fit and healthy after a rough run of health problems over the past year. I was never lucky enough to see The Fluid back in the day, but it's obvious now why they have such a devout cult following, especially among fellow musicians.The party continued the next day in the form of cooking with fire, as it seemed everyone was hosting some sort of barbecue or gathering before heading out for another night of shows. Fluid guitarist James Clower showed up in my backyard, along with esteemed jazz journalist and former Chrome Cranks front man Peter Aaron and documentary filmmaker Jim Hucks, who was in the midst of chronicling The Fluid's place in history and their reemergence. Aaron was so moved by The Fluid's reconstituted triumph that he said he was considering reforming the Chrome Cranks, a consideration I truly hope he follows through on.The options were plentiful that evening, despite the fact that the big SP blowout in Marymoor Park didn't even start until the next day. I opted for the Comets on Fire show at a warehouse in Georgetown, where members of Kinski and former SP publicist Jed Maheu milled about with cans of cheap beer in hand and those telltale perma-grins still firmly in place. I caught the tail end of Partman Parthorse killing it in typical fashion, with nudity, spilled beverages, and their increasingly tight delivery of spazzy synth-punk, but when it looked as though Comets on Fire wouldn't go on until well after midnight, I bounced to the Funhouse to catch Obits. Front man Rick Froberg's new band is just as blistering and beautiful as his much-lauded and unfortunately short-lived Hot Snakes, and Sub Pop was very smart to snap them up.As a consequence of all these pre-festival opportunities to catch the acts I most wanted to see, and the standing obligation to hold down my regular early-evening shift on KEXP, I was not out at Marymoor over the weekend, but I highly recommend checking out my colleagues' studious debriefings on Reverb (www.seattleweekly.com/reverb) or the heartfelt recaps on Kerri Harrop's blog General Bonkers (cherrycanoe.wordpress.com). Thank you, Sub Pop, for an unforgettable weekend of revelry, and, most important, for giving this city back a little bit of that pride we've desperately needed.rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

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