Stephen Tow

Pennsylvania history professor Stephen Tow is a fanboy—not of anime, not of comic books, but of us. As in Seattle, particularly our city's much-mythologized musical culture. Tow's such a Northwest rock enthusiast that he went beyond collecting Sub Pop singles or making a pilgrimage to Aberdeen. Last year he wrote The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge (Sasquatch, $18.95), in which he states, "Not since Liverpool and Memphis has one city so dramatically altered the course of music history." The Strangest Tribe studies the prelude to the '90s grunge explosion, burrowing into the years before Nirvana's and Pearl Jam's stardom, examining their lesser-known forerunners—punk and metal bands like The U-Men and Skin Yard, that surfaced out of Roosevelt and Evergreen. (Prominent figures include Stone Gossard and SW columnist Duff McKagan.) Tow also charts the rise and demise of forgotten clubs like the Bird and the Roscoe Louie Gallery. Then there's his "hooks and looks" theory: Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains hit it big, he argues, because of their handsome singers. This left Mudhoney by the wayside, because "Mark Arm wasn't melodic enough, and, quite frankly, he wasn't cute enough." But I hope no one would say the same of Scott McCaughey, of the Young Fresh Fellows, who'll appear with Tow today and play a mini-set. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Sat., April 28, 5 p.m., 2012

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