Archive for the ‘Influences’ Category

Mudhoney – Still Going Strong

December 11, 2013

Mudhoney

Once on the verge of super-stardom, Mudhoney now sticks to mostly small clubs, but every once in a while (like right now) they get back to the top and do an arena tour opening for Pearl Jam. Not too shabby for a band who started in 1988 and practically started grunge and was (and continues to be) the poster boy Sub Pop. While never making the highest of heights like their contemporaries did, they still have left an indelible mark on music, and continue to put out great music.

I had the tremendous opportunity to go see them in concert in he fall in a tiny little cracker box known as U Street Music Hall. It was amazing to see a band like Mudhoney  at a venue as small as that, especially since they were about a month away from an arena tour with Pearl Jam. I wasn’t about to complain, though. The venue was so small that it could have taken place in 1988, or 89 when the band, and Grunge Rock as a whole, was just finding it’s legs.

Some will tell you that Grunge began with Mark Arm’s previous band Green River and the other bands of that era. That’s the best starting point this blogger has come across, but it really didn’t break out of Seattle until Mudhoney’s 1988 single “Touch Me I’m Sick“. Even though the song is 25 years old, when they played it in 2013, the place went just as nuts as they would have in 1988. It was an incredible thing to witness.

They have not slowed down at all. After trying their luck at a major label with limited success, they found themselves back at their roots – Sub Pop. They have released and re-released several albums in the latter part of last decade, and show no signs of slowing. They’re newest album, “Vanishing Point” hits just as hard as their earlier albums. They have not lost their edge and are great to see live. Giving up on Mudhoney would be a huge mistake.

One last thing. It would be a huge mistake if I didn’t mention that I had the tremendous opportunity to meet their legendary drummer Dan Peters after the show in the fall. It was an amazing experience to met one of my musical heroes. He was extraordinarily nice.

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Krist Novoselic to Host Coast Community Radio from 1-3 PM PST

November 28, 2013

Via Twitter:

@KristNovoselic: Today I am hosting two hours of music on coastradio.org (1 to 3pm Pacific) (2100 to 2300 GMT) DJ K-Now http://t.co/cDSHkTjfBu

Before you start your Thanksgiving meal, or after you finish it (depending on what side of the country you live on) tune in to Coast Community Radio to hear DJ K-Now spin some great tunes.

You can listen online if you do not live in the broadcast area.

Kristin Novoselic

Experience Music Project Museum: Taking Punk To the Masses Exhibit

November 22, 2013

Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses

If you haven’t been to the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum in Seattle, you need to. A friend and I  were able to visit it the day after the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee and, at least, I was nearly overwhelmed. The two music-related exhibitions they were running were Jimi Hendrix in London, and Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. they also had literature, and Sci-Fi exhibits (our admission price included a pack of Magic: The Gathering cards), but were only interested in the music.

The museum is right next to the infamous Space Needle, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. We started our tour meandering around the Hendrix exhibit. It had some pretty cool audio and video clips, and I got to get a picture if the guitar he used at Woodstock. It was definitely cool, but that wasn’t what we were there for.

Trying to find my way around, I stumbled onto the exhibit. Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. It was everything I had hoped for and much, much more. There was so much there, I didn’t know where to begin. I ended up starting at the end – Unplugged. They had some of the guitars used, the set list, and a few tracks playing in the background.

Next for me, was the “In Utero” exhibit. They seemed to have a lot more items from this era. They had stage props, album covers, and, interestingly, the cases and trunks they used to transport what had become a pretty involved set by this point in the band’s history. After I took all that in, I moved to the next section – Nevermind. A lot of time and effort was put in to this part of the exhibit as most “experts” count 1991 as the year punk hit the masses due to the large popularity of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The displayed the guitar Kurt recorded most of “Nevermind” with, and had a huge display focusing on the items Kurt used in the now infamous “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video.

Kurt Cobain's Shirt from the Smells Like Teen Spirit Video

As much attention was given to the ground that was laid before “Nevermind” because, in reality, it’s almost more important. The experiences, the sounds, and the people help shape the band, challenged them musically, and it’s what helped shape “Nevermind” into what it became. There was an excess of really cool items from Kurt’s youth, not the least of which was the four track and suitcase “drum” he used to record “Fecal Matter” – the tape that convinced  Novoselic to form a band with him.  They also had early booking dates, carbon copies of checks, and their first contract for Sub Pop Records. The exhibit also included items from Kurt’s childhood such a painting he entered into his high school art fair.

Nirvana certainly was not the only band to come out of Seattle. The EMP Museum also included a display on the entire “Seattle Sound” scene, and gave a great overview of all the bands it produced. The EMP Museum paid homage to a moment in time that produced the greatest scene in the history of Rock and Roll (but I’m a little biased here!). Tough to say, at this point, if it will ever happen again, but you never know!

Poster from the First Performance of Smells Like Teen Spirit

 

P.S. While writing this, I was listening to the reissue of Soungarden’s Screaming Life/Fopp EP. Review to come…

Sub Pop 25th Anniversary Silver Jubilee

November 20, 2013
Surfing640

Photo by: John Pusieski

Living on the East coast, I didn’t give much initial thought going to the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee. Sure, it’s my favorite label, but the concert was in Seattle, nearly 3,000 miles away. A friend of mine shared the link with me and the seed was planted. Fortunately, my family lives in Southern Washington, but Seattle was still very far away from them. I made the mistake of looking at the lineup. I knew I HAD to be there. The same friend who planted the seed happens to live near my parents so we made plans to drive to Seattle.

I was getting excited. I was about to live out my dream of seeing all these pioneers of the grunge movement in a single day. We quickly made our list of who we needed to see. That list included: Jack Endino’s Earthworms, TAD, Mudhoney, Father John Misty, and if we had time, we wanted to check out J. Mascis and Greg Dulli.

July 13 came quickly and we were ready. We got to Georgetown Park, the location of the festival, about an hour before the first band was scheduled to get the lay of the land. After looking around for a bit, we stopped in to a local record store and saw the most amazing Nirvana/grunge vinyl collection I have ever seen. Right around the corner from that store was the infamous Sub Pop Mega-Mart. I picked up some 45 adapters and a Sub Pop Jones Cola and I was on my way.

Fortunately for us, Jack Endino’s Earthworms and TAD were playing on the same stage right after each other, so we didn’t have to move for a while. The stage was sponsored by the Elysian Brewing Company, so we helped ourselves to some Loser Pale Ale and their Nevermind Pale Ale. Now it was time for Endino’s Earthworms! While they were getting ready, I got to meet one of my heroes:

Jack Endino

Photo by John Pusieski

Here is a video of the man and the band playing. The entire show was awesome. They played a lot of original stuff, a Mudhoney cover, and, the highlight for me, a Screaming Trees cover featuring Connor brother Pat.

Tad, who was touring with his current band Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, came on next and he came on heavy with a hard-hitting set that pleased everyone. There was even a mosh pit and crowd surfing – a rarity at shows that I usually go to these days. Here’s a little taste of what he brought to the table. Our ears were ringing for sure.

After Tad, we have some time to mill around. We bought some more merchandise, caught a bit of J. Mascis and Greg Dulli. We then went to stake out a spot for Mudhoney. We did not have the best view, but it did not lessen our experience at all. We were still able to rock out like we were half our age.

After Mudhoney, we were ready to head back to our hotel. We had been there, standing, for eight hours, had three full concerts, bits and pieces of several others, and  walked about five miles just back and forth around the event. to put it mildly, we were exhausted. We were able to see a tiny bit of Father John Misty on our way out, so it wasn’t all bad.

Thanks to Sub Pop for making a bunch of losers feel like a king for a day. If the next 25 years are even half as good as the first 25 years, we’re in for some awesome music.

For more photos by John, visit his website at http://personal-spectrum.com/

Album Review: Nirvana In Utero 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition

November 19, 2013

NirvanaIU

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, The Grunge Rock Guru has returned! I have many, many new albums and music experiences, so I will have plenty to write about for a long time. So, without further ado,  let’s get started.

20 years ago (where does the time go??) Nirvana released their follow-up to the seminal “Nevermind” and it was titled “In Utero“. The album was released with a lot of fanfare as it was the first truly new music from Nirvana since the unexpected success of “Nevermind” and fans were clamoring for more. They tried to hold people over with a mix of B-Sides and other unreleased tracks in a pseudo-compilation album called “Incesticide”, but it didn’t work out like they hoped. Were early hit singles like “Heart-Shaped Box”, “Dumb”, and “Rape Me,” the album was poised for success, and it was – both commercially and critically. That was 1993.

Now, in 2013, DGC released the 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition.  There were a few deluxe editions (the two CD version and the three LP version), but I went all out and got the three CD/DVD super deluxe versions, so I will focus on that one. The $150 price tag was a little steep, but I was really impressed with what they did with the super deluxe version of “Nevermind”, so there was little hesitation to pull the trigger. I was not disappointed.

It came with three CDs that had over 70 unreleased tracks, a DVD of the 1993 “MTV Live and Loud” concert (that I do not think has aired since the days right after Kurt died), a two-sided poster, and a 50+ page book. That was the first thing that I gravitated towards. The book started off with a four page fax (ask your parents) from “In Utero” producer Steve Albini. It really lays out his vision for the album and gives the reader insight to why the album sounds the way it does.  In today’s sea of over-produced records that hardly sound anything like what was actually recorded, this Albini quote from 1992 is still a breath of fresh air:

If a record takes more than a week to make, someone’s [expletive deleted] up.

The CDs it came with were great. CD 1 was simply the original album remastered (this was not counted towards the number of unreleased tracks) with 7 extra tracks, including some original Albini mixes for some popular songs. The remastering didn’t add much to the album, and it’s skippable if you are familiar with the original (and who wouldn’t be that has this set?). The Bonus tracks, however, are awesome. The Albini mixes of “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies” are as raw as can be. It matched Albini’s philosophy and his recording technique. CD 2 was interesting because it was a brand new mix of the original album. The mix was OK, but it took out things I have been used to hearing for 20 years.  They took out things like Kurt clearing his throat before “Pennyroyal Tea” and the cello out of “Dumb.” I can live without the throat clearing, but I was dumfounded as to why they took out the cello. It’s such an integral part of the song. The demos that were on this disc were also pretty cool because they included instrumental versions of songs like “Dumb” and “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle.”

The third CD was the soundboard audio from the “Live and Loud” concert. I was thrilled it was included because it is one of my favorite concerts of all time and it finally got a proper release. the CD had he entire televised concert as well as songs that were not included on the original telecast. The DVD of the “Live and Loud” concert was just awesome. It included all the songs that were on the CD, but added two versions of the famous “Heart-Shaped Box” video, and live performances from Italy, France, and a few songs what ended up being their last ever performance in Germany.

The celebration of “In Utero” is bittersweet in a way. On one hand, we get to celebrate a band who broke through the mainstream on their terms and changed the face music and pop culture. On the other hand, it is really the last flash of brilliance we got from a very talented song writer as well as a true end of an era, however short it was.

Beat Happening

August 24, 2008

Simply put, this band is just about the coolest band ever. No other way to describe them. They did whatever they wanted, however they wanted, and they did not care how many fans they had. They recorded their songs on Calvin’s crude recording devices. They used no multi-tracks (with the exception of 1992’s “Godsend” which featured guitar overdubs). They had no bass guitar. Their drummer had no musical experience prior to joining the band. Guitarist/Vocalist Heather Lewis once commented that you could tell the story of Beat Happening through the drum sets they borrowed. Even with all that going against them they still managed to make incredible music as well as influence the Seattle sound that briefly took over the world.

Calvin Johnson and Heather Lewis both went to Evergreen State College. They had both previously been in a band together, but that band faltered and they needed a drummer to make a trip to Japan. They called on their friend and classmate Bret Lunsford. He had no musical experience but that didn’t matter. Beat Happening was formed. They recorded an EP in Japan, and it got critical acclaim, so they made more albums.

Calvin started K Records to make his and hid friends’ music available to the world. He did not know the amount of influence his tiny little record company would end up having. The do it yourself style really appealed to bands that were starting to pop-up in Northern Washington who were tired of the over-dubbed, bland music that was being force fed to the population through endless rotation on radio stations and the emerging MTV. Beat Happening was the thing they were looking for. (That and Steve Albini’s band RAPEMAN). The minimalist approach was a direct contrast of everything that was popular in the mid-late 80s.

Their first album was self titled and came out in 1985. This caught the attention of a band from Ellensburg, Washington (where the cows live) known as the Screaming Trees. In a 1986 interview, Van Conner (or Gary Lee Conner) mentioned to the interviewer that Beat Happening was making some great music in Olympia. Their second album, “Jamboree” (produced by Screaming Trees members Mark Lanegan and Van Conner) really got the attention of the rest of the Seattle sound. This is the time when Kurt Cobain got into them, right when Nirvana was starting out. After that, they decided to make a split EP with the Screaming Trees. It has not title beyond “Beat Happening/Screaming Trees Split EP” “Black Candy” came out in 1989 and I consider that one to be the best. Also, in 1988, they began a relationship with Sub Pop records. They still released records through K, but they had a cut on the legendary “Sub Pop 200” album and 1991’s “The Grunge Years” compilation. “Black Candy”, “Jamboree”, and 1991s “Dreamy” were all re-released through Sub Pop.

1992 was a change for Beat Happening. “You Turn Me On” was released by K and Sub Pop at the same time and they also featured multi-track recording in their songs. Something they had never done before. I wasn’t around Washington, or their core fan base at the time, so I can’t say what the reaction was, but it was modest enough for me to not let it be a deal breaker for their sound. The lead single “Pine Box Rock” still was the same formula they had been using and it was a great song. After “You Turn Me On” there was a hiatus for Beat Happening. Calvin claimed that they were still practicing everyday, but nothing ever came out. There was nothing until 2002 with the “Crashing Through” Box Set. In 2003, they released “Music to Climb the Apple Tree By” which featured songs they had previously recorded including the entire EP they recorded with the Screaming Trees.

Hard to tell if there will be another band like Beat Happening. I hope there is not. A band like them deserves their own place in history without watered down imitations. Their minimalist approach influenced some of the most popular bands of all time. To overlook them would not only be a disservice to music, but a disservice to yourself.

Todd


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