This generation possessed a confidence that perhaps previous ones lacked. It wasn’t a straight confidence, however. Rather, this generation’s hubris was born of the previous’ frustrations. Many of these kids grew up watching some of the more popular local bands leave town, only to disintegrate. They knew the major record labels weren’t coming up from Los Angeles to check them out. They saw a once vibrant all-ages scene die out, and they cut their musical teeth playing shows at house parties. This generation felt it had little technical prowess and no national exposure, so why not make music for its own sake? In effect, this confidence emanated from a kind of inferiority complex-driven naïveté, resulting in a pervasive “we have nothing to lose” attitude. “The general feeling was that we were all too cruddy—that if anyone was really interested in our bands, they would come sign us up,” remembers Rusty Willoughby of Pure Joy (discussed later in this chapter), “And everyone was pretty naïve. So our feeling was that, ‘Ah, you know, we kinda suck, and we’re not good enough to make records,’ but it was a blast playing music.”
These folks also represented Generation X, post-Baby Boomers who did not necessarily see the United States as the “land of opportunity.” They came of age during Reagan’s America, when the term “yuppie” described energetic and enterprising young college-educated professionals basking in the glow of the new materialism.
These Gen Xers consciously rejected Reagan and consumerism, at a time when local software behemoth Microsoft was just beginning to expand, laying the basis for the coming ’90s dot-com boom. Many of them were college-educated, but instead of taking the professional job and venturing toward an upwardly mobile career path, they started bands without any prospect of commercial success. Since they had little money, they moved into group houses on Capitol Hill and in the U-District. “And a lot of us, I think, that were in the music scene [thought] ‘Hey, you only get to go through this life once,’” says Laura Weller-Vanderpool, later in the harmonic ballad-oriented Capping Day. “‘Let’s not focus so much on the career thing. Let’s just get in a van and go on the road and play music and see what happens.’ If we’re all living in a crappy little house in the University District or whatever, and just barely getting by, it didn’t really matter. Because, it was more important that we were doing something that mattered. And I think we were all really afraid of just steppin’ on that escalator to kind of a boring, secure future.”