Green River Reunion Show, July 2008

Posted: June 20, 2011 in My Seattle-Related Concert Experiences

Green River.  The quintessential proto-grunge band.  Formed in 1984, Green River were arguably the first to embrace the heavier aesthetic beginning to grip Seattle.  Its members combined styles then anathema to rock n roll…Iggy-esque punk rock, Black Sabbath-esque metal, Aerosmith-esque hard rock.  Back then, that wasn’t cool, so said the alternative music snobs.  But Green River didn’t give a fuck.

The band lasted until 1987 when it split into two pieces: the part that wanted to become rock stars (Mother Love Bone, then Pearl Jam), and the part that wanted to remain punk rockers (Mudhoney.)  In the summer of 2008, Green River’s original members reunited and headlined at Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary music festival.

I arrived that weekend in July for research purposes, scheduling my trip around the reunion show.  The day of the event featured perfect, cloudless weather.  I showed up at around 4:30 in the afternoon and took in newer Sub Pop bands like No Age (great…just a guitar player and drummer, totally dug it) and Red Red Meat.  I called my wife, who was worried I might get sucked into a mosh pit.  I assured her that wouldn’t happen, as I looked around and saw parents feeding their kids hot dogs.

Then Green River took the stage.  Ear plugs installed, I parked myself about 20 feet from the front, near enough to experience the band, but not too close should things get out of control.  Immediately, the earlier congenial atmosphere became rowdy, as people began slamming into each other in front of me.  Still, I felt removed from that, and had no desire to experience an “I’m too old for this shit” moment.  That would change.

Green River featured all six members including Steve Turner, who quit the band in 1985, and later formed Mudhoney.  The band consisted of guitar players Turner, Stone Gossard (Pearl Jam), and Bruce Fairweather (Mother Love Bone), bass player Jeff Ament (PJ), drummer Alex Shumway, and singer Mark Arm (Mudhoney).  I was fortunate to interview Gossard, Shumway, and Arm for my book.

The band opened, to the best of my recollection, with the Black Sabbath-influenced “Come on Down.”  I thought to myself, ‘If grunge exists, this must be it.’  It’s like pornography. You know it when you see it.

I took a bunch of photos, then put the camera away to enjoy the band.  Arm stole the show in some ways when he announced—likely tongue-in-cheek—that the Melvins had ripped off a Green River song some years back, and, “in Led Zeppelin-like fashion, credited it to themselves.”  For those not aware, Zeppelin became notorious for re-working old blues songs without acknowledging the composer.  “Whole Lotta Love” was arguably the most egregious, stolen word for word from Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love.”  Thus, I lost it when Arm referred to Green River as “the Willie Dixon of grunge.”

During the last song, the bemused band members looked around and noticed they no longer had a percussionist.  Ament ventured behind the drum kit, grabbed the sticks, began playing the cymbals, and asked aloud where Alex went.  Next thing I realized, Shumway, a forty-something like me, had decided to go crowd surfing.  Yes, this show was a lot of fun.

Ament then began heaving Green River shirts into the crowd.  Before I could realize it, a pack of T’s headed towards me, and I reached out to grab one.

For some reason, and perhaps a sociologist can explain this to me, crowds get irrationally greedy when stuff gets tossed their way.  That’s why people will physically accost one another to get a foul ball at a baseball game.  I think you could throw dog shit into a crowd, and people will stomp each other for it.  I was about to experience that behavior.

I’m fairly strong, but I couldn’t match the inertia of twenty or so people tugging at the same shirts I had grabbed.  The next thing I knew I was down, the shirts torn from me, my glasses knocked to the ground and smashed.  I stood up and brushed myself off.  Fortunately, a woman picked up what remained of my lenses and handed them to me.

I’m pretty much blind without glasses, and thus could not drive back to the hotel. So I had a problem.  Luckily, I found someone with some first aid tape, and I crudely reconstructed my glasses.  I may have looked like Spaz from Meatballs, but at least I could drive home.

Later, I spoke with Jack Endino, who laughed when I told him my rowdiest concert experience occurred at a Green River show.

The next day, Brother James Burdyshaw unexpectedly set up an interview for me with the U-Men’s legendary Tom Price.  Tom is a critical piece of my book, and I had spent nearly two years trying to get the interview.  I just couldn’t meet him, however, looking like the quintessential nerd.  So, I bought some crazy glue, which allowed me to remove the geek tape. I showed up, met Tom, and did the interview…which was great by the way.

Man, I love Seattle.

  1. Jan says:

    This was a great show .. we’re friends of friends of Mr. Endino & Mr. Ament and so we were just part of the happy audience .. but it was an historic moment to see Green River together on stage.

    ha, we missed the mosh pit part, mostly on purpose.

    thanks for this “story” .. brought back fun memories.

    • Stephen Tow says:

      That show also resulted in my entering the texting age. Endino said he texted me at that show, but I had a pre-text phone at the time. So, yeah. Now, of course I’m all geeked up with an iphone.

  2. Scott says:

    Tongue-in-cheek how? The tune was Leech.

    • Stephen Tow says:

      I have a credible source, which will remain anonymous, for my tongue-in-cheek comment. That being said, the jist of my post was the hilarity of Mark’s “Willie Dixon of grunge” remark.

  3. Jim Sorenson says:

    If you need one of those reunion shirts get in touch…I’ve got some stashed away, since I did ’em. Did the originals, Mk. II also.

  4. Jim Sorenson says:

    Yep. Just got back from the Feedback Lounge where I mingled with Gilbert and Thayil… Jeff’s got my number, I do his shirts, too.

  5. Jim Sorenson says:

    Stephen, Thought you might like to see what it looked like from the other side…

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