The Fastbacks, West Seattle, July 8, 2011

Posted: July 11, 2011 in My Seattle-Related Concert Experiences

For nearly nine years, the Fastbacks kept us waiting, wondering.  Would this great, seminal Seattle band ever play live again?  For those of us who have heard them only on record, who have only seen them perform in the movie hype!, we figured we might never enjoy that privilege.

I am an author, well, at least an author wannabe.  As part of my upcoming book, The Strangest Tribe, I wrote a tribute piece to the Fastbacks and was fortunate to interview four members: guitarist and songwriter Kurt Bloch, bassist Kim Warnick, and drummers Mike Musburger and Nate Johnson.  All provided gracious illumination of the band’s career that spanned twenty-three years.  Unfortunately, that would have to be it.  I would never get a first-hand view of this amazing band.  That was until Friday, June 8, 2011, at the West Seattle Summer Fest.

I arrived at 5:30.  Other than the Fastbacks, I wanted to check out Kurt’s current band: Thee Sgt. Major III, which also includes Mike Musburger as well as bassist Jim Sangster of the Young Fresh Fellows.  Major was great, of course, and whetted my appetite for the Fastbacks, who were set to take the stage at 8 pm.

Over in the Beergarden, I said hello to Jeff Gilbert, a metal writer and owner of West Seattle’s Feedback Lounge.  Last year, I did a phone interview with Gilbert, who gave me a unique insight into Seattle’s metal scene.  He offered up a different perspective than I’d heard previously–viewing the city from West Seattle out, and not only that, from the metal perspective out.  Metal has ruled the Seattle region for decades, dwarfing the much publicized grunge scene of the late ’80s.  In particular, he provided a viewpoint of Soundgarden from that perspective, which was invaluable for my book.

In addition to Gilbert, I also bumped into the Fags’ Barbara Ireland, the Screaming Trees’/Truly’s Mark Pickerel, writers Dawn Anderson and Gillian Gaar, Cat Butt’s James Burdyshaw, and Major’s Kurt Bloch.

As 8 o’clock approached, I made my way forward, carefully inserting my earplugs for a tight fit.  The Fastbacks took the stage, and the crowd—which seemed to mushroom in an instant—erupted.  The four-piece was on that night: Kurt, Kim, Mike, and guitarist Lulu Gargiulo.  Kim and Lulu appeared nothing but joyful as they shared the bulk of the vocal duties.  Mike played wonderfully, while driving the frenetic pace of the songs.

Meanwhile, I’d heard about Kurt jumping around the stage, but that was maybe twenty years ago.  He recently crossed the fifty yard line, so I was curious to see how he would perform now.  Kurt was even more manic than Mike’s drumming: bouncing, kicking, jumping, running across the stage, smiling all the while.  I furiously shot pic after pic of him, but most of them turned out as a blur.  Awesome…an overused word these days…but here it fits.

All the songs were wonderful, and the mostly middle aged crowd bounced around, attempting, but failing, to match Kurt’s joyful energy.  My favorites were of course the “old stuff”—sorry to be cliché here, but yeah…  I especially enjoyed “Set Me Free” and “K Street” off the band’s first record, …And His Orchestra.

After the show, I ambled backstage and said a quick hello to Mike and Kim.  Mike was physically exhausted from his extra work, while Kim dripped with the excitement and sweat that can only be had after an amazing performance.

I messaged Kim on Facebook a couple of days later, summing up my feelings about her band in a couple of sentences.  She responded by saying it was probably one of the Fastbacks’ best performances ever, ironically occurring nearly a decade after the band had called it a day.

Update: I wanted to mention the Cops, the band that had the fortitude to follow the Fastbacks.  The Cops played a song called “Don’t Take It Personal Dave,” that featured a giant riff reminiscent of the Kinks and the Sonics.  I’m still, two weeks later, playing air guitar to that riff (and yes, us music historians are sad, pathetic frustrated rock stars.)

  1. Jan Holst says:

    Thanks a lot for the great review! Did they say anything about new recordings or anything?

  2. Stephen Tow says:

    Thank you. I believe this is just a one-time reunion, but who knows? Kim had such a great time, that she might want to re-start things.

    • Sanjay Shah says:

      Stephen – I am a UK based Fastbacks fan and have always regretted never seeing them live. I’ve only just today (17th June 2012) found out that they reformed for the one off gig last year and had I known I would flown out just for it. Do you have any word on whether there may ever be another gig or who I could contact to find out, as this year’s event doesn’t have them on the line up.

      Hope you can help!


      • Stephen Tow says:

        Hello Sanjay:

        Looks that may be a one time thing. They were supposed to play Seattle City Arts Fest last fall (when I was in town) and then canceled…for reasons unknown to me. I have no inkling as to whether/when the Fastbacks might play again. I would say your best bet is to message Kim Warnick on Facebook and ask her.



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