Archive for February, 2012

This fall, Delaware Valley College will feature a one credit honors course based on my book.  As part of that, my students and I will have the opportunity to interact with some Seattle music people via Skype.  The following folks have agreed to talk to us:

Gary Minkler

Gary has been and remains the lead singer and the inspiration for Red Dress, perhaps Seattle’s most original band.  How to describe Red Dress…  Combine the atoms of James Brown, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and Robbie Robertson in a supercollider.  Then, pour the mixture into a cake pan.  Bake, add Gary’s fantasy storylines as frosting and, voila, you have Red Dress.

Laura Vanderpool

Laura makes up one-half of a duo fronting Capping Day.  Along with Bonnie Hammond, Capping Day existed within Seattle’s late-’80s grunge scene while not playing grunge themselves.  Instead, C-D offered a wonderful acoustic harmonic alternative…and exemplified the atmosphere of musical experimenation that pervaded Seattle during that era.  She also hosted a show called “Audioasis” on KCMU, the University of Washington’s radio station.  Laura now also plays in the Green Pajamas.

Bruce Pavitt

Bruce, along with Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and Steve Turner, became one of the tastemakers within the Seattle grunge scene.  Bruce started Sub Pop Records, the label that gave us Mudhoney, Nirvana, and Soundgarden (and more recently the Shins, No Age, and Flight of the Conchords under current Sub Pop exec Jonathan Poneman.)  Bruce also had an instrumental role in the Olympia music community, championing independent rock music that came from places not named New York and London.

Rob Morgan

Rob dates back to the inception of Seattle’s punk rock community in the mid-’70s.  He, along with a few others, created a music scene out of thin air.  Later he became the front man for the Squirrels, a band that mashed up songs in a creative, irreverent, and thoroughly entertaining way.  Legendary grunge producer Jack Endino has referred to the Squirrels as Seattle’s best band.  Rob may also be the funniest human being on the planet.

John Leighton Beezer

During the grunge era, Leighton created an improvisational punk rock act called the Thrown Ups.  His band exemplified the spirit that was Seattle’s organic grunge scene: a spirit of openness, creativity, improvisation, and–most importantly–irreverent humor.  Like Rob, Leighton may be the funniest individual on Earth.

I will have a table (well, half a table, apparently) at the Princeton Public Library Author Day Event on Saturday, March 24, from 1 to 4 pm…and will be signing copies of The Strangest Tribe.  The Library will also randomly select a few of us to do readings, so keep your fingers crossed.

March 2, 7 pm in Manayunk, PA.

Final Seattle Music Poll Results

Posted: February 23, 2012 in Quizzes/Polls

Favorite Famous Grunge-Era Band


Favorite Non-Famous Band

The Squirrels

Best Producer

Jack Endino

Best Vocalist

Gary Minkler, Red Dress

Best Bass Player

Kurt Danielson, TAD

Best Guitar Player

Kevin Whitworth, Love Battery

Best Drummer

Dan Peters, Mudhoney

Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore stopped by Siren Records in Doylestown, PA recently, and was perusing my book…and, according to Siren’s owner Blair, he appreciated its coverage of lesser-known Seattle bands.  So yeah, I’m happy.

Screaming Trees

From Ellensburg, across the Cascades from Seattle.  The Trees developed their Mod/Psychedelic sound independent of the Seattle grungemeisters.

The Posies

Originally consisting of Bellinghamers Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, the Posies moved to Seattle in 1988 and immediately made a name for themselves.

The Sonics

From Tacoma, arguably the original garage band and an influence to many in the Northwest and worldwide.


From Aberdeen.  You know the story.

(Half of) The Young Fresh Fellows

Scott McCaughey and Chuck Carroll moved up from the Bay Area with the Fellows concept already created.  The Fellows became a band in 1983, eventually adding Seattleites Jim Sangster and Tad Hutchison. (That’s Hutchison, not Hutchinson.)

Girl Trouble

From Tacoma, Girl Trouble built upon the tradition laid by the Sonics.

The Melvins

Never really a Seattle band, the Melvins hailed from Montesano, then moved to the Bay Area in 1987.

The Mono Men

From Bellingham, continuing in the Northwest garage tradition.

(Three Fourths of) Mudhoney

Steve Turner came from Mercer Island, Mark Arm from Kirkland, and Matt Lukin from Montesano.

Who Else?

Doylestown, PA’s Siren Records graciously invited me back for a second book reading and signing.  This time, I would have the opportunity to play musical and interview clips over the store PA.

My wife and daughter sat down as I set up my array of laminated Seattle photos and show posters.  I played a few musical selections to get the audience warmed up: “Polly” and “In Bloom” by Nirvana, “Half Past You” by Love Battery, and (at my daughter’s request) “Don’t Take It Personal Dave,” by the Cops.

A group of about 10 patrons stopped over to listen as I began the presentation.  I talked about that wonderful Seattle sense of humor, and introduced the audience to Mr. Epp and the Calculations…the fake band that became real.  Then I played them the following clip where Mr. Epp’s Mark Arm (now with Mudhoney) talks about the band’s latter days where a band mate began complaining that Epp had become “too rock.”  Back in the ’80s, punk bands could be shunned for sounding too much like a mainstream rock band.  As  I played the clip, I scanned the store, waiting to see how people would react to Mark’s imitation of a guitar plugged into way too much distortion and amplification (occurs at the end of the clip.)

I saw a few patrons physically jump.

I then read the notorious U-Men 1985 Bumbershoot (annual Seattle outdoor music festival) story, where the band set fire to a moat in front of the stage.  The band members didn’t realize that the moat actually ran underneath the stage, and that flames would follow.  But the U-Men kept performing, oblivious to the danger of the players themselves going up in flames.  A clip of U-Men guitarist Tom Price’s assessment of the situation followed…”We just kept playin’,” he said with typical Seattle nonchalance.

I talked about the incredible diversity of the Seattle music scene, which existed even during grunge’s heyday–offering up the Young Fresh Fellows’ “Amy Grant,” and Jack Endino’s experimental “Sideways Savannah” as evidence.

At the conclusion, my daughter asked some great questions about the book (not planted, I swear), as did some other folks not related to me.  After signing a few books, I hung out for about an hour, and Siren owner Blair allowed me to maintain control over the store’s PA.  And so I played a few Nirvana selections (“Love Buzz,” “Spank Thru,” “School,”); the U-Men (“Shoot ’em Down”); Mudhoney (“Into the Drink,” “Fuzzgun ’91,”); Screaming Trees (“Ash Gray Sunday,” “Last Words”)…quietly finishing with the Shins (“Caring is Creepy.”)

I’d again like to thank Siren’s Blair and Chloe for hosting the event, and for supporting local writing.