9/25 Seattle Class With the Thrown Ups’ L. Beezer

Posted: September 27, 2012 in The Strangest Tribe: the College Course

We had a lot to cover on Tuesday. The theme revolved around Seattle creating a musical identity. This process occurred around 1984/85, just as the music scene seemed to bottom out.  At that point, many musicians left town in search of greener pastures.  Seattle had become a dead end.  But those who stayed decided to make music for fun, breaking rules long set by London and New York.

I had the class read chapter 3 (“We Must Be Musicians”) from my book, which deals with the U-Men and the beginnings of what would become known as grunge.  Students seemed to get the Seattle attitude, especially with incidents such as the Thrown Ups oyster show (more on that later) and the U-Men setting a moat on fire at the 1985 Bumbershoot music festival.

Following that discussion, Sarvee presented on the LA “girl bands” of the ’70s, which I found quite informative. Most of us know about the Runaways, but not many had ever heard of Fanny…a band which influenced a generation of female rockers.

Finally, we readied ourselves for the main event: a conversation, via Skype, with the Thrown Ups’ Leighton Beezer. Leighton and his band essentially symbolized the aesthetic that was grunge.  Don’t practice, don’t have songs and–most importantly–don’t give a fuck about anything.

Leighton talked about the notorious oyster show where his band opened for Husker Du at  the upscale* Gorilla Gardens in 1985.  He mentioned how belligerent punk audiences could be back then…he had first-hand knowledge of such behavior as a fan and he was about to experience it from the other side.  So, the band brought raw oysters to heave at the crowd if necessary.  But the fans liked the Thrown Ups!  So, what did Leighton and Co. do?  They tossed the oysters anyway.  Of course.

Leighton has long had an improvisational vision for his bands.  I had never asked him about where that came from, so I used this opportunity to find out.  He stated he was in a band many years ago that had secured a gig at a party.  Going in, he knew the material did not fit the audience, and people would lose interest…which they did.  Following that experience, he vowed never to let that happen again–never again would people leave gigs out of boredom.  They might depart out of disgust, but not from lack of interest.

All in all, we had fun chatting with him, and I appreciated a Leighton statement, said in a typical Seattle tongue-in-cheek manner: “You should all try to be Steve,” basically implying that I’m able to get paid teaching a course about musicians throwing oysters and setting bodies of water on fire.  I agree.  It’s a pretty good gig.

* – “upscale”…that’s being sarcastical.

(Leighton Beezer chats with my students from Seattle via Skype.)

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