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WHO’S AFRAID OF THE FREMONT FAIR? (NOT MANY.)
Jun 25th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

After last Saturday’s Fremont Solstice Parade, I met up with an acquaintance who asked if this spectacle wasn’t the greatest possible statement against corporate America or something like that.

I told her no, not really.

Hedonism, in and of itself, is not a terribly effective counterforce to consumer capitalism.

“The market” can easily ingest any image or genre of recreational “rebellion,” transform it into something completely commercial, then sell it back to you for big money. (For recent examples, witness the playgrounds of the cyber-rich known as Burning Man and Coachella.)

Above, we see a “political” parade entry. Big business is stereotyped as an octopus in a suit, with big, money-stuffed, claw-shaped hands at the end of each tentacle. Assisting him is an old rabbit-eared TV set, that eternal lefty symbol of all that is supposed to be inherently evil in the media.

This is not to say there wasn’t plenty to contemplate about at the parade and fair.

Or that fun and pleasure are not good things to promote.

The Fremont Parade is like one of author Peter Lamborn Wilson’s old fantasized “temporary autonomous zones.” It’s a place where, for one afternoon a year, the rules of social repression (and clothes-wearing) are suspended; where free expression (albeit within its own set of rules) is championed. A place where a different way of life can, for a while, be imagined.

Actually creating a better world for real takes a different set of disciplines.

COMET CLEANSERS
Apr 11th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

The Comet Tavern reopened to the public on March 31, a little less than six months after it had abruptly closed. Former regulars (from many era of the bar’s history) and curiosity seekers crowded the joint.

The place they entered had been considerably cleaned up. Years (nay, decades) of grafitti, soot, and cigarette-smoke stains had been scrubbed away. Several grody closets had been removed, opening up more of the main barroom. New wooden booths had replaced some wobbly bar tables. The ceiling only had a few old dollar bills taped to it, instead of being covered with them. The bathrooms, and everything within them, were both clean and functional.

Indeed, it still looked mostly as it had looked before. That is to say, it looked mostly as it had since it first opened in the 1930s, as one of Seattle’s first wave of post-Prohibition beer halls.

But the Comet’s “scene,” and its function in the Pike/Pine neighborhood, has changed many times.

A hangout for hippies and bikers in the ’60s, it attracted more of an “art world” crowd by the ’80s. In the early ’90s it was the principal watering hole for “grunge” musicians and their friends.

By the late 2000s it had become a full time live-music venue. It was also a clubhouse for Hate City, a neighborhood skateboard gang; some of its members worked as bouncers and bartenders.

Then on Oct. 2, the Comet suddenly closed.

Reportedly, its then-owner hadn’t paid the rent or the water bill for several months. Even before that, several apparent years’ worth of “deferred maintenance” meant much of its interior looked on the verge of physical collapse.

Many, on and off the Hill, wondered whether the Comet had poured its final pint.

Several would-be buyers announced themselves over the subsequent days and weeks.

The building owners, though, soon chose to deal with people they already knew. David Meinert and Jason Lajeunesse had already opened the Lost Lake retro diner/lounge in the same building.

Besides Meinert and Laneunesse already being known to the landlords, access to Lost Lake’s kitchen meant the Comet could add food, and therefore offer hard liquor, without the Comet needing a new kitchen of its own.

(Just across Pike from the Comet, Meinert and Lajeunesse also co-own Big Mario’s Pizza, and Lajeunesse co-owns the Neumos/Moe Bar/Barboza nightclub complex. Meinert also owns the 5 Point restaurant/bar in Belltown; Lajeunesse also runs the annual Capitol Hill Block Party.)

One of the new owners’ first decisions was to cut the live music from seven nights a week to one midweek night and two weekend matinees. That meant the new Comet would complement, not compete with, Neumos’ shows. It would again be (as it mostly was before 2005) a place to drink and talk, not to see bands.

Another decision was not to rehire the occasionally violent bouncers from the Hate City crew. (I knew a petite woman who’d been worked over badly by them one night there, and was glad to see them gone.)

But the decision to clean up the place was both the most obvious and (probably) the most controversial to the Comet’s former regulars.

A good amount of fixing up had to be done just to get the room back up to various building and occupancy codes.

But by so thoroughly sanitizing one of the city’s last un-reconstructed true dive bars, Meinert and Lajeunesse risked alienating the very regulars they claimed to be trying to please.

Business was brisk on night one. The real question is whether bargoers (old and new) will come back, whether they’ll still find the Comet inviting and comfortable, despite its lack of grime.

While the Comet’s future is more or less assured, other Capitol Hill institutions have been falling to redevelopment projects.

The latest, but undoubtedly not the last: Piecora’s Pizza.

After more than three decades on the Hill, its employees were suddenly given two-week notices on April 1. It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, either. The building’s coming down for yet another new mixed-use midrise.

At least the Piecora family owned the building, and presumably got enough for it to retire.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

FROM CITY LITE TO CITY OF LIT
Mar 24th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

As Sears’ Seattle store dies (see this blog’s previous entry), another company here in town has led a revival of shopping from home, with a “catalog” running to millions of auto-customized web pages.

But Amazon’s original business, and its most controversial presence, remains in books.

As George Packer recently noted in the New Yorker, Amazon has disrupted, and often infuriated, the champions of traditional publishing, also known as “Book Culture.”

Some of these folks gathered in Seattle in late February/early March for the annual convention of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).

AWP’s main public event was a giant book fair on the convention’s final day, featuring hundreds of publishers big and small, for- and non-profit. It’s the one time a year, in a different city each year, when poetry is a business!

And Amazon was there, as a convention co-sponsor and as a vendor, with a book fair table advertising its self-publishing services.

One of the small literary publishers at the fair had a raffle for one of Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader devices. They promoted the raffle with a punching-bag toy, festooned with a photo of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ face.

More recently, Mayor Murray sent a formal proposal to UNESCO’s “Creative Cities” program, to become an officially, internationally recognized “City of Literature.”

The city’s formal application included a long original essay by Blueprints of the Afterlife novelist Ryan Boudinot.

The essay lists programs (to be supported partly by local public and private funding) Seattle would implement should it get the UNESCO nod. One of these programs would involve the city buying Hugo House’s building on Capitol Hill as a permanent “literary arts center” (that would also continue to house Hugo House’s programs).

Boudinot’s essay also gushes, in adoring detail, about Seattle and the Northwest’s cultural heritage(s) and its contributions in literature and publishing (especially Fantagraphics’ graphic novels) as well as in music and the visual arts.

And nowhere in the essay’s 7,000-plus words are the words “Amazon” or “Bezos” ever mentioned.

THE POWER OF 12
Feb 6th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

The most recently estimated population of Seattle is 637,000 and change.

Another 200,000 workers commute into town on a typical weekday. (I don’t know how many city residents commute to suburban jobs.)

Police estimated 700,000 people lined Fourth Avenue and Pioneer Square on Wednesday.

A lot of them were kids. Some really young kids. Some older kids, skipping school for a major life experience.

(The victory parade had to be on a weekday because the players were about to disperse to off-season homes.)

The day was sunny and mightily cold. People, lots of ‘em, found themselves trapped in the middle of the crowd as the hastily-conceived parade started more than half an hour after its scheduled start time.

Then the buses, humvees, and “Ducks” bearing the players and coaches finally appeared. Whoops and hollers and cheers rose up all around. I took these last two shots from an upper floor of an office building two blocks away and could still hear it.

THE DAY AFTER THE DAY AFTER
Feb 4th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

The Seahawks’ previous playoff game, against the team’s current division rivals San Francisco, carried such a sense of challenge, struggle, and last-minute triumph, that I feared the big game for the total league championship might seem anticlimactic.

My fears proved unfounded.

Two great local pregame storylines immediately developed:

  1. Yes, it would be only the Seahawks’ second appearance at the biggest U.S. sports event of the year. The team from America’s “far corner,” from a city still often treated as a backwater fishing village, a team that not long ago almost moved to L.A., now playing for our collective honor and respect.
  2. More specifically, our gaggle of relative no-names would take on a genuine media-anointed Celebrity Quarterback, beloved by advertisers, broadcast sports pundits, and Las Vegas gamblers. Despite the Seahawks’ power and their balanced offense, we were underdogs in Vegas and everywhere outside the team’s official TV/radio region.

Sports bars (and other bars that could be used for watching sports) were full. Other spots around town were empty or closed.

I’d mentioned previously that everyone I read or talked to here in town was absolutely certain the Seahawks would win. But many of them predicted the Seahawks would win by just a few points. Almost nobody expected a blowout.

A blowout was what they, and the rest of us, got.

It started with a Broncos safety (the rarest scoring play in the sport) on the very first play from scrimmage.

It just went on from there, with a Seahawks field goal on the very next drive. Before the game was done, there were Seahawk touchdowns from kickoff returns, interceptions, and pass receivers scrambling past tacklers. The Broncos’ offensive drives (with one exception) ended with fumbles, interceptions, punts, or fourth-down stops.

The result was “boring” to some national commentators.

But it was ecstatic to all of us.

Some national bloggers apparently thought it amusing that we mostly celebrated sanely. (Unlike, say, the 2011 riots when the Vancouver Canucks lost the NHL finals.)

But that’s how we roll.

We get angry over injustice.

We get joyous over spectacular successes.

(Although I suspect many of Sunday night’s 12th Men and Women might now be looking into the 12 Steps.)

A few civic-culture thoughts:

No, the Seahawks’ victory was not solely due to its aggressive defense. A defense-only team would be like those dot-com bosses who boast of how “disruptive” they are, but whose works contribute nothing back to the world.

The Seahawks’ offense is every bit as important as its “D.” It’s a balanced offense, that relies as much on solid rushing plays as on spectacular passes.

And the Seahawks, and their players, contribute a lot.

In charity drives, publicized and other.

In economic activity, bringing fans from around the region and beyond into Seattle.

In just being decent people off the field, something you don’t see often enough in bigtime sports.

And in uniting a whole region in a cause.

A meaningless cause, yes; an entertainment.

But a cause of power and (yes) beauty, of guts and glory, of being seen and recognized and respected.

Some thoughts by others:

  • Jeopardy! legend Ken Jennings wrote before the game that “the heartbreak of Seattle sports fandom made me who I am today;” but he added that “we’re not supposed to hope, but maybe this is the team that ends the heartache.”
  • Lindy West takes a break from bashing media misogyny to concur with Jennings, noting that “the Seattle I grew up in is not the type of city that wins Super Bowls.” West hopes Seattle having suddenly become “a city of winners” doesn’t lead to “the end for us.”
  • Seattle Storm legend Lauren Jackson would like you all to remember that her team has won two league titles. The UW football team and the pre-MLS incarnations of the Sounders have also been tops in their respective fields of play. It’s not just the Sonics 35 years ago and the Seahawks today.
  • Blogger Kacee Bree notes the positive effect this has all had on the city’s zeitgeist:

You can feel the electricity and expectation everywhere you go. The atmosphere is different lately at the mall, the grocery store and even in the classic Seattle traffic. The 12th Man flag flies everywhere from skyscrapers to SUVs. Even our fountains burst with bright blue.…

Why are we so passionate about our SEAHAWKS? Because despite the impression that the national media is portraying, we know our Hawks are true INSPIRATIONS on and off the field. We have a team that acts, plays and respects like a true team, and they are lead by a man who recognizes that our city is a part of that team. The 12th Man is more than a saying here in Seattle; it is the role we play in the success of this outstanding football team.

THE NIGHT BEFORE
Feb 1st, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

And the ol’ 12th Man Fever, the regionwide joyous insanity over the Seahawks’ magic season, has continued for two weeks following the NFC Championship victory. It continues at least until early Sunday evening, when Sooper Bowl Ex El Vee Eye Eye Eye finally produces a winner.

Many non-sports-bar businesses around the city and region have already announced they’re going to be closed Sunday during the game, or all day. The Boat Show has even closed early. The Seahawks’ second-ever try at the league title has become an impromptu local holiday.

One big difference from 2006: As KING’s Linda Brill notes, there’s a “different vibe.”

Everyone here, and I mean everyone, is absolutely certain of a Seahawks victory.

So what, locals say, if the other team has a media-anointed Celebrity Quarterback? We’ve got the defense, the discipline, the guts, the heart, and the loudest fans anywhere.

And did I mention the attitude? A lifetime of traditional Seattle self-deprecation has blown away. At least for now.

Sleep well tonight, Seattle. If you can.

I WANT TO BE A PART OF IT, EAST RUTH-ER-FORD…
Jan 20th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

(The title of this post continues with the Sinatra-esque title treatment of the previous post.)

The Seahawks are off to the Super Bowl for the second time in team history. Just like the last time, you can expect all the national media to be against us. It’s going to be all “THE GREAT LEGENDARY PEYTON MANNING and some other team.”

Or that’s how it was going to be, until certain online commentators found a hate object.

Yeah, Richard Sherman is loud.

Yeah, he talked like a trash-talking wrestler during his impromptu sideline interview just after the game.

No, he was not, and is not, a “goon” or a “thug.” (He’s really a thoughtful young man who gives generously to charity.)

And no, his remarks do not justify idiotic racist bigotry.

The game’s striking ending, in which Sherman’s tip-away of a touchdown pass preserved the Seahawks’ lead with less than half a minute to go, was the climax of a huge day that capped a huge season.

It had been a day of high hopes and high fears.

The 2013-14 Seahawks had united this region in ways I didn’t think possible. Even some sports-hating hippies got into the fever.

The pregame festivities outside the stadium were a glorious cacophony of enthusiasm, pride, joy, and (yes) love.

And, yeah, maybe a little bit of bragging. Like when a lot of us noticed that one of the two Pioneer Square bars taken over by 49er fans was the New Orleans—namesake of the Seahawks’ previous playoff conquest.

(The “pegging” in the above photo was only with small water balloons, and was a school fundraiser, though they never said for which school.)

A nice lady gave me this cupcake decorated with Skittles (a product of Mars, originally founded in Tacoma), and a plastic kid-size Seahawks helmet ring.


Eventually, though, it came time to gather inside the stadium, to private parties, or to bars (such as Safeco Field’s “The ‘Pen”; yes, the Mariners learned to make a few bucks from a neighbor team’s success). I dutifully found myself back in Belltown, cheering on the team with about 40 other rabid fans.

And, as you undoubtedly know by now, it was a knuckle biter of an experience.

Our boys were down (but not by much) the entire first half, broken by a short-lived tie in the third quarter. They only took the lead early in the fourth quarter, and held precariously to that lead until Sherman’s final pass deflection.

The whole bar I was at became noisy as hell after that, and remained that way for a good half hour afterward.

Then the party spilled into the streets, with revelers driving and marching up First Avenue from the stadium. Revelry continued well into the night.

Something tells me the Super Bowl itself (which will occur in East Rutherford NJ, despite what the promo ads may say), even when we win it, might feel anticlimactic in comparison.

(UNLUCKY) ’13, YOU’RE OUTTA HERE
Jan 1st, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

I can reasonably state that I wasn’t the only person in Seattle who wanted to personally witness 2013 go bye bye. Certainly, the bottom of the Space Needle had even more than its regular yearly throng of fireworks watchers.

Before the blast, the Needle was bathed in a very pleasant plum-esque lighting scheme.

Then, right on time, the big kaboom began.

By the end of the seven minute spectacular, the smoke had failed to disperse, leaving the whole tower looking like, as one KING-TV commentator called it, “internally illuminated cotton candy.”

IF I ONLY HAD A BUSINESS MODEL
Dec 20th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

It’s Saturday Oct. 19. It’s Independent Video Store Day, an industrywide promotion similar to Record Store Day.

Scarecrow Video in the University District is packed with customers, there for special sales offers and cult-movie screenings.

Some of these are once-loyal customers who haven’t been inside Scarecrow, or any brick-and-mortar video store, in a long time.

The store needs them back, and on more than just one day a year.

Scarecrow Video is in trouble.

Not from the owners of the “Wizard of Oz” trademarks. That was quietly settled long ago, with the scarecrow in the store’s logo replaced by the silhouette of a flying crow.

And not from landlords. Store owner Carl Tostevin bought the building (formerly a stereo shop, and then a large Radio Shack) a while back.

No, what could kill the store that boasts of having “the world’s largest collection of films” are the same trends that killed Rain City Video, Hollywood Video, and even the once-mighty Blockbuster.

In the mid 1980s, during the first heyday of home video, attorney Fred Hopkins and record collector John Black had a little used record store, Backtrack, on the 25th Ave. NE strip north of University Village. Hopkins brought in a few dozen VHS tapes of ’50s horror and other cheesy B movies, for rent and for sale.

One day, regular customer George Latsois came in with some tapes of foreign and “art” films. Hopkins and Black agreed to stock them on Backtrack’s rental shelves on Latsois’s behalf. They rented well enough to encourage Latsois to start his own store.

Scarecrow Video began its standalone existence in an old commercial building south of Green Lake. Latsois quickly expanded to a second, then a third, adjacent storefront. He put everything he made and more into increasing his stock. Scarecrow, he decided, would be a destination store attracting customers from around the city and even the ‘burbs.

Latsois and a growing staff of film fanatics outgrew the Green Lake space. They moved to a bigger, and higher profile, location on Roosevelt Way, just off of the NE 50th Street freeway exit.

The U District was one of the city’s traditional film hubs. The Seven Gables and Metro cinames, and the Cinema Books store, were just down the street; the Neptune, Varsity, and Grand Illusion theaters were on or near nearby University Way; the UW itself had acclaimed film-studies programs and screening series. Scarecrow immediately became a major part, then an anchor, of this activity.

It was at Scarecrow that I first saw a DVD being played (the first Michael Keaton Batman). Within 10 years, the DVD format would render VHS (and the niche Laserdisc format) completely obsolete. Scarecrow, though, would hold on to hundreds of VHS titles that still haven’t come out on DVD.

Latsois kept expanding his selection. He tried to balance interesting but unprofitable titles with films in popular or niche-market genres (sexploitaiton, anime, old Hollywood classics). Scarecrow’s collection, already the biggest in Seattle, became one of the, and then THE, biggest in America.

But Latsois’s get-big-fast model caught up with the store’s finances. He was forced to seek buyers. He found them in 1998, in Microsoft managers (and loyal store customers) Tostevin and John Dauphiny.

Latsois died in 2003 in his native Greece; a wake at Scarecrow was attended by loyal customers dating from back in the Backtrack days.

With the backing of Tostevin and Dauphiny (who kept their Microsoft day jobs and didn’t take salaries from the store), Scarecrow continued to grow. To 23,000 titles, then to 80,000, then to almost 120,000.

Every available foot of space in the former stereo shop was turned into shelves. The main room’s collections of “auteur” directors became a labyrinth of tall shelves, separated by increasingly narrow passages. At Scarecrow, shopping for films was as much of an adventure as watching them.

Then came Netflix’s DVD by mail service. Then came streaming and on-demand services. Independent retailers like Scarecrow, which can’t afford the expensive rights (or the technical infrastructure) to stream movies, were cut off from that side of the buisness.

DVD rentals and sales tumbled. The big movie studios cut back their DVD release schedules. Video stores everywhere (independents, chains, big and small) began to disappear.

Tostevin (who bought out Dauphiny’s share) kept Scarecrow open, with a staff of 30. They added a coffee bar (“VHSpresso”), a screening room, and cross-promotions with art cinemas and neighborhood small businesses. They pushed the sales side of the business, and offered different rental specials each day of the week. It hasn’t been enough.

On Oct. 17, two days before Independent Video Store Day, Tostevin posted notice on the store’s website:

“Our rental numbers have declined roughly 40% over the past 6 years. This isn’t a huge surprise—obviously technology has been moving this direction for some time—but the decline has been more dramatic than we had anticipated.… Scarecrow has never been about making money, but it has to support itself. It’s no longer doing that, and hasn’t for a while.”

Scarecrow general manager Jeffrey Shannon told KOMO-TV that if revenues don’t pick up by year’s end, he and Tostavin might pursue a nonprofit, subscription-based model or other options. Completely closing, and disbanding the collection, remains one of those options.

In his website post, Tostevin didn’t ask for donations, just for his former regulars to “come back in” and buy and/or rent stuff; particularly during the upcoming holiday season.

One of the things you could buy is a Scarecrow T-shirt bearing the cartoon image of an anthropomorphic DVD disc and VHS cassette, smiling beneath the slogan VIVA PHYSICAL MEDIA.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

RANDOM LINKS FOR 12/17/13
Dec 16th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

  • Good News (Personal) Dept.: I’ve got a part time job these days. It’s in the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle. That was one of the many local structures designed by the great local architect Fred Bassetti, whom we lost earlier this month.
  • Why Didn’t I Know About This Sooner? Dept.: Bob Royer (ex-KING 5 newsman; brother of ex-mayor Charley; ex-hubby of self help maven Jennifer James) has been writing online about Northwest history. His recent topics include a Spokane narrative poet from the early 20th century and the launch of Washington’s wine industry as we know it today (he traces it to the state Legislature’s move in 1969 to allow more Calif. imports).
  • Passage-O-Time Dept.: It’s been 20 years since the murder of Gits singer Mia Zapata sparked the founding of Seattle self-defense group Home Alive. There’s now a documentary about the group and its impact. No idea when the film might play here.
  • There hasn’t been a new Seattle Best Places guidebook since ’09, and now the publisher says there won’t be any more.
  • Nope, there’s still no concrete plan to bring the National Hockey League to Seattle.
  • As ESPN’s Chris Berman might say, Mariners fans can now give a big welcome to ex-Yankees star Robinson “Paddle Your Own” Cano. (Of course, one marquee-draw player alone won’t reverse the results of years of mismanagement.)
  • The UW football team’s got a new coach, the same guy who helped helm Boise State’s rise to powerhouse (or at least near-powerhouse) status.
  • Mars Hill Church leader Mark Driscoll isn’t the only guy trying to combine a “hip” image with reactionary religious politics. One example, from Portland, is a vintage-furniture shop owner who moonlights as a street preacher railing against gays, strippers, and football, among other things.
  • German Amazon employees went all the way to Seattle to protest the company’s warehouse working conditions. The apparent lesson: In the age of globalized capital, labor must behave likewise.
  • Meanwhile, Amazon’s predecessor as America’s great central general store, Sears, was nearly destroyed by an Ayn Rand-lovin’ CEO whose modus operandi was to pit department against department, manager against manager, employee against employee. (Any relation to recent management policies at, say, Microsoft are purely coincidental I’m sure.)
FORMERLY THE SEATTLE TIMES ‘NW HOMES’ SECTION
Nov 22nd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

A TIME OF THE SIGNS
Aug 19th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

The Sherman Clay piano store was one of only two buildings on its block to avoid the wrecking ball during the ’80s civic-planning quasi-fiasco that begat Westlake Center. Earlier, it was the place to buy concert tickets in the ’60s and ’70s. The California chain sold pianos in Seattle since the 1880s (before Washington became a state), and has been at its Fourth Avenue site since 1924. But the chain’s calling it quits. The main reason: It lost its Steinway franchise. (The storied instrument maker was taken over by hedge-fund guys, and plans its own retail outlets.)

As one door closes, etc.… T.J. Maxx is showing up in the upstairs of the Kress Building. If you recall, that’s where JC Penney was to have gone in a couple years back; but that deal was quashed during that company’s continuing internal roiling.

This Belltown nightclub believed it needed to post a sign reminding its own male customers to not behave as antisocial creeps. Sad.

THANK YOU FOR MAKING NOISE
Jul 15th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

The Sub Pop Silver Jubilee was about the best-organized and best-managed festival I’ve seen in many a day.

And it was all free, and (except for one stage) all-ages.

Not that there weren’t people you could give money to.

All up and down the closed-off Airport Way “hip strip” in Georgetown were food trucks, T-shirt stands, and a few chosen charitable causes. One of them was the Parkinson’s Foundation, fighting the disease Sub Pop cofounder Jonathan Poneman now faces.

You don’t need me to tell you all that was there. There was a “pop up” (temporary) revival of the Sub Pop Mega Mart retail store. There were photo and poster exhibitions., DJ sets, and panel discussions.

And there was live music well into the evening on four stages. They ranged from the label’s new stars, such as THEESatisfaction (above),…

…to some of the label’s original acts, such as Tad Doyle (above left), just as grindingly-heavy as ever with his current outfit Brothers of the Sonic Cloth.

For an indie record label to have survived 25 years to today’s Age of Disruption is an amazing thing. Especially for a label that almost died at least three times in its early days.

And the Silver Jubilee, a combo of a street fair and an outdoor concert festival, was as near a perfect day as could be made.

For a few brief hours, it seems like garage-y guitar rock was still the “sound of young America” and a beacon to the future.

‘NO-FUTURE’ NOSTALGIA
Jul 12th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

I got a pic of the historic Mudhoney set on the Space Needle Roof on Thursday, but it didn’t quite come out as I’d hoped. Here’s a far better shot by my ol’ pal Charles Peterson (and here’s a link to video of the set):

charles peterson

As it happens, both the band and its longtime record label Sub Pop are 25 years old. The latter’s celebrating its milestone all day Saturday in Georgetown.

Thursday’s gig was an all-afternoon live affair on KEXP, including two opening solo-acoustic acts and DJs and interviews with Sub Pop personnel past and present downstairs on the Needle’s observation deck.

KEXP had its own 40th anniversary last fall, but waited until today to hold an all-hands reunion party at the Sunset in Ballard.

For those who tuned in late, KEXP (renamed at the behest of onetime funder Paul Allen) began as KCMU, part of the UW’s School of Communications (“CMU” was the UW’s course-code prefix for Communications classes).

That’s where I DJ’d a little show of party tunes with Robin Dolan, then went on to my own shift, modestly entitled “Broadcast Radio of the Air.”

Ran into a lot of the old gang at the Sunset. Along with much of the station’s current team, including John Richards and Kevin Cole (again, sorry for the bad snapshot quality).

Also there was Faith Henschel-Ventrello, one of the old KCMU gang. She now does big event planning in Calif. but is back to work on the Sub Pop jubilee shindig.

Seeing these old station newsletters, stickers, T-shirts, and a box of LPs from its early vinyl collection (complete with DJ-scrawled “Yes!” endorsements), and meeting all these onetime champions of youth culture now propelled inexorably into adulthood (if not into “maturity”), really made me feel like (1) we’d been on the ground floor of something that became mighty, and (2) damn I’m old.

THEY’RE HERE, THEY’RE QUEER, WE’RE USED TO IT
Jul 3rd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

Yep, there was another Pride Parade in Belltown, heading toward another PrideFest in Seattle Center.

This year’s installment was even more festive than most, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against one specific federal anti-gay-marriage law; following the voter-approved start of gay marriages in this state late last year.

And, as always, the parade provided major companies with a chance to show off just how welcoming they are toward clean-cut, well-dressed, upper-middle-class people with good tastes in music and home decor.

But gay pride, and gaydom/queerdom in general, shouldn’t be about being the “ideal minority” for a segment of corporate America.

It shouldn’t be merely about recreation, food, drink, and other consumer practices.

For that matter, it shouldn’t be about sexuality as a consumer practice.

It shouldn’t be about an all-white “rainbow.”

And it shouldn’t be about imposing an oversimplified straight/gay social construct on top of an oversimplified female/male social construct.

It should be (and, at its best, it is) about universal inclusion. Of all gender-types, gender-roles, and consensual relations. (PrideFest’s ampersand logo this year expresses this with simple elegance.)

It should be about being who you individually are, without imposed identities (even “progressive” imposed identities).

And, of course, it should be about love.

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