Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bumbershoot 2K2 got me a thinkin' ...

Bumbershoot 2K2 got me a thinkin’ ...

"I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain," is what I wanted to say. Instead, I was singing the chorus to an old favorite by Alice In Chains. The rain was starting to pour down on the crowd. We didn't care, or if we did care it was to like it and not to hate it. It was Labor Day 2002. Seattle Center. Memorial Stadium. Jerry Cantrell was performing a solo set, just months after the tragic death of Layne Staley.

I had to fight to get off work early, even though it was painfully slow, a holiday, and I was working voluntarily. By the time I was finally released to head to the show I had to fight holiday weekend traffic, find parking a ridiculous distance away, and work my way in to the stadium. Seeing Jerry play solo in and of itself was cool, his two solo records are actually quite good. He played some Alice in Chains songs with one of his band members singing some of Layne's portions. But, the crowd ended up singing a good portion of the Chains songs. It was cool, it was cathartic, and it made me feel very old ...

... after all, I could look behind me and see the EMP in the distance. The EMP is pretty cool, and there is a Northwest music wing in the museum which has some really cool stuff from that era.

It had been thirteen years since I had heard that song live the first time.

The signs promoting that December 1989 show were being plastered all over the Wazzu campus.

“Alice Who?” One would read.

“Alice in F*(#ing Chains, that’s who?” the next would say …

We got calls in the WSU Daily Evergreen newsroom from an older woman complaining about a large blonde woman putting up obscene signs on campus. That would be Jason. Well, Jason, and his friend, and me, and others all had very long hair … mistakes could easily be made. Jason was a fellow WSU Daily Evergreen writer and he and his friend were promoting, I think – their first real concert. A local Seattle band would be playing the CUB Ballroom. They were – as yet - unsigned but only a few days away from that changing.

The Cub had hosted Soundgarden and would later host the Foo Fighters (remember when people thought Nirvana’s drummer has a record, right, that’ll work ???) Chains would simply rock the house, playing mostly what would become Facelift, they would pack the place even, and I knew I had just stumbled onto something. A few months later Chains would open for an awful hair metal band named Vain at the Oz, I would write up a review of it, and it would start me off on a several year run of writing for music magazines.

Looking back, it is even more amazing to me what I got to witness in person. The first Chains record release party was at the Seattle Aquarium: we were hanging out in the dome listening to Facelift. A few moths later I was coaching a boys high school soccer team in Spokane and I recommended Facelift to them. The players had seen a video for Man in the Box and laughed at me for liking it. I didn’t really care. But, within weeks, they had changed their minds.

Sometimes I miss my rock journalist days, think Almost Famous on a more local scale (but during the Grunge Era in Seattle); you get to hang out, meet the guys, but there is always something implied in what they tell you and what they do around you ... no, I can't say I “knew” those guys, but the few I have bumped into over the years have seemed to recognize me.

Recently, I was talking to Jerry Battista outside the O&T one night talking old music before a Gold Spikes show. It came to my attention he was in the Allies ... The Allies? I loved those guys. I still have their tape and a song on a compilation from KYYX ... I felt like a geeky fan boy all of a sudden; of course I would help him carry in stuff at that point. Emma Peel was a truly cool song and one of my all time favorite guitar riffs, it was like finally getting to meet Tony Chursky at Seattle Sounders practice in 1994 ... only, I had been dancing to one of the other bands Jerry plays in named The Davanos on Sundays for a year and didn’t know it. The Allies played my high school so technically I have been dancing to bands he was in for 20 years now. I mentioned he should play Emma Peel. He said I would have to sing it, so that ended quickly, (although secretly I would love to if I could remember all of the words and drank heavily enough).

I never got to see Alice In Chains perform again live. With Layne’s health and drug problems they simply didn’t tour for that long. Combine it with my move back to Pullman in 1994, starting a family, and other issues I simply did not ever get another chance. Alice In Chains would fade away as a live act, creating a legacy that endures, but leaving behind too small a catalogue of music …

Around the same time as the Bumbershoot show in 2K2 I flipped through a coffee table book of photos by one of the guys who did a lot of photography of the Grunge Era bands. It is a great book. But, when your era is now considered retro, there is a wing in a museum dedicated to you, and people are publishing coffee table books from that time, your time is over.

I could go see the Alice In Chains reunion show coming up. But, even if I could get a ticket I don’t know if I could. I wish them luck, but for me that remains a long time ago and I think I will keep it there.

(The photos at the top of this post I took during the CUB Ballroom show in December 1989)

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