Tuesday, November 22, 2011

KEXP after Pearl Jam Twenty

I was watching Pearl Jam Twenty by Cameron Crowe. What a great documentary. It made me sad though. To realize I was right in the middle of all that, having worked with bassist Jeff Ament at Tower Video's Mercer Street store back when he was in Green River.

All the bands that passed through those doors at Tower. Andy Wood was in the video store with a couple of band members one day. I was supervisor that day, in the office doing paperwork. One of the female employees came back all worried saying there was a guy standing on the long counter top that ran the length of the store. Now, I hesitated going out, but if an employee was worried, that was what I was there for, to run that gamut of the curious, confusing and dangerous. One day, I had to go deal with Conan (local guy) who was in the store with his sword (that was unsettling to the employees, till I talked to him, checked out his sword, held it and told him to have a nice day).

So when I go out into the store and it's just Andy standing on the counter dancing around, big smile on his face, I figured, ooookay, this is the least of the odd situations I've had to deal with. He immediately jumped down when he saw me, not wanting to get 86'd I suppose, and watched for my reaction. But I just smiled (hey, it was funny) and said, "Hey, guys, how's it going?" He smiled and said, "Great." I said, "Cool, have a nice day." And I told the employee not to worry about it, it was just a Rock singer in with the band, front men tend to be a bit rambunctious, and they were basically harmless. Besides, we all liked the bands coming in, as long as they didn't destroy anything, and they never did. Sad to think back on it now that Andy's gone.

It was interesting to see the people that passed through those doors to rent videos. Bruce Springsteen's manager when they were in town. One night, half of the Sonics were getting tapes to watch videos at one of their homes. Which was odd, to look up as I was putting tapes back out to rent and realize that at 6'2" I was the shortest guy in the room, dwarfed by not one but six giants. I walked back to the counter and mentioned it to an employee who said, "Don't you recognize them? That's half of the Sonics." Which made me feel better because I wasn't used to looking up at many people, yet alone a small crowd of them.

Then to think about all the things that were going on as exhibited in the Pearl Jam documentary, with all the footage of places that looked so familiar to me, all the bands and people, many I remember seeing from back then, partying at McCoy's after gigs with many rock bands that pass through there to blow off some steam, or buy drugs along the hall on the way to the restrooms; it's hard to consider having been so close to so much, and yet having been so involved in one's own life and to have just about missed it all. I hadn't realized that Cameron was living in Seattle back then too.

After the documentary was over, there was a short about the Seattle Music Scene and KEXP and SubPop records, showing some footage of their fine establishments and giving a brief history and status quo of each. And it ocurred to me, I should say something about KEXP.

John Richard's show, "John in the Morning", is excellent. He's not just my favorite DJ. Even the Mayor of Seattle has said, "John in the Morning" is how he starts his day and he has come down to the station to visit on the air on occasion.

Before this short film on KEXP, I'd never seen what their place looks like, what they look like and yet, I have always wondered.

KEXP is known around the world. I've heard many comments from people how it is one of the best radio stations, anywhere. Many bands who have gone on to make it, or signed with SubPop records, have said if it wasn't for KEXP, they wouldn't have been able to make it. SubPop is another entity we take for granted. We have had this music scene for decades and we just don't think much about it, other than, we love it.

As they mention in the documentary, there is much reason to stay inside through a majority of the year in the Pacific Northwest and one of the things that has done, was to spawn a fresh and powerful music culture.

Here in John Richard's words from their web site, posted back in July, sums up much of this rather clearly:

"You often hear that there is “something in the water” in Seattle that makes it such a vibrant and creative community. There is, but it’s the water falling from the sky and there is nothing in it but wetness.

"If you are a regular listener to the Morning Show and/or a regular listener in the Seattle area, then you know that this year has been one of the gloomiest on record. In fact, today I was inspired to write this post based on my excitement that the rain has turned to thundershowers! We love any kind of change in the weather.

"There is a reason why coffee, beer, smoking, drugs, and suicide are popular here. People either need vices or a way out… or both. BUT this also pushes artists to create amazing music and art as their outlet for making it to those glorious two months of summer in August and September. There used to be three months of summer, but it appears July is no longer going to cooperate. We also, for once, got to be the envy of the entire country during this most recent heat wave within the States. It was nice to be #1 for once, if only for a week."

As I said, John's my favorite DJ at KEXP, in Seattle, or anywhere else for that matter.

KEXP streams live, uncompressed (and compressed) at www.KEXP.org. My daughter is backpacking around Europe and she has run into people there who know of KEXP. Seattle is very lucky to have such a fresh, interesting radio station that is respected world wide.

Since March 24, 2008, Radio Liberation has aired KEXP-produced programming Monday through Friday on Radio New York 91.5 FM. New Yorker seem to love KEXP, too.

So, if you don't listen, at least check it out. If nothing else, if you don't like the station, it's a good way to deduce if you simply aren't "cool" anymore. I'm kidding. But it is a good way to hear some very cool music and not infrequently, way before the time the bands hit it big.

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