Sub Pop Records can now legally rent a car. By some accounts, the label is actually 27 years old, but this free, block-party-style festival dubbed the ‘Silver Jubilee‘ officially marked 25 years for the brand that brought you the “Seattle Sound” of the 1990s, and this indie-pride milestone attracted a crowd as eclectic as its lineup.
There were your garden variety hipsters and stoners, but as the iconic label ages, so does a chunk of attendees – many a toddler was hoisted on the shoulders of their neck-tatted parents, making for an interesting, family-friendly take on rock and roll. Young, green-haired tweens in Seattle Drum School t-shirts did most of the crowd-surfing. This is the circle of life (or at least rock music).
We regrettably missed local rap heroes Shabazz Palaces and “manxious” punks Pissed Jeans, although the latter made many a convert. But, we still caught all the heavy-hitting headliner acts that didn’t conflict with each other.
Chad VanGaalen swung for the vocal fences as he ambitiously combined an Americana singer-songwriter vibe with heavy blues rock, a few post-rock climaxes, and even a touch of metal. His over-the-top wails were met with alternating responses of cheers and cringes, possibly due in part to the heat. Meanwhile, The Afghan Whigs’/The Twilight Singers‘ frontman Greg Dulli pleased the crowd of the southernmost stage with shout-outs to the Georgetown neighborhood and a tasteful viola solo over his well-known judgment hit “Bonnie Brae.” We couldn’t stay long, though, as we needed to head to the main stage.
Grunge stalwarts Mudhoney played second-to-last on the main stage, opening with their new single “Douchebags on Parade,” a demographic which was surprisingly (and pleasantly) underrepresented. Fans dangled from the brick-lined windows of artist apartments overlooking the crowd for an unobstructed view, making everyone below jealous. Some other new jams from their set included the quirky, ‘austere’ preferences of “I Like it Small” and the tepidly-received funk-lecture “What to Do With the Neutral,” but it was the oldies that got the crowd moving and screaming. “Judgement, Rage, Retribution, and Thyme” didn’t quite keep the youthful weirdness of its original recording, as if it had a bit too much polish live, but “Touch Me, I’m Sick!” was a universal smash due to its timeless disease-lust: [LISTEN]
Who knew those would be the lyrics that would best sync up the crowd that day? It even over-shadowed their best-charting single “Suck You Dry.”
Built to Spill closed the evening after Mudhoney’s set, everybody playing for shorter than you’d want or expect. Like Mudhoney, frontman Doug Martsch and his crew have still got it, after over 20 years of playing. The energy of the crowd was a bit conflicted at this point – the diehards were ready to head to an after-party, while those neck-tatted parents wanted to carry their toddlers home, but Martsch shimmied through hits like “You Were Right” and “I Would Hurt a Fly” effortlessly. Regardless, a famous lyric from their catalogue perfectly encapsulates the crowd at that moment, whether they were nighttime revelers ready to rage, or weary parents: “This strange day is almost over/Just started to get sick of it.”