Seattle's rock scene has always been close-knit, so it makes sense that The Stranger would travel afar in search of a music editor free of conflicts of interest, right? In fact, when the weekly paper needed a replacement for exmusic editor Kathleen Wilson, it went all the way to England for its successor: former Melody Maker staffer and editor of the now-defunct magazine Vox Everett True.
It's an odd choice in one way: True is credited as the man who made "grunge" a household word—he was first off the boat in the media invasion The Stranger has spent years mocking. But what also interests Art Town is whether True's appointment will affect the paper's handling of giant local rock label Sub Pop. Stranger editor Emily White is married to Sub Pop president and A&R rep Rich Jensen.
Indeed, insiders say that when thenmusic editor Wilson wrote about a wave of Sub Pop personnel problems last year, she got "walked around the block"—Strangerspeak for taking an erring staffer out of the building for an attitude check. Contacted last week, Wilson said she didn't "recall the incident"; White flatly denies it ever took place. "When matters touching on Sub Pop come up I have nothing to do with it, other editors take care of them. That's standard operating procedure, and everybody here knows it."
Though Wilson's stepping down from the music editorship on the heels of her scathing review of Sub Pop's 10th anni-versary concert has given rise to speculation about a connection, she herself says she's "definitely not unhappy" with her new status as senior writer. "The job was getting bigger and bigger," White says, "taking more and more from Kathleen's writing. She's about 20 times happier already."
Readers who are looking for serious coverage of the local music scene may not be. "My writing is all about me," True admits. "Sometimes I go and see a band. Then I write about how they interact with me."
True has been joking with anyone who'll listen that Sub Pop brought him to The Stranger and that the label's offered him a daily retainer. On Sub Pop's side, general manager Megan Jasper credits True with "much of Sub Pop's initial success" (True puts it more briefly: "I created Seattle"), but dismisses grumbling about conflict of interest. "He's true to the crazy workings of his brain rather than true to any company," she says. "I think he'll bring a fresh perspective."
In his first week on the job, True was flaunting his connection with Sub Pop. Tearing apart a recent show by local band Western State Hurricanes, he mentions that the group is "rumored to've been bought a few meals by Sub Pop (haven't we all?)" He's not shy about playing the Brit card, either. "No, I'm not bitter," he writes. "Just British."
Art Town suggests that his next assignment be a review of "Do Nuts," the 1992 single he recorded for Sub Pop under his nom de grunge, the Legend—there are hundreds of copies left in the Terminal Sales Building basement, in case he lost his own in the move.
HorseHead goes international
The bad news cited a couple of weeks back in the Weekly turns out not to be bad after all. Horsehead, the outdoor site-specific sculpture show that has been a highlight of recent Seattle summers, is going to Belfast, Northern Ireland, next year but not, in the process, abandoning Seattle. If plans by HorseHead founder-curator Matthew Lennon work out, we'll be seeing work by a contingent of Irish sculptors here next summer while half a dozen Northwest artists get a chance to devise work for several diverse sites in downtown Belfast.
The city fathers and mothers of the Northern Irish capital are behind the plan, says administrative director Maxine Lennon; now there's only the little matter of raising the matching funds needed to take HorseHead's show on the road—again. After all, Lennon's much-praised series, now in its 10th year, started out in bucolic Bucoda, Washington, before moving to the grit and pulse of metropolitan Duvall.
Rent: Yeah! or Eh?
Next month Broadway musical fans will either feel like they're sitting pretty or seeing double. On September 2, the touring version of Rent (the rock update of Puccini's opera La Bohème by the late Jonathan Larson) opens at Seattle's Moore Theater. A week later, another touring company of the same show debuts two and a half hours and/or 150 miles away: at the shabby-gaudy old Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, BC.
Even an old-timer in the business like the show's national promotional director Laura Matalon can't recall an occasion when two companies backed by the same producer duked it out for audiences like this. Ironically, says, Matalon, the situation came about because of the show's success: The Toronto run had to be extended so often that the producers were faced with an awkward choice—open "against" Seattle or see their entire tour schedule reduced to chaos.
The local producers of the show—Seattle's SLA, the Mirvish family in Vancouver—have agreed not to try to steal business from one another by advertising in each other's towns as they usually do. Only problem with that is, the BC tourist industry is taking full advantage of the Canadian dollar's historic low value vis à vis the buck—65 cents when last checked and still falling—to trumpet what a bargain a fall visit to Vancouver is, e.g., a nights for two in a posh hotel suite plus three-course preshow dinner and tickets to Rent for C$433—US$286. And never mind the price—what a coup for the kind of folk who collect original cast albums of the New York, London, LA, Peoria productions: to be able to see two identical stagings of the same show—the same day if they want to!