It’s been roughly 22 years since Jeremy Enigk introduced himself to the world on Sunny Day Real Estate’s debut record Diary. His voice stands toe to toe with the thrashing guitars and walloping drums, a phantom entity spouting sometimes made-up words. It didn’t matter what he said, it was how he said it.
In 2009, Enigk released OK Bear, an intensely personal record that saw him experimenting more in the studio than ever before, but then went virtually silent. He re-emerged last year for a string of solo dates, but now he is returning from the shadows to join Tomo Nakayama of Grand Hallway onstage as part of the latest edition of the Experience Music Project’s “Influencers” series—concerts that pair legacy musicians with artists they’ve inspired.
Just as the surviving members of Nirvana say they can’t explain—despite being asked all the time—why Nevermind became such a cultural watershed, the influence of Diary goes beyond Enigk. SDRE is often credited with spearheading one of the most iconic waves of emo. The story could end there and it’d be just as influential. Yet there’s so much more beyond that moment in 1994, particularly in Enigk’s solo career.
For years after the breakup of SDRE and in-between reunions, Enigk dutifully recorded low-key classic albums like Return of the Frog Queen and World Waits. These records will never be held up next to the combustible moment of Diary, regardless of whatever fanboy write-ups like these do. But these records have dug deep roots in Seattle’s music community. Nakayama is one of the many Enigk disciples to emerge here recently. His powerful falsetto falls within the lineage of Enigk’s high-pitched wails. His songwriting, like Enigk’s, is based around a simple guitar or piano part built out into lush arrangements. In many ways, his career also mirrors Enigk’s: Lead vocalist for a beloved Seattle act ventures into solo territory to make music that’s much sparser than his band’s, yet intimate and essential all on its own.
The “Influencer” show will be less a passing of the torch than a celebration of two unique storytellers uniting to lift each other’s work. Steeped in the history of the modern Northwest indie-rock scene, they continue to make great music. Use this evening to look back at their amazing careers, in their bands and solo, before they move forward writing their next great experiments. EMP Sky Church, 325 Fifth Ave. N., 770-2702, empmuseum.org. $16. All ages. 8 p.m. Sat., June 25.