Last Night: Mudhoney + No Age @ Free Yr Radio Event

Who: Mudhoney + No Age

Where: KEXP Parking Lot

When: Wednesday, July 23

SW contributor Travis Ritter put it best last night: “It’s like SXSW here.” His was a spot-on observation. There we were, standing in a parking lot, sun shining down, hipsters standing sloped-shouldered, waiting for a couple noisy bands to play underneath a makeshift tent. All around us were marketing materials for Toyota and GOOD magazine. The Ice Cream Man was handing out free treats. The only thing missing, I guessed, was a tamale or barbeque stand. (That, and the stiflingly thick humidity that makes Texas unbearable to a rain-worshipper like me. Last night was actually perfect here, weather-wise, in my opinion.)

Last night’s event was part of the Free Yr Radio campaign (brainchild of local marketing whiz Kerry Murphy, I learned). The deal here is that Free Yr Radio raises awareness and some funds for independent radio stations, one of them being KEXP (ever heard of them?). Across the country, these events are normally held as in-stores at Urban Outfitters, but because we’re so awesome in Seattle (right?), we get to watch No Age and Mudhoney outdoors as the sun is setting behind the Space Needle. And what two better bands to help promote indie radio than No Age and Mudhoney? It’s highly unlikely you’d ever hear either one on a commercial station!

No Age plowed through their fuzzy set and it was a pure joy to watch guitarist Randy Randall, dressed in his awesome flannel, hop up on top of his amps and promptly hop back off while whipping his curly hair back and forth. A group of kids in the front flipped out through the entire set as Dean Spunt flatly whined the song lyrics and pounded out those propulsive drum riffs of his. Live, their music came across as representative of their record. Waves of fuzz ebbed and flowed, eventually erupting into a grimy fits of pop-punk. Spunt even took a moment to call out and thank soon-to-be-former Sub Pop publicist Steve Manning (after nine years at the label, Manning is leaving to embark on a globe-trotting “manventure”. Whether he’ll wear pants while doing so is up-for-debate).

Up next was the great Mudhoney. As our web editor Chris Kornelis pointed out, we’ve been devoting a lot of press to our local “grunge icons” lately. It’s true. I’ve seen more Mudhoney shows in the last two months than I have in my five years of living here. But lately the band has been at the top of its game, I swear. Mark Arm, free of guitar, now prowls the stage. Half the time he scowls, cutting his hawkish glare at the crowd, while the rest of the time, he rolls his eyes in the back of his head like some of Renfield-ish maniac. They opened with “The Money Will Roll Right In”, a timeless classic, before tearing into “I’m Now” and the title track off their latest ripper The Lucky Ones. But the show was plagued midway through when the P.A. system shitted out on us. The band wasn’t really aware of this, so they kept grinding their way through “You Got It” and “Suck You Dry”. To the audience, it sounded like the song was being played inside a wool sock, all muffled and thick with bass. Once they figured it out, though, they killed time with some smokin' cool blues jamming. Bassist Guy Maddison even entertained some questions from the kids in front (one of which was apparently “Where’d the name Mudhoney come from?” because I heard Maddison respond: “It’s from a Russ Meyer film.”) But the tech guys must’ve found the plug for the sound system, because they got it re-charged in time for the band to thrash out “Tomorrow Hit Today”, “In and Out of Grace”, and “Touch Me I’m Sick”. It occurred to me, though—standing there as the band awkwardly killed time waiting for shit to be fixed—Mudhoney really does need a wall socket to come alive.

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