All photos by Jim Bennett
I was sicker than I've been in a long time yesterday. This was a huge shame because it meant I got to Marymoor Park (beautiful venue with impeccable sound, by the way) later than I had planned and had to take in the music through a fog of medication. In other words, I was functioning at about half of my abilities yesterday.
We got there just as No Age was finishing up, but made perfect time to catch the mighty Comets on Fire! They received an introduction from former Sub Pop regional publicist Jed Maheu, who remained fully clothed, thankfully.
Comets sounded really tight from the start as they opened their set with “The Bee and the Cracking Egg” (the monster that also opened their Sub Pop debut Blue Cathedral). Frontman Ethan Miller was in fine voice, like Rod Stewart with a bigger set of balls. Electronicist Noel von Harmonson messed around with his wicked looking array of gadgets, spewing forth blasts of psychedelic mania, while Ben Chasny lumbered back n’ forth with his ax like Neil Young circa ’96. They played a set consisting of songs from Blue Cathedral and Avatar (they followed “The Bee” with Avatar opener “Dogwood Rust”). Toward the end of the set, Miller sent out the most heartfelt “thanks to Sub Pop” I heard all night, rattling of the names of all the employees they’ve worked with over the years (“Jonathan, Megan, Andy…everyone, we love you guys.”) before performing mellow burner “Soup Smoke”, which they barely, if ever, have played. It was a fucking delight seeing those guys on stage again. That band is proof that there is a difference between aping your influences and simply carrying on a tradition. These guys take Blue Cheer, Albert Ayler, Hawkwind, The Stooges, and all those other stoner giants, funnel them through a black hole and shoot them back out into the ether…or something. I don’t know anything about black holes. But Mark Arm stood watching them from stage left with a big grin on his face.
Next up was that other California concern, the Beachwood Sparks. I came to the Beachwood Sparks right as they were breaking up and the closest I came to seeing them live was when Dave Scher and Jimi Hey opened for The Shins as All Night Radio (whose Spirit Stereo Frequency is one of those great lost Sub Pop titles) a handful of years ago. As they explained in their timid hippie drawl, they weren’t sure how this show was going to go. But aside from a little flat harmonizing at the beginning, they sounded note-for-note like they had never broken up. With the sun shining, a little breeze blowing, and a great big sky overhead, their mix of hippie twang, Byrds-ish tremolo, and hazy dream pop, made it seem like they were serenading the elements like the nature fruitcups they are. They performed “You Take The Gold”, “Confusion Is Nothing New”, “Desert Skies” and “Silver Morning After”. It was like a greatest hits review with no filler. The only other thing I could have asked to hear is their Band-like cover of Sade’s “By Your Side”. But when I heard they have a new album on the way, that filled me with more joy than any song I could have heard that night.
Then came the much-anticipated Green River reunion. The energy was high not just among the band members, but the crowd as well. They sounded WAY better than what I ever expected, and nothing reflected this better than when I stood next to Sub Pop’s Megan Jasper and all she could do was look at me and shake her head at how good they were. They opened with “Come on Down” (Arm howling the words “Down by the river/ I shot my baby” as the intro) and proceeded to rock seriously fucking hard. During a set that included “This Town” and the Dead Boys’ “Ain’t Nothing To Do” (I swear Mark Arm sang “I’m so sick of FM/ Even KEXP”) they rocked like a band that was fresh outta the gates. Arm flung himself around quite unlike a man in his mid-40s, and the band (Steve Turner, Bruce Fairweather, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Alex Shumway) were as solid and hard-hitting as any arena-ready band. I caught at least one guy crowd-surfing, and one unfortunate guy who tried stage diving but appeared, from my viewpoint, to fall flat on his ass (Arm laughed “Oh shit!”) It was a pretty triumphant and celebratory affair. This was obvious at the end of the set as they unboxed piles of the classic Green River “Ride The Fucking Six-Pack” t-shirts and threw them by the handfuls into the crowd.
Many folks filtered out after Green River’s set, which was fine. But they missed one hell of a set by Wolf Parade.
The last time I saw Wolf Parade was on the release date of their debut at the Crocodile. They sounded fantastic, loose, and nicely ramshackle. But last night on the Marymoor’s wide open stage, they had no trouble filling the environment with sound. In his black, knee-length cut-offs, Spencer Krug lurched over his keyboard and yelped out the Bowie-esque march of “I Am A Runner”. They followed it up with Dan Boeckner’s song “Soldier’s Grin” and the rest of the set was pretty much even helpings from Apologies to the Queen Mary and their new masterpiece At Mount Zoomer. On record, their songs build and build eventually reaching anthemic heights. Live, they had no trouble achieving the same. But out there in the open air, the songs sprung to life in a way that reminded me of the Arcade Fire’s best concert moments. And it wouldn’t have been a Sub Pop event without a little ribbing of SP’s co-founder. Between songs, Boeckner said: “I was really happy to hear Jonathan Poneman bought the Space Needle. I’m sure the new offices will be really sweet.”