This city of Seattle never ceases to surprise and intrigue me. It is a cultural and artistic melting pot, and that is for sure. I try and see life through much more than just "a musician's" eyes, but often it is at musical events that I feel closest to my comfort zone. Maybe here I can let down my veil of adult, my facade of judgment. Perhaps my observations are less colored by outside factors whilst I am in a club or a theater.
Merle Haggard. Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. His band, Loaded, plays the Crocodile at 8 p.m. tonight.
Sometimes I will see 100 gigs a year and find very little to be inspired by. At other periods in my life, I will see three or four shows in a short amount of time that just seem to make me a better person. Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson at the Paramount the other night gave much more to me than I could have hoped for.
Merle's battle with lung cancer led to some hushed-tone urgency when tickets to a date or two of his became available. Reverence for the man and his career were obviously evident last Friday. Kris Kristofferson may have summed up the evening's sentiment with his song "Here Comes That Rainbow Again." If you haven't yet heard it, I strongly suggest you do so.
Another aspect of that evening gave me pause for reflection: real, hardcore Merle and Kristofferson fans aren't the ultra-hip scribes and scenesters that one may hear bragging about a show like this. No, the people who were there were from eastern and central Washington, south of Olympia, and north of, well, downtown and Capitol Hill. These people looked hardscrabble and perma-tanned from years of working in the sun. The thing about Seattle, though, is that there is a comfort zone here for a crowd like this. As I was driving up Pike after the gig, I saw some punkers walking an old cowboy and his wife to a bar. Cool.
This town was host to some of the first punk-rock clubs in the country back in the '70s, too. Early Northwest punk bands like D.O.A. and the Fastbacks in turn informed the scene that would burst on the world consciousness with Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam. Perhaps Seattle's most precious musical commodity would not have been able to ferment without the solidarity that is shown to its musicians (that "commodity" to me is Mark Lanegan).
We seemingly were seen as a place that was open-minded enough to host the first rap tour when other cities' promoters didn't see the worth in it (yes, Grand Master Flash at the Music Hall in late 1980, I believe). "Urban" radio got some of its earliest high-audience ratings here in our town.
And now on to our weather.
This past weekend we finally caught sight of springtime. It seems that all it really takes is two consecutive days of near 70-degree weather for us to forget all that we knew of the long, dismal Seattle winter. In my humble opinion, there really is nothing or no place in this world like summer in Seattle. The Mariners will be having their home opener on April 14, and we can get our hopes up for at least not finishing in the A.L. cellar like last year.
May I suggest some good reads for your lazy, ever-lengthening days ahead?
Mr. Untouchable: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Heroin's Teflon Don. This is a no-holds-barred biopic of Harlem's Nicky Barnes, a self-made drug mogul who almost got away with it all.
Beautiful Boy, David Sheff. This book really jarred me as it probably hit closer to home than I was expecting as a father myself. This book explores a father and son's heartbreaking journey through meth addiction. A simply amazing read.
Longitude, Dava Sobel. If you are an exploration and adventure nerd like myself, then you will know that having only latitudinal readings spelled disaster for many of our early maritime discoverers. The hunt for the mysteries that finally unlocked longitude were not just mathematical. Many people in high places wanted the credit and reward that a simple carpenter inevitably got to take home.
My Bondage, My Freedom, Frederick Douglass. I read this book while I was at Seattle University a few years back. When a book is a required read in a particular course, rarely do you find it to be a page-turner. Douglass' account of his young life in slavery, his eventual escape into the North, and scholastic and cultural stardom paint a vivid picture of what life was like not only for him in the 1800s but for the rest of America as well.
Hitmen, Frederic Dannen. An amazing expose of the record industry circa the 1980s: Payola, sex, scandal, and intrigue. Good shit!
Q, Quincy Jones. A large portion of this book takes a look at Mr. Jones' early days right here in Seattle. It enlightened me to read about how thriving and great a jazz scene we had here in the '40s and '50s. Quincy is a bad motherfucker!
Lexicon Devil, Brendon Mullen. For anyone who doesn't know about the Germs, this would be the book to get you caught up. The Germs were one of the most influential American punk bands, PERIOD. Brendon Mullen does the band and the era justice.
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Seattle, Andrew Weber and Bryce Stevens. Yeah, that's right. Get the fuck out of that chair or sofa and up into those mountains that you look at so longingly from Capitol Hill or the 520 bridge!