Coming Full Circle in My Extra Innings

Laura Musselman
Duff McKagan, left, writes a column for Reverb every Thursday. He writes about what music is circulating through his space every Monday.
Last Sunday, I was more than honored to be asked to take part in a show here in Seattle that benefited Haiti relief efforts--honored because of the sheer talent of the other performers that I would be playing a bunch of different songs with.

Where do I start? When Debra Heesh, Jeff Rouse, Mike, and his wife Ashley McCready first came up with the idea of doing a Hootenanny for Haiti, it was going to be loosely based on some acoustic jams that some of us had done together over the last year or so. On top of this, Deb organized a Patsy Cline tribute show at Columbia City Theater last year and enrolled the help of Kim Virant, Star Anna, and Kristen Ward to be Patsy for the occasion. Gary Westlake, brothers Rick and Chris Friel, Ty Bailey (my daughters' piano teacher!!), and Jeff Rouse were the band that night.

I have for the most part been out of town except for two of the hootenanny rehearsals, but I was kept in the loop as the talent pool started to grow outward from this core group. Matt Cameron came in for the cause. Star Anna's band from Ellensburg, too. Stone Gossard and then his old band Brad (Shawn Smith is the most mysterious and powerful male singer out of Seattle . . . period). Tim DeJulio, a local ringer guitar player, came in too. And last but certainly not least, Kim Warnick came out of retirement to sing Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" and fucking killed it!

My new good buddy Mark Pickerel really surprised me with how good a singer he is. I hope people in Seattle realize just how blessed we are with the talent of the musician pool here . . . and the ease of these musicians playing together and appreciating each other. This just does not happen anywhere else.

I had never in all these years played with Matt Cameron or Stone or Shawn Smith. We have all been friends over the years, but more so because we have kids and we do the odd kid birthday together. I told Matt before the show that if I had any regrets at all in my life, it was that I was not more "present" when GN'R toured with Soundgarden back in the early '90s. I was just too fucked up. He told me a great story about when GN'R came to Seattle in 1985 to open for the Fastbacks at the Gorilla Gardens and afterward showed up at the Central Tavern where Soundgarden was playing one of their first-ever shows. Apparently we bum-rushed the stage and asked if we could play on their gear. They wisely said no. I vaguely remember this . . . but only vaguely.

Star Anna is someone who I've heard a lot, about but didn't have the chance to see until our rehearsal the night before the show. She is the real deal. There is a pain in her voice that comes from somewhere deep, a place I dare not ask where it comes from. She will be a talent that we can all say that "We saw her when . . . ". Guaranteed.

Two of my highlights were being able to play Mad Season's "River of Deceit" and Mother Love Bone's "Crown of Thorns." I was absolutely proud to be onstage with Matt, Mike, Stone, and Sean for these. I felt like maybe my life and musical career had come full circle and finally rested somewhere back home, here in Seattle, a place that I love.

I was talking to Mike the other morning and we were reminiscing a bit. We have known each other since we were in our teens. I was playing the "what if" game. What if I had stayed in Seattle during the '80s? Would I have been in Soundgarden, or maybe Mother Love Bone? Maybe. We decided to rest easy in the fact that we all took our own and distinct paths and had somehow come out OK and somewhat successful. For guys like Mike and I, to be here and vertical and breathing at all is a bonus. Some might say a miracle. These extra innings that I call my existence right now are fucking beautiful.

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