October 31, 2011

City Arts Fest: Mudhoney


Mudhoney ::: photo courtesy of Nate Watters

Sometimes life is just like the way Pixar Disney described it to me as a child, it’s a fairy tale. However, seeing Mudhoney for the first time was a different kind of dream come true.

There were no sorceress that turned into a dragon. I didn’t have seven vertically challenged, hard-working men helping me get back on my feet again. I didn’t break my arm and end up pitching for the Chicago Cubs in a pennant race (Writer’s Note: Rookie of the Year is not a Disney movie but it should have been, damnit!). I was not a mermaid that wanted to become a part of your world. Elton John didn’t create an award winning soundtrack for my every move.

If you may recall, I told a few of you that I used to pretend to be Mark Arm in the shower while I listened to  Mudhoney albums as a youth. This is one hundred percent correct. I’ve passed on seeing Mudhoney in-person a myriad of times because nothing infuriates me more than seeing a band that I hold in high regard and being sorely disappointed. I’m not going to name names, but there have been times where I’ve seen a band I liked and then sold off all of their records the next day. I don’t deal well with musical disappointment.

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but if we’re going to speak about disappointment then I’m going to have to reference Thee Emergency’s performance at Neumos prior to Mudhoney’s set. I only caught the last few songs but it was a train wreck. It seems as if Thee Emergency failed to heed the pop music warning of Bruce Springsteen. Glory days, don’t let them pass you by. The highlight of Thee Emergency’s set actually came as they were walking off the stage and front-woman Dita Vox addressed a cowardly heckler. Really, is there anything more gutless than heckling a musician while they are performing? Here’s how that exchange went:

Cowardly heckler from balcony: You guys suck. Dita Vox: We may suck but I have bigger balls than you.

Mrs. Vox was right on both accounts. Yes, Thee Emergency did suck and yes, he should grow a pair that guy has a yellow belly. Personally, I was in greater agreement with the spineless noodge who stood to the right of me. He decided to take time out of his busy schedule to suggest that Thee Emergency, “Go back to playing weddings!” in a very audible manner. This might not be a bad idea for Thee Emergency or anyone else. Wedding bands make a decent bundle per gig and unless it’s a crappy wedding, they get to drink for free.

Then Mudhoney came on-stage and I felt like one of those crazy young girls from Foreign Country X who would pass out every time the King of Pop would grab his schlong (this is during the height of his popularity mind you. I’m talking Jacko circa 1985 not 2005). The air left the room. I started to feel weak at the knees. I didn’t resort to “Crazy Person Hop As You Cry and Scream” dance but I had a smile that you could have seen from the comfort of your home.

I looked around and all my surroundings whirl-pooled into a time vortex. Suddenly I felt like I was in the Motor Sports Garage circa 1990. The lucky lot of you actually saw Mudhoney, some under-achieving band called Nirvana and a host of other pivotal “nineties rock acts”  at the Garage during that time period. For a then seven-year old living in Virginia, the closest I got to experiencing these events was viewing the Charles Petersen photos a few years later, still attending elementary school in suburban Washington, D.C.

Mudhoney is important to me because they represent something much larger than their albums or songs. In the context of general history, they’ll always be seen as one of the pioneers of a musical movement. I have no idea what that means because I don’t do guest spots for Rolling Stone am not a musical journalist. For me, Mudhoney was the first example that not all music has to be “popular” to be good. If I didn’t enjoy Mudhoney, then I never would have listened to the Melvins, Jesus Lizard, Bikini Kill, L7, Bratmobile, Afghan Whigs, Dinosaur Jr. or countless other bands associated with that early nineties time period. As a middle school kid that can’t afford anything and could only get to decent record stores with the assistance of an able adult, the opportunity for potential “counter culture” exposure was random at best. In hindsight, my exposure to Mudhoney was definitely a make or break moment.

The band tore through a bunch of songs that I haven’t listened to in ages but will never forget. Since this is Seattle (sometimes I pretend I’m in San Francisco), I’m not going to name all “the hits” that they played because I’m sure you’re already familiar. I was beyond ecstatic that Mudhoney performed “This Gift,” as it is my favorite song of theirs. Seeing them perform Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In” was a refreshing reminder that I always preferred their cover of this particular song when compared to Nirvana’s.

After the show was over and I was walking to a friend’s birthday celebration at the Redwood, I saw my bathtub messiah (Mark Arm) talking to a friend a few paces in front of me. So many different emotions came over me at the moment. What do you think I did?

A) Punch friend of Mark Arm in the mouth, watch him bleed on the sidewalk and then proceed to tell Mr. Arm that I am a grown man that enjoys the music of the band he is in. However, once upon a time I was a boy that used to pretend to be him while rocking out to Mudhoney albums in the shower. After that’s all said and done then I quickly tell Mark Arm that this is not a reverse pedophilia (retrophilia?) pick-up line and all of these events really did happen. Quickly walk to Redwood before Mr. Arm calls the cops on me for assaulting his friend.

B) Tell Mr. Arm that he played a great show and in doing so create a minor interruption of the conversation that he and his friend are engaged in.

C) What is music? Take me to the Redwood.

If you chose “C” then you are correct. Shyness wins out every time. Redwood, yonder-ho!

There were three things that took place this evening that stood out to me:

1. Crowd-surfing in high heels. Who wants to lose an eye? Equal parts amazing and dangerous, I hope to see this from afar happen more often at shows in Seattle. Do you hear that Tractor-goers? Probably not because you’re too busy talking over me.

2. I saw two dudes do “The Choke” and it added to my overall enjoyment of the show. I wanted to free my Iphone from my Levis and record them but decided against it. I’m creepy enough as it. In other news, did you know that there is no wikipedia entry for the aforementioned dance? Gentle readers, can you take care of this for me?

3. I never liked the in-studio version of “In n’ Out of Grace,” the song always seemed a bit obnoxious to me (especially with that goofy guitar line at the end of the main riff). After seeing them play that song at Neumos, never again will I think such nonsense.


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  1. Bart Bart #

    It’s way ballsier to post a negative review when you are safely away from all members of the band, right?

  2. phil #

    bart bart,

    what else do you want me to do? not write negative reviews? accost every band in seattle i don’t like (what, do you think i have all the time in the world or something)? if you’re personally invested in me telling thee emergency they sucked at neumos then email me. we’ll set-up a coffee date. be sure to get all the members there, even the girl with the tambourine.

    because if you really want me to fight seattle musicians in hand-to-hand combat. i like my chances against most of them. you can be my promoter.

  3. Bart Bart #

    I would love to see some of these shitty bands get their asses kicked for sucking so hard (and it appears even Mark Arm is tired of it http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/mudhoneys-mark-arm-on-grunges-legacy-20110907), but that’s beside the point. I’m just saying, after seeing Mudhoney the last six times they’ve played near Seattle(excluding their Pearl Jam Vancouver show), I’m happy someone was finally fed-up enough to tell a shitty band that they were not appreciated, whether it be from a balcony or a blog. I just think it’s kind of cowardly to refer to a heckler as “cowardly” for telling a band that they suck to their faces, and then go home and blog about how you pretty much agree with said heckler. Also, the front-woman never said “We may suck but I have bigger balls than you”. She said something along the lines of “I bet you wouldn’t say that to my face”, to which, the heckler waved and invited the band up to the balcony. And seeing as how the balcony at Neumo’s is about 6 feet above the stage, he pretty much had already said it to their faces. But way to make your blog a little more interesting by making shit up.

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