I was at Hell’s Kitchen recently when someone marveled at how I’d been at the News Tribune “forever” – since she was in middle school, actually. Which made me feel old, in case you’re wondering. But it has been 10 years and change. And over the last couple, I’ve sometimes wondered if I could hold this gig down for as long as former Seattle Times critic Pat MacDonald, a guy who sat next to me at concerts for years.
He started at the Times the year I was born (nope, not sayin’) and kept going till he retired just a few years back. Obviously, I love music, but could I see myself doing this for half as long? Could I see myself hauling my gear up and down that steep hill at Sasquatch festival or going anywhere near the mosh pit at Mayhem Fest when AARP eligible?
Pretty funny to imagine. But let’s just say I fell a few years short of Pat’s record for longest-tenured local rock critic. I managed to escape a few rounds of layoffs here at the Trib, but now I’m at the end of my run. This is my last column for GO.
Looking back, I realize how fortunate I’ve been over the last decade as a professional music fan. I’ve had some rare experiences: Listening to Stevie Wonder, his voice thick with emotion as he explained how a dream about his recently deceased mom had inspired him to tour again; needing a translator for parts of my chat with Ozzy Osbourne (but not for the copious f-bombs he dropped throughout); gaining insight into the whole “grunge” thing – which I initially experienced from across the country, in Kentucky – directly from the likes of Mark Arm, Krist Novoselic and Buzz Osbourne.
Oh, and there was that time Ice-T threatened to hunt me down and kill me if I gave his speech at Pierce College bad press. Almost forgot about that. I think he was joking. But you never know. He wrote “6 ‘N the Mornin’.” Kinda gangsta.
That’s not to mention all the amazing shows I’ve caught over the years. In a moment of fleeting insanity, I thought I’d compile a top 10 list, something that’s both cliche and way too daunting at the moment. So here are just a few that will stick with me right off the top of my head: Nine Inch Nails farewell gig at the Gorge Amphitheatre the year before last; the two times I caught the relentlessly brilliant Radiohead, at the Gorge in 2003 and then at White River Amphitheatre in 2008; Beck’s various performances, especially when he previewed “Sea Change” material during a stripped down set at the Moore Theatre, and when he performed with those hilarious puppets at Sasquatch; seeing Roger Waters tear down “The Wall” last fall at the T-Dome; the Mars Volta’s bizarre but entertaining freak-outs; PJ Harvey’s visceral Halloween gig at Showbox at the Market in 2004 and the Sonics’ triumphant return to the Paramount four Halloweens later.
Speaking of the Sonics, I got to cover one of America’s great rock n’ roll cities. While Seattle usually gets all the credit, but we all know Tacoma is really the cradle of Northwest rock.
Bill Haley & His Comets and “Blackboard Jungle” inspired Little Bill & the Bluenotes to form a band one fateful day in at the Sunset Theatre (on Sixth Avenue where Posh Home is now.) They put on their own shows and started the D.I.Y. rock scene as we know it. And by the time the ‘50s drew to a close, this city had spawned the Fabulous Wailers, the Sonics and, of course, the band that inspired a thousand more to pick up guitars, the Ventures.
I’ve enjoyed listening to guys like Buck Ormsby, Kent Morrill, Jerry Roslie, Larry Parypa and Don Wilson recall how the Original Northwest Sound came about. They laid the foundation, and they seldom get the credit they deserve. I’ve tried to fill in some of the gaps during my time here, but also highly recommend Pete Blecha’s excellent book “Sonic Boom” for anyone wanting to learn more.
I’ve met a lot of special, talented people during my years covering music here. For fear of pulling Hillary Swank, I won’t try to acknowledge everyone in this space. But I’m fortunate to have gotten to know so many of the years, and I’m proud to call some of them my friends. I encourage you to go support their efforts at your favorite local music venue this weekend.
I tried to cover what they do in a thoughtful and engaging way. Hopefully, I succeeded once in a while. Thank you for reading what I’ve had to write.