By MALCOLM GRIFFES
U.W. News Lab
The sun was shining while hundreds of people crowded the streets of Georgetown. From three blocks away the sounds of distorted guitar vibrated through the air. Sub Pop celebrated its 25th anniversary as an iconic Seattle institution last weekend with a free all-day music festival on Saturday.
People came as they were: young and old, rockers and rappers, longtime Sub Pop followers from the ‘90s and kids possibly attending their first festival. Sub Pop Records Silver Jubilee turned Georgetown into a Sub Pop rock city.
“There is a guy over there letting people staple money to him, for money,” noted my friend Daniel Criem. (This “performer” was not one of the scheduled artists.)
The event featured longtime Sub Pop favorites like Built to Spill and Mudhoney and new favorites like King Tuff and Shabazz Palaces. About five city blocks were closed to car traffic and were filled with crowds of people shopping at music booths, eating at food trucks, and of course listening to bands at one of the three stages.
Alan Pinkerton, the guitarist in local band Brain Scrapper, said, “I’m going to see Mudhoney. It’s a free show by a good band.”
So why throw a free party?
“We love Seattle and wanted to give back to the people,” said Derek Erdman, local artist and the receptionist for Sub Pop.
“The bands that played were all very happy, everyone was very happy to be involved,” said Erdman. “[The Silver Jubilee] pleased both the masses and the employees.”
Some time back, current Sub Pop vice president Megan Jasper infamously gave a New York Times reporter a list of fake slang used in the Seattle grunge scene. This list, which is now referred to as Grunge Speak, was published by The New York Times in a 1992 story called “Grunge: a success story.” I asked Erdman if he would describe Sub Pop’s party using Grunge Speak.
“No ‘lame stains’ were involved,” Erdman said. “It was good to see people literally ‘on the flippity-flop.’ At the end of the night we told people to ‘rock on’.” For the uninitiated, “lame stains” means to be uncool, “on the flippity-flop” means hanging out, and “rock on” is a friendly goodbye.
Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman founded Sub in 1986. In 1988 Sub Pop released Mudhoney’s first single, “Touch Me I’m Sick,” and later that year Sub Pop released Nirvana’s first single, “Love Buzz.” Since then Sub Pop has put out three platinum albums: Nirvana’s “Bleach,” Flight of the Conchord’s self title album, and The Postal Service’s “Give Up.”
If silver is the representative mineral for a 25th anniversary, I asked Erdman if he knew of any plans for a gold 50th.
“We are constantly going out of business, so who even knows if we will be around then,” said Erdman.
(MALCOLM GRIFFES is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)