The biggest national story in Seattle music ended up not being that big of a story after all. Or at least it ended up being a story without much activity involved. The story was Soundgarden’s reunion, and when singer Chris Cornell broke the news that his old band was getting back together, it seemed like big things were on the horizon for the grunge gods.
Unfortunately, the band performed only one local show and a total of only three public performances in 2010. Worse yet, it was nearly impossible to get tickets to the local concert, held at the Showbox, because of a poorly planned ticketing system. Although it appears this year’s reunion shows were cash grabs to promote a Soundgarden boxed set, guitarist Kim Thayil has mentioned B-sides and live records in the works, so there is a strong possibility of more activity from the Soundgarden camp to come.
Other grunge activity included the first performance by the members of Mother Love Bone in more than two decades. The band played a brief surprise three-song set as part of a Brad concert (another grunge-era band that experienced a bit of a rebirth in 2010) with the soulful Shawn Smith filling in on vocals for the late Andrew Wood. The memory of Wood will live on in March when a documentary about his life titled Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story gets released along with two CDs of his previously unreleased music.
On the festival front, City Arts magazine managed to book an impressive first-year festival that spanned four days and spread across dozens of venues throughout Seattle. The Capitol Hill Block Party expanded by adding a third day to accommodate Jack White’s touring schedule with his band Dead Weather, and One Reel celebrated Bumbershoot’s 40th birthday by booking Bob Dylan.
Unfortunately, Dylan’s gate draw couldn’t save One Reel from feeling the burn of the recession. One Reel, which is a nonprofit organization, laid off eight of its 14 festival staffers shortly after the festival. There’s no telling what this means for the 41st annual Labor Day weekend event. On a positive note, you should expect the Sasquatch! music festival to make some noise next year. The fest will be celebrating its 10th year and has already booked Foo Fighters and added an additional day to mark the occasion.
Sub Pop Records made a few power plays this year by signing the two hottest local acts The pair of signings not only show vibrant signs of life in the local music scene, they also help cement Sub Pop’s reputation for helping introduce the world to some of Seattle’s finest musicians.
In September the label signed Shabazz Palaces, a hip-hop group featuring former Digable Planets rapper Ishmael Butler. The group’s songs feature unorthodox rhythms and beats that are often heavy on African percussion, making for refreshing, challenging, and enjoyable hip-hop music. It is believed to be only Sub Pop’s second hip-hop signing (the other being Olympia’s Evil Tambourines in the 1990s), and you should expect very big things from the group in 2011.
The other Sub Pop signing of note is the Head and the Heart. The band of plays an upbeat style of folk with three and four-part harmonies and delivers spirited live performances. While the signing hasn’t been made official yet, it is the worst-kept secret in local music, and the proof is in the posting if you believe what you see on iTunes. The Head and the Heart have already pretty much conquered Seattle with their rapid rise to local fame (the band formed in late 2009) and are poised to take on the rest of the country with an album slated for release next year.
Musicians weren’t the only names in the news this year; several new and old venues also made the news. The Hard Rock Cafe finally landed in Seattle with a restaurant that features a performance space near Pike Place Market. Some feared that the corporate chain would interfere with the business of other area venues, but so far that has not been the case. The south side of town saw the welcomed return of Columbia City Theatre. Next year, be on the lookout for the reopening of the Neptune Theatre in the University District. The former movie house is being leased by Seattle Theatre Group, which plans to turn it into a music venue in the spring. The addition of new venues is a positive sign of growth and a reminder of the importance of the music scene’s role as an economic driver for the city.
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