Typically, you’re supposed to write a review shortly after an event takes place. In this case, my ears were still ringing for the good part of Sunday, February 3rd — the day after The Sonics/Mudhoney show at Showbox at the Market (in Seattle). And maybe that extra day of rest changes this piece from being a rushed news story to a colorful blog. We’ll see.
After casually strolling into the majestic venue, I caught a glimpse of the set times on a piece of paper near one of the several bars: Mudhoney – 8 pm / The Sonics – 9:30 pm. I can’t remember the last time a two-band club bill started before nine on a Saturday night, nevertheless, the time displayed on my neat-o smartphone indicated Mudhoney would be hopping on stage within the next ten minutes.
My fiancee Bobbi and I trotted down to the floor after grabbing a six-dollar Rolling Rock and plopped ourselves stage left in order to have a good view of guitarist Steve Turner and his handlebar mustache in action.
I’ve seen Mudhoney around a dozen times (split between my time in Southern California and here in Seattle); I think they’re hands-down one of the best punk rock acts of the past 25 years, but the real reason I bought a ticket for this show was to see the legendary Sonics. I had it in my head that if Mudhoney powered through a typical setlist, I’d be totally satisfied.
The band walked on stage maybe a minute past eight, and before anybody played a single note, I got the vibe it wouldn’t be the standard Mudhoney show. Frontman Mark Arm had a massive, goofy-looking smile painted across his face. Right before launching into the opening song, Arm got on the mic and asked, “Did you see the marquee out there?” Somebody was excited.
The first three songs out of the gate were almost strategically placed to win over Sonics fans unfamiliar with Mudhoney; New song “Slipping Away” was the heavy-rolling opener, “You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face),” features a main riff that could be the catchiest in the band’s catalog, and “Who You Drivin’ Now?” is the closest thing to a raw Sonics original without treading into “ripping off” territory. For the rest of the hour-long set the crowd was in the palm of Arm’s hand, especially after the song that put Seattle on the map (and the band’s biggest “hit”), “Touch Me, I’m Sick.” After putting down the guitar, Arm flailed around the stage like Black Flag’s Keith Morris or The Stooges’ Iggy Pop for the remaining half-dozen songs — which included more “newbies” that’ll appear on the band’s new album, Vanish Point, in April.
When Vanderpool asked me how the show was this morning (Monday), before I could tell him how The Sonics were, I had to confess that Mudhoney’s performance was easily in my “Top 3” out of all the times I’ve seen ’em.
I wish I could provide a YouTube clip, but I can’t find anything (to be honest, I love that I can’t find a YouTube Clip…that means people were actually watching instead of holding up their phones the whole time).
The clock struck nine, and it was time for another over-priced beer.
After refueling, I told Bobbi that I may lose control and gravitate towards the front of the stage once The Sonics started. Sure enough, when all five dudes walked to their instruments, I slithered through shoulders, elbows and hips to get closer. Without much of a “hello,” The Sonics launched into the very song that launched me into The Sonics: “Cinderella.” Freddie Dennis, the current bass player, took lead vocal duties on this rendition and his pipes rammed through the audience like a freight train.
Immediately following, guitarist Larry Parypa went right into the lick of “Money” and the countless hits ensued.
If you needed some sort of evidence to back-up your argument that The Sonics were way ahead of their time (in the 60s), all you would need to do is perform a quick scan over the 1,000+ at the sold-out show to see guys (and gals) younger than me (28) were dancing, jumping and screaming the lyrics to every song the guys played.
The encore started with a surprising rendition of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” — not a whole lot of spice added to it, but it had everyone bopping up and down. I guess the ironic little tidbit to throw in here is that a man who frequently covers “Rockin’ in the Free World” with his band Pearl Jam was seen bopping up and down to it too. (Hint: His name starts with “Ed” and ends with “ddy Vedder.”)
Along with Vedder, there were several musicians in attendance who’ve staked their claim in the Northwest circuit. Tom Price (Gas Huffer, The Tom Price Desert Classic, and more), Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks, every other band in Seattle), and members of Girl Trouble were all enjoying the band that influenced at least one project they’ve been associated with.
Following the cover came two of the band’s raunchiest and most influential songs: “Strychnine” and “The Witch.” I came damn close to hitting my head on the ceiling…at least like it felt like it. The roar of the hook in “The Witch” was the perfect send-off to the overly-enthusiastic crowd.
Afterwards, Bobbi and I got in line to shake the hands of the members of The Sonics. Rob Lind, who had been having his own one-man sax party on stage the whole night, was the first to greet us. I introduced myself as the “dude from KZOK” and he immediately asked why I didn’t show up backstage like he’d asked weeks earlier after conducting a phone interview. I told him I didn’t wanna be the “weird guy nobody knows” in the backstage area. Disappointed in my answer (he had that look my Dad would often give me in high school for the handful of mistakes I made), Lind then said, “well you could have at least introduced us onstage!”
“Seriously, dude,” I said. “Stop. I am not gonna be able to sleep tonight knowing that.”
After getting an autographed 8×10 photo of the band, Bobbi and I hopped in a cab and relived one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
SEE THE GALLERY RIGHT HERE: The Sonics and Mudhoney at Showbox at the Market
-Chris Coyle, KZOK