We all knew going into the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee that it wasn’t going to be a day you might forget, like so many other street festivals and and fairs, which all tend to blend together after you’ve been to a few. Was it the more than memorable lineup, including J. Mascis, Father John Misty, King Tuff, and so many others who we have listened to with devotion and admiration? Was it that that clouds suddenly vanished – wakin’ on a sunny day, if you will – as if the earth smiled on the anniversary of this particular label that had survived where others had sadly passed on? Was it the copious amounts of weed as The Stranger suggests? Perhaps it was that parking was so surprisingly easy – that is, if you knew to park on Beacon Hill and walk down. The Sub Pop Silver Jubilee was among the best, the most magical and the most “jubilous” celebration of a beloved Seattleite (yes, Sub Pop is almost its own human) that has ever occurred. And yes, we were right there in it from start to finish.
While the music is always the focus here, I have to commend Sub Pop for selecting the glorious Georgetown neighborhood for the event. When we arrived, I found that many of my friends, who have all grown up in Seattle, didn’t even know their way around despite the amazing diversity of food and drink to be had in the small, seemingly under-attended block. The list of cool businesses is endless. We started our morning around noon with one of the best brunches Seattle has to offer at the Hangar Cafe – juices, crepes, salads, waffles, and mimosas – before heading out in the crowds to catch some tunes.
Music started for us with King Tuff, though actually before we even made it to brunch, as we did a preliminary walk through of the festival grounds, we ran into Kyle, the singer and clothing alteration expert (cool vest), heading over to the stage – or possibly to the ultra-exclusive Sub Pop VIP area (Hey! They deserve it!).
The stage was stocked with the perfect crowd – not dense enough so you were scared of stepping on toes but not at all empty. Cool children hung out, watching the stage with skepticism and listening through their tiny earplugs, and cool concert goers roamed around with “SUB POP” hats that had already been signed by bands. With the sun illuminating all his grungy tattooed brat-mouthed garage pop, King Tuff took off through pretty much everything – “Sun Medallion” and “Freak When I’m Dead” are personal favorites, as well as his release with Gap Dream from the Garage Swim Comp, “She’s On Fire”. “Woof Woof!” He sang out over the already blazing hot lot – “Woof woof!” At one point he dove headfirst into a call and response, “I say ‘king’, you say ‘tuff!'” before saying what I think we all felt – “I could do this all day!”
After that, I sped over to the Pop Stage to catch Sub Pop’s most recent announced acquisition – the abrasive rap/spoken word electronic trio clipping.. Not only was vocalist Daveed spitting at a super sonic speed – mocking the audience outright at times for being unable to keep up with a call and response – but as one definition of their name suggests, the distortion due to high volume and high output was turned up. Bass was on the edge of control, and every heavy ear-drum popping drop accounted for. There is no middle ground with clipping. – either you are there keeping up, or you feel like your years behind trying. It was almost a masochistic experience, painful for the ears, painful because it sometimes seemed like they might be laughing at you, and yet somehow totally satisfying. Where other performances pleased the crowd, clipping. was among the only to actually challenge it.
Leaving clipping., Victoria (the wondrous photographer of all these photos) ran into yet another Sub Pop celeb, Rose Windows’ Nils Peterson and his pup, Botch. Despite probably having things to do (drinks to drink, hang outs to hang out) they, as well as so many others we ran into throughout the day, were more than happy to mingle, chat, and be generally nice to enthusiastic fans.
Oh, the people you meet at a Jubilee!
Pissed Jeans was the next obvious turn for me – my ears were already pretty broken, so why not stand right next to the speakers for Matt Kosloff’s ultimate catharsis? Not only was my hat being shaken on my head as he pummeled on, but the first mosh pit of the day began. It was comprised of those I expect and enjoy seeing in the pit, gleeful shining faced youths of various ages, with the stark glint of mischievousness in their eyes. Up on the stage they clambered… and down they were pushed into the a-bit-too-thin-to-hold-you audience. A girl shoved past me, approvingly dressed in Dr. Marten’s and sporting a partially shaved head, definitely still under 20, with a determined look smeared across her face, and down she slammed. Still another boy was grabbed by Kosloff and given a guitar, or really he was imprisoned with the guitar while Kosloff grabbed other equipment for him to hold before he jumped into the arms of his highly impressed friends. Sub Pop knows as much as any label that’s been knowing things for a while, especially at 25, you can never forget the days when hitting asphalt from a jump, or getting clocked in a mosh pit, was pretty much heaven compared to school, relationships, or parents.
Kosloff didn’t stop there – he too turned a mocking bratty gaze on us onlookers. “If anyone has ever been in a band… they give you the nicest clothes,” he sneered, “Should I give it back?” as he pulled on a red flannel, “No never! Not in a million yearsssss… Someone else’s flannel while taking dump, this is Seattle man!” And yet, as only the Jubilee can teach us, despite Kolsoff’s sarcastic hip shakes, supremely unsexy stage antics and a 100% petulant attitude, we later ran into him strolling the back streets of Georgetown in a breezier new outfit and a calm smile on his face.
After attempting to jet from Pissed Jeans, we were immediately thwarted by the ultimate distraction of the face in holes which were up and down the entire street.
Afterwards, we attempted to continue on but were again thwarted by a cooly dressed, if not entirely confused/baffled looking Shabazz Palaces wandering down the street. Where is the stage? We didn’t know either at this point.
After a brief respite from the heat, grabbing some water and snacks, we stopped by Metz to witness yet another punk screaming match, and we actually did find the stage Shabazz Palaces was playing on, which was only visible after we had spent about 15 minutes being pushed through a shockingly mellow funnel of people and spat out about 50 feet from the stage. As if they hadn’t been cool enough before, now joined by Cat of and despite a length soundcheck, they blazed through their set, afro-beats and impressive percussion rattling out like waves of the future-sounds inspiring afternoon tired attendees to sway on their tired feet.
Finally arriving at the seemingly light years away Elysian stage, I had already decided this was among my favorite. Rising like a futuristic cityscape, the underpass now served as an outdoor balcony to those of us tired of looking up at the musicians. On the ground this was one of the few stages where the shade wasn’t totally crowded – you could even find a chair if you looked in the right places. As we strolled in Chad VanGaalen was just taking stage – for a set comprised of many of my favorites from his album Diaper Island, though his set sounded all around more indie-rock than the drifting imaginative folk I had expected. With eyes closed during songs, he seemed pained almost performing – “Heavy Stones” and “Do Not Fear” may have sounded different live, but the sentiments were clearly the same for VanGaalen. And even so – between songs the band was nothing but smiles.
At this point the day had begun to take its toll. I sat as Rose Windows began their confident set comprised of one of my already over-played albums The Sun Dogs. Rabia’s voice caught all the right curves in the lot, and the sun was finally starting to cool down the asphalt. Their spangled psychedelia was soothing and the yelps and swells brought a prickling energy – and they were clearly having fun. “Why aren’t you at Mudhoney?” Rabia called to the crowd, drawing Mudhoney’s name into a playful mouthful.
As the day came to a close I found myself in a mysterious pop-up shop of curiosities on the main street eating paella while Father John Misty shook his hips and charmed yet another crowd off their toes. After catching Built to Spill, I stayed on for the amazing Hardly Art Afterparty – where Seattle’s Hausu played to The Mix as the crowd inside swelled and the line-outside stayed steady. Detroit’s Protomartyr was the highlight of the night for me – the kind of band where you can’t tell if the singer, dressed in a slightly fitting awkward blazer, is sweating or crying out the lyrics. Something about their set was stammeringly masochistic – at times the microphone disappeared into the singer’s pocket while he looked out at the audience with a kind of pained expression. He stomped heavily around the stage, as if his clothing was too heavy and the songs not good enough. After that came Austin’s Deep Time, with their up and down chords dictated by restraint and occasional bursts of excitement. The night ended with Seattle’ The Moondoggies, and as we made our way back home packed into cabs, buses, and friends’ cars, we will wished happy birthday to Sub Pop.