KEXP Suggests: Big Black’s Last Blast Video Screening 1/20

In 1987, influential industrial rock band Big Black chose Seattle as the site of their last performance. The Georgetown show, with special guests Jesse Bernstein and Roland Barker, became legendary. On Monday, January 20th, Scarecrow Video will host two screenings of the resulting concert film, Big Black’s Last Blast.

It’s not only a document of this band’s final performance, but also a snapshot of Seattle’s music scene in the late ’80s. The three-camera concert video was directed by local artist Debra Geissel. (The on-stage camera was operated by her then-husband and current Cafe Racer proprietor Kurt Geissel.) The sound was engineered by John Nelson and mixed in Chicago by Steve Albini. Russ and Janet Battaglia of Fallout Records served as executive producers, and Monday’s screening will be presented by the film’s producers, Susie Purves and Larry Reid.

We chatted with Reid about the event came to be, and he explained, “Steve Albini contacted me in 1987 and asked me to produce Big Black’s final show. The abandoned Georgetown Steamplant with its antiquated industrial aesthetic provided the perfect venue — ironically, this steam powered electrical generating plant was then totally without electrical service, so we had to employ portable generators for power.”

“It was customary for Big Black to conclude their shows in a shower of noise, smoke, and sparks by igniting a string of firecrackers on stage. About a month in advance of the August 7 event, I was buying fireworks at a reservation for the 4th of July when it occurred to me to procure firecrackers for the show. I appropriated the label on the brick of 4,000 Black Cat firecrackers for the memorable poster.”

“The show opened with ex-Blackout Roland Barker and friends creating an industrial soundtrack up in the catwalks of the enormous facility. Georgetown’s resident-poet Jesse Bernstein performed a provocative and wildly entertaining reading, then Big Black let loose with a ferocious set of their greatest hits, ending with a cacophonous finale of smashed instruments and explosives.”

“The audience included the artists and personalities that would soon create the cultural phenomenon known as grunge. (Kim Thayil took tickets at the door, Mark Arm is visible in the front row, and Bruce Pavitt was on stage.) In hindsight, this show marked a metaphorical passing-of-the-torch to Seattle as the center of the country’s counterculture.”

Scarecrow Video will host two screenings of Big Black’s Last Blast, at 7:00 and 8:30 PM. A small display of artifacts from the show will be featured, including the neck of Albini’s smashed guitar. The event is free, with a no-host bar, and is open to all 21 and over. Find out more information here and watch a preview clip here:

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