Sub Pop Silver Jubilee

Back in 2007, Seattle’s Sub Pop Records started Hardly Art Records, a label within itself, with lower financial stakes and a pop-rock fixation. The two labels reside in the same building in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood on 4th Avenue. Rock duo Deep Time is a fairly recent addition to the Hardly Art roster—an outlier from Austin, Texas, whereas most other Hardly Art bands are from Seattle, the Bay Area, or New York City. Their oddly-shaped songs are worth a listen. They charm, puzzle, and then are gone.

Deep Time played the Hardly Art showcase at the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee. Band leader Jennifer Moore was kind enough to grant us a quick interview.

MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Being from Austin, how do you feel about SXSW? Does it feel musically important to you, or is it one big Doritos ad?
DEEP TIME’S JENNIFER MOORE: “Big ol’ Doritos ad, with close-ups of the chips, and canned music playing very quietly in background.”

MSD: Austin seems to have a lot of ‘meat-and-potatoes’ rock bands. Does it feel like you are way out on a limb down there, with your left-field approach?
JENNIFER MOORE: “Austin is pretty rock-heavy, especially the garage variety. But there are tons of little scenes in Austin, and they do mix a bit. There’s a group of ten or so local bands we play with regularly. So we get a lot of support from that group, even if it’s tiny.”

MSD: How much pressure does Hardly Art put on you to make money?
JENNIFER MOORE: “Zero. It’s been really nice working with Hardly Art. They mostly just seem excited about putting out music they like.”


[Deep time drummer Adam Jones]

MSD: What was your favorite thing you experienced at the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee?
JENNIFER MOORE: “People watching was pretty satisfying! The concertgoers were all over the place, age-wise, with lots of weirdos, and parents, and teens that looked like maybe they were at their first concert. But everyone seemed especially pumped to be there.”

MSD: Please recommend some restaurants in Austin. Have you been to Paul Qui’s place, qui? What about tacos and Tex-Mex?
JENNIFER MOORE: “We have not been yet. We are saving our pennies, but we have been to Uchi, which is kind of an epic eating experience. Chapala off Cesar Chavez Street is our favorite taco/Tex-Mex place. It’s also very affordable. One meal at qui equals 70 at Chapala.”


 

Nordstrom Men’s Shop was proud to co-sponsor Sub Pop’s 25th-anniversary Silver Jubilee celebration. Don’t miss our Silver Jubilee Street Style recap and Q&As with King Tuff and Dum Dum Girls.

 
 

[Text and interview by Andrew Matson. Andrew writes about music and culture for publications including The Seattle Times, NPR, and The Stranger. Follow Andrew on Twitter here. Photos by Robin Stein—see more of Robin’s work here. Videos © Hardly Art and Deep Time.]

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Last week, we showed you the fruits of our labor during Seattle record label Sub Pop’s 25th-anniversary music festival—by way of some first-class Seattle street style. Today, we have a subset of those shots that our team wanted to present separately as a special report: Below, individuals who are doing their part to foster a new golden age of Seattle music.

Photos by Robin Stein (pictured above right). Words by Andrew Matson.

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Ian Judd. “Seattle’s vibey-est, smallest concert venue (and vintage store) is Cairo in Capitol Hill. Judd is the genius who books the music there. While he’s at it, he hand-picks some of the best bands for his label, Couple Skate (Naomi Punk, The Numbs, Weed). Basically, come to Cairo on any given Saturday night and see what will be happening next year in Brooklyn.”
[Pictured with a friend who looks kind of like this guy. Click small photos to enlarge.]



Larry Mizell, Jr. “It’s safe to say Larry is the voice of Seattle hip-hop. The host of weekly show ‘Street Sounds’ on Seattle’s crucial (and streaming worldwide) radio station KEXP, he’s also the columnist behind ‘My Philosophy’ in Seattle’s alt-weekly The Strangeran emcee in the band Don’t Talk to the Cops, and an artist manager. Fun fact: Mizell, Jr. is also the son and nephew of Larry and Fonce Mizell, legendary jazz-fusion producers.”


Erik Blood. “This is the guy who records your albums in Seattle, if you want someone who will actually vibe with you on your weird idea and bring it to fruition. As a bandleader, Erik Blood is a My Bloody Valentine devotee. As a producer he’s done hip-hop (Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction), folk rock (The Moondoggies), and ‘swirl’ (Stephanie), to name a few. He also knows more about Prince than anyone else, ever.”



Sasha Morgan & Alex Kostelnik. “Sasha works in radio relations at Sub Pop and promotes concerts on the side. Alex runs 20/20 Cycle—a bike shop where pricing can sometimes be negotiated, and intimate concerts occur by Sub Pop-related acts including Mount Eerie and White Rainbow. As far as independent culture in Seattle goes, you’re looking at a power couple.” [Click small photos to enlarge.]

 

Nordstrom Men’s Shop was proud to co-sponsor Sub Pop’s 25th-anniversary Silver Jubilee celebration. Watch for continuing Sub Pop content in the days to come—and in the meantime, catch up on Silver Jubilee Street Style and our Top 5 Sub Pop Albums Ever.

 
 

[Text by Andrew Matson. Andrew writes about music and culture for publications including The Seattle Times, NPR, and The Stranger—follow him on Twitter here. Photos by Robin Stein—see more of Robin’s work here. Individuals pictured do not endorse Nordstrom. Intro photo by Melia McGee.]

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Amidst the flurry of Sub Pop Records x Nordstrom Men’s Shop related goings-on this month (music festival! street style! interviews!)—we realized plenty of people out there could use a 101 crash-course in what exactly the now-25-year-old Seattle music label is all about. Count us among the curious, especially when a guy who lives and breathes this stuff, like music writer Andrew Matson, is doing the talking. Without further ado, here’s Andrew on his five favorite Sub Pop albums of all time:

My top-five all-time Sub Pop albums? Impossible! The label has too many good ones. But as a music writer, this is the kind of insane ranking I actually love to do.

Let’s see: The Flight of the Conchords album really brought me together with my parents. That’s a special thing. And Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues tells two stories excellently, one of pristine acoustic beauty, another of the importance of producer Phil Ek, who added a touch of majesty to that record, and The Shins’ Sub Pop stuff, and Band of Horses’. In a low-profile way he has been a major factor in defining the label’s sound.

How about, here are five albums I can say are quintessentially Sub Pop—that is, they indicate similar artists the label worked with, and will stand up to critical evaluation infinity years in the future.

Happy listening! (And for the record, just looking at all the 2000s-era albums I picked below is making me second-guess myself. I do realize Sub Pop put out amazing albums in the ‘90s. My favorites from that decade are by Sunny Day Real Estate and Red House Painters. But again, there are so many. I digress. Let’s get started.)

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Nirvana – Bleach (1989). This is essential. You can hear Mudhoney and the rest of grunge, and obviously (obviously!) the churning/artistic tendencies of Melvins and B-tthole Surfers. But there is this other hypnotic, beautiful component—and that, my friends, is Kurt Cobain.


 
 


Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005). At one point, Sub Pop was promoting an endearing, melodramatic strain of Canadian indie rock. Wolf Parade’s first album is the best of those, with the highest highs. Its magic has something to do with the tension between very different songwriters Dan Boeckner (straight-ahead rocker) and Spencer Krug (free-form poet).


 
 


Damien Jurado – Ghost of David (2000). Three Sub Pop touchstones in one album: lo-fi yet adventurous recording style (Jurado spent his advance money on cheap equipment and used his Seattle house as a studio), subject matter focused on mental illness, and lonesome acoustic guitar music. Sound depressing? It certainly is!


 
 


Shabazz Palaces – Black Up (2011). It all comes down to the song “Are You… Can You… Were You? (Felt),” which is just the purest, most artistic, most wistful rap tune ever. I’ve listened to it a billion times and still can’t believe it exists. The refrain says it all about love, life, and the underlying anti-logic of Sub Pop: “It’s a feeling.”


 
 


THEESatisfaction – awE naturalE (2012).  Sub Pop is known for starting things: grunge with Nirvana and peers, emo rock with Sunny Day Real Estate, indie pop with The Postal Service and The Shins. The duo THEESatisfaction are next, with their digital hip-hop jazz. Like Nirvana on Bleach, you can hear them influenced by heaviness, but feeling out their own style.

 
 

[By Andrew Matson. Andrew writes about music and culture for publications including The Seattle Times, NPR, and The Stranger—follow him on Twitter here. Intro image via. Album art and songs © Sub Pop and the respective artists.]

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Arguably the best-dressed band signed to Seattle record label Sub Pop, California rock group Dum Dum Girls plays a particular style of music that could be described as bubblegum deadpan. Their music follows the example set by The Ramones and The Jesus and Mary Chain, and perhaps above all, Richard Gottehrer—their producer, and the songwriter responsible for retro-rebellious classics like “My Boyfriend’s Back.” Below, the all-girl quartet’s frontwoman, Dee Dee, test-drives some Topshop and answers a few questions:

MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Is it true that Dum Dum Girls were partly named after the Vaselines song “Dum Dum”? Is that your favorite act signed to Sub Pop (besides your own)?

DEE DEE: “Yes, indeed true on both accounts—although Nirvana, Dead Moon, Beach House, Male Bonding, and David Cross are also favorites.”

MSD: What attracted you to working with producer Richard Gottehrer? Can you give an example of something he did in the studio that you felt changed your sound for the better?

DEE DEE: “I recorded the entire first album (I Will Be) myself, and it would’ve sounded like my first EPs and 7-inches without his initial ‘intervention.’ Aside from all the obvious reasons he’s a good match for me, I most value his lifelong enthusiasm. I don’t believe there’s a jaded bone in his body, which is saying a lot, considering how long and varied his career in the music business has been.”

MSD: How strict is the wearing-all-black part of being a member of the Dum Dum Girls? If someone wears blue jeans, do you kick them out?

DEE DEE: “It’s a non-issue at this point. And for my band, it doesn’t have to be anything more than an on-stage aesthetic. One hour of darkness.”

 

Nordstrom Men’s Shop was proud to co-sponsor Sub Pop’s 25th-anniversary Silver Jubilee celebration. Watch for more Sub Pop posts coming soon—and catch up on Silver Jubilee Street Style and our Q&A with King Tuff.

 
 

[Text and interview by Andrew Matson. Andrew writes about music and culture for publications including The Seattle Times, NPR, and The Stranger—follow him on Twitter here. Photos by Robin Stein—see more of Robin’s work here. Styling by Ashley Helvey and Margaret McMillan Jones. Videos © Sub Pop and Dum Dum Girls.]

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We’re still recovering from the awesomeness that was Sub Pop’s Silver Jubilee music festival last Saturday—and, we’ll continue to roll out exclusive interviews, photos and favorite Sub Pop playlists as we celebrate the legendary Seattle record label’s 25th birthday for the remainder of the month.

Today, we present for your enjoyment a throng of street-style photos, captured both in the wild of the crowds as well as in our own mobile photo set—sponsored in part by our friends at Topman and Topshop.

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L: Hair and makeup artist Kaija Mistral Towner.
R: Hi, How Are You.


Wilfred Comer, son of our Men’s Shop creative strategy director Andy Comer, rocking a perfect white OCBD.


L: Architect/sculptor Suzanne Stefan and Nordstrom stylist Ashley Helvey.
R: This show-goer looks a little like Sally Draper—in the best possible way.


Monster Children magazine editor Jason Crombie…and friends.


L: What would summer in Seattle be without Rainier Beer?
R: Hana Ryan Wilson of Seattle’s Craft & Culture…and photo bomber.


The crowd (and food-truck scene) in Seattle’s Georgetown ‘hood at sunset. That’s the former Rainier Beer brewery (now used as studio space) on the right.


L: An amazing day-glo x leopard look in the crowd.
R: Sailor stripes at Father John Misty.


Matt Korvette with stylists Margaret McMillan Jones and Danny Mankin.

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The candid photos from here up are by Men’s Shop creative director Strath Shepard—who bravely wandered the festival grounds pink and sunscreen-less, camera in-hand.

Below, our friend and extremely talented photographer Robin Stein ran an all-day photo booth where Nordstrom friends old and new alike could cruise through, don some Topman or Topshop gear if they so chose, and go blue-steel for an impromptu #streetstyle session:


Monster Children magazine editor Jason Crombie (L) with surfer Warren Smith.


Our senior women’s features writer, Mary O’Regan.
[Wearing Topshop: Sheer Panel Romper | Mixed Chain Collar Necklace]


L: The family that rocks together, rolls together. (Cool pink socks, young sir ma’am! Sorry for the oversight, kind reader.)
R: Sub Pop digital communications manager (and Bob Seger fan) Sam Sawyer, and Nordstrom social media manager (and taco connoisseur—proof here and here) Lily Wyckoff.


Matt Korvette of Sub Pop punk band Pissed Jeans.
[Wearing Topman ‘Darren’ Woven Shirt.]

 
L: Topshop Lace Trim Jumpsuit & Studded Clutch.
R: Topshop ‘Mini Roller’ Hat


Nordstrom stylist and site merchandiser Danny Mankin.
[Wearing Topman: ‘Duke’ Print Woven Shirt | ‘Palmer’ Trousers]


L: Photographer and Nordstrom trend forecaster Jessica Carter.
[Wearing Topshop Circle Cutout Crop Shirt]
R: Topshop High Neck Romper | ‘Wylde’ Faux Leather Biker Jacket | ‘Cord & Stone’ Necklace


Aaron Dunford from Nordstrom Men’s Marketing—looking kind of Trainspotting with the buzz cut, dark shades and Topman ‘Teddy’ Tip Polo.


L: Beards and boots—summer edition.
R: Sub Pop x Topshop x Tie Dye.
[Wearing Topshop ‘Wylde’ Faux Leather Biker Jacket, cape-style like a boss.]


Rolling Stones and Ray-Ban Clubmasters—can’t argue with the classics.


Your friendly neighborhood Men’s Shop Daily editor, Justin Abbott.
[Wearing Topman: ‘Kyle’ Denim Shirt | ‘Dollar Sign’ Print T-shirt | ‘Dexter’ Skinny Fit Stretch Jeans]


L: Topshop Body-Con Dress & ‘Stud & Tube’ Collar Necklace
R: Nordstrom social media pro Lara Bain. Aviator game strong.


Topshop hat: $24. Cat tattoo: $200. This photo: priceless.

 

SHOP: TOPMAN | TOPSHOP

 
 

[Candid photos by Strath Shepard. Portraits by Robin Stein. Men’s styling by Danny Mankin. Women’s styling by Ashley Helvey and Margaret Jones. Individuals pictured do not endorse Nordstrom.]

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Effectively A&R’d to the label by indie rock guitar god J Mascis, Vermont native King Tuff is so talented that Sub Pop is letting him do whatever he wants—and right now, that’s putting out zippy albums like King Tuff and performing as a power trio. He sings in a high-pitched voice with a perfect falsetto, and plays lead guitar like a beast. He didn’t come here to bore you. It’s always straight to the groove, the hook, and then the next song.

MEN’S SHOP DAILY: When did you feel like you ‘got’ what Sub Pop was about?
KING TUFF:
“They were the first label that talked to me, and I didn’t even really think about it, it was no question. They had such a good vibe, everyone I talked to. They seemed really genuine, like they weren’t trying to make money off me. They just seemed like fans. Like people I would actually hang out with, as opposed to some weird record executive or something.”

MSD: Word has it that your writing process consists of months of anguished unproductivity, then a flurry of songs. Which phase are you in now?
KING TUFF: “I’m definitely in anguish right now. I’ve been on tour for the past couple years. At this point, I have to learn how to do it again. I’ve totally forgotten what it’s like to even have time to create. So I have to learn how to do it again. Or learn a new way. But I’m excited to do it again. That’s where the real passion is, writing songs and making recordings. It’s funny, though, it is anguish. But I know I can do it again.”

MSDYour songs are so catchy, you could ghostwrite for a mainstream pop band. Have you ever written a song someone else has performed?
KING TUFF:
“I haven’t done that yet, but it’s definitely something I want to try to do. Because I write a lot of songs where I’m like, well, this doesn’t sound like me—but it does sound like Taylor Swift. And I think that would be awesome if I could write a song for someone like that, or to hear someone else’s interpretation of a song that I wrote for that purpose. Because I sometimes write songs that I don’t think I can pull off. They’re not in my kind of singing style, or something. I think when I’m too fat to move, I’ll start doing that.”

MSD: Are your parents musical?
KING TUFF: “My dad plays guitar very privately. He’s the reason I play guitar. He’s a huge music fan and he’s into the same stuff I’m into. I grew up with his music collection of old psych records and stuff. They are way cool.”

MSD: Everybody says that Sub Pop is so artist-friendly. What does that mean, that they don’t tell you what to do…ever?
KING TUFF:
“They’ve never been like, you have to put out an album in a month. They’ve never given me a deadline. And sometimes I need a deadline, because I’m a major procrastinator since high school. But the fact that I can be in control of the album artwork, down to the finish of the paper, that’s pretty artist-friendly. Like No Age, their new record, they’re manufacturing the first press by themselves. [Ed. note: That means No Age requested they be allowed to hand-assemble their record in order to stay true to their DIY ethic.] There’s not many labels that would do that. I feel like I could ask them for advice—ask them anything.”

 

Nordstrom Men’s Shop was proud to co-sponsor Sub Pop’s 25th-anniversary Silver Jubilee celebration. Watch for more interviews coming soon—and catch up with our Silver Jubilee recap and Sub Pop Mega Mart visit.

 
 

[Text and interview by Andrew Matson. Andrew writes about music and culture for publications including The Seattle Times, NPR, and The Stranger. Follow Andrew on Twitter here. Photos by Robin Stein—see more of Robin’s work here. Videos © Sub Pop and King Tuff.]

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Nordstrom Men’s Shop was proud to be part of our hometown’s history on Saturday, when we had the chance to co-sponsor Sub Pop’s Silver Jubilee, a 25th-anniversary celebration of the legendary Seattle record label. With the motto “Going out of business since 1988,” Sub Pop has found success and made history by following their collective gut instinct. It’s a way of doing things that we greatly admire—and think our founder John W. Nordstrom would have appreciated, too, when he set up shop in Seattle back in 1901.

Below, check out some crowd-sourced proof that it all really happened, via Instagram—and read an account of the day’s events by Seattle-based music writer Andrew Matson.


[Instagram photos: L by @babydeerie, R by @veronicanett.
Intro image by @_mayyyc.]

For Sub Pop Records’ massive 25th-anniversary Silver Jubilee—co-sponsored by Nordstrom Men’s Shop—the legendary Seattle independent music label shut down the Georgetown neighborhood of their home city, and about 20,000 people (my guess) came to give praises to Ra, the Sun God. It was hot as hell and we need that around here. (It rains a lot, not sure if you’ve heard.) We also raised an IPA to the label that brought us Nirvana.

From the looks on faces, Seattle loved it. Pounding music from three stages, ricocheting around a closed-off Airport Way, Georgetown’s main drag. It hurt in a good way.


[Instagram photos: L by @ylanag, R by @laurakstyle.]

Old-schoolers (and their kids) flocked to Mudhoney, who yelled lyrics about supporting independently owned businesses. Built to Spill soloed majestically, and a single dream was woven together between the Jubilee-goers, who experienced what only Doug Martsch can do with an electric guitar. Soundgarden did not perform—despite rampant rumors on Twitter that the Seattle icons, one of Sub Pop’s very first acts circa 1987, would play a secret late-night set.

Sub Pop president Jonathan Poneman and vice president Megan Jasper strolled the concrete like royalty. Founder Bruce Pavitt was everywhere, probably struggling to connect the day’s packed streets and epic performances to his humble Subterranean Pop fanzine from Olympia, Washington, back in the ‘80s.


[Instagram photos: L by @timbasaraba, R by @nclrmrz.]

It’s amazing what Sub Pop has done: Put its black-and-white stamp on grunge, on indie rock, and on alternative comedy (there was a Jubilee comedy showcase Friday at Seattle’s Moore Theatre, headlined by Eugene Mirman). None of that existed in a codified way before Sub Pop. But then again, some of the major businesses in Seattle (Starbucks, Microsoft, REI) started in people’s garages as a co-op, or in home offices as a start-up, addressing specific needs—and grew to be cultural icons. Maybe serving micro-communities is just the model here in the Pacific Northwest…and sometimes lightning strikes.


[Instagram photos: L by @scotteverett, R by @sarandipity2.]

So, what’s the next move for Sub Pop? What’s the next wave of music? There’s been no clear era-definition since the tail end of indie rock, with The Shins and Band of Horses. A handful of relatively newly-signed acts showed the way forward at the Jubilee. By my estimation, the future of Sub Pop sounds like:


[Instagram photos: L by @zlog, R by @sub_pop.
Click left image for a short video clip.]

Shabazz Palaces (L), the mbira-featuring Seattle hip-hop duo. They shared peeks at their upcoming album, and the new music was uptempo and dance-y. Their old music was ghostly and dirge-like. The balance was spiritual, microphone short-outs and all.

King Tuff (R), the real-deal Holyfield on electric lead guitar, possible savior of American rock. Tuff zoomed from one gem to the next, giving his set a mixtape-like feel. There was some Jeff Spicoli in there, a little Big Star, a sprinkling of Ramones. Perfect.


[Instagram photos: L by @sub_pop, R by @ponyboat.
Click right image for a short video clip.]

clipping. (L), a Los Angeles trio who makes ‘hip-hop’ in the most Throbbing Gristle sense of the word. Their emcee yelled about poverty and family drama. I realized in the moment that I feel a similar way about clipping. as I do about the TV show Homeland. I’m into it, but man, it’s tense.

Father John Misty (R), whose stage sound was mixed better than everyone else’s. His jam “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” might just be eternal. It sounded amazing in the environment, singer Josh Tillman’s low tenor voice ringing through the industrial alleys of G-Town.

Hausu, four screaming, smartypants Reed College students, signed to Sub Pop’s tiny affiliate Hardly Art. They took a break to shout-out the Sub Pop band Screaming Trees, an influence. Singer Ben Funkhouser said he learned about the northwest band through the non-Sub Pop compilation album, Wild and Wooly: The Northwest Rock Collection.


[Instagram photos: L by @bloodyamateur, R by @henritmodefesta.
Click right image for a short video clip.]

On that note—young Pacific Northwest rockers digging the gnarly art of their forebears—I left Georgetown. It felt like the circle of life was complete, the next phase of Sub Pop coalescing between my ringing ears.

 

Stay tuned for much more Sub Pop Silver Jubilee content—
from band interviews to street style—in the days to come.

 
 

[Main text by Andrew Matson. Andrew writes about music and culture for publications including The Seattle Times, NPR, and The Stranger. Follow Andrew on Twitter here.]

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Okay, the pic above is a re-gram from our friends at @Sub_Pop—the top of the Space Needle isn’t very big, so for one of our Nordstrom peeps to get up there last night, a member of Mudhoney was going to have to leave. Which just wouldn’t do.

However, our entire Nordstrom Men’s Shop crew will be on the ground TOMORROW for Sub Pop’s Silver Jubilee—a free music festival in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, celebrating 25 years of subterranean sounds from our hometown’s most iconic record label. So, you can expect plenty of live updates throughout the day. Follow @NordstromMen on Instagram for real-time glimpses of Built to Spill, Mudhoney (yes, again), J Mascis, METZ, Father John Misty, Shabazz Palaces and more. Visit Sub Pop’s blog for the full lineup.

Our friends across the pond at Topman were kind enough to provide us with some fest-ready clothes, so you might see a street-style snap or two, as well. Speaking of Topman—in collaborating with them over the past year, we’ve noticed England and Seattle have a lot in common. We both get our fair share of rain (and kind of like it). We both have cool accents (not really). And we both birth some killer bands. So we were delighted (but perhaps not surprised) when their fantastic blog team published Topman’s top-five Sub Pop albums the other day. Check them out, from Nirvana to Beach House, here.

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Kicking off this weekend’s Sub Pop Silver Jubilee festivities with a maneuver usually reserved for stunt men and superheroes, grunge forefathers Mudhoney will be performing live on top of Seattle’s Space Needle this evening, at 5:00pm Pacific time.

Seattle’s public and extremely good radio station KEXP will be live-broadcasting the death-defying musical shenanigans—as well as airing live interviews with legendary Sub Pop personnel, opening-act performances from atop the Needle, and deep cuts from Sub Pop’s vast archive, for the five hours leading up to the headlining set. Listen from anywhere in the world at KEXP.org—and CLICK BELOW to watch Mudhoney’s live performance [the show starts at about 21:00]:

Until tonight at 5:00, here are a couple Mudhoney classics to whet your appetite:

 

Update: In case you missed the KEXP pre-show this afternoon, featuring on-air interviews (producer Jack Endino, music photographer Charles Peterson, Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt) and live performances (Sera Cahoone, Grant Olsen, J. Mascis), you can still watch it here.

 

[Intro image courtesy of @Sub_Pop on Instagram.]

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Back in a more rugged Seattle in 1993, Sub Pop Records had a Mega Mart. It was located on 2nd Avenue in the Belltown neighborhood, which is a place where you see a lot of folks staying up all night or sleeping outside, and you get propositioned for a cigarette even if you are clearly not smoking.

The Mega Mart was a physical retail space that sold the kinds of things labels now sell on their websites. It was sarcastically named. It was a shoebox. On a similar tip, the same year, Southern California punk label SST opened their very small “Superstore.” Looking back, these names were kind of middle fingers to the Virgin Megastore. Like Mudhoney sings: “I like it small!”

The original Mega Mart ran until 2000. By the end of its life, it had migrated to the touristy but still classic and awesome Pike Place Market, where they throw the fish. It was never a fantastic moneymaker.

Steady vibes emanate from the new, 2013 version of the Mega Mart in Seattle’s brick/concrete Georgetown neighborhood, the last remaining place where artists can live cheaply. The new Mega Mart is a pop-up shop, only open in the weeks before and during the 25-year Sub Pop Silver Jubilee, Saturday, July 13. Shopkeep Tim Hayes is there. He’s chilling, playing drone rock by the band Earth, one of the acts on Sub Pop whose music has aged particularly well. He can talk to you about records if you want, or not. You are free to browse.

The new Mega Mart feels like it should be permanent. Maybe a satellite wing of the conjoined Fantagraphics Books and Georgetown Records, across the street. Hey, while we’re wishing, maybe we could all be communists! Then money wouldn’t matter!

In this sentimental mood, we pass the mic to Kerri Harrop, pioneering employee of the Mega Mart, currently in charge of making money at Seattle’s crucial radio station KEXP. She always has a story to tell:

Snapshots
“It was before cell-phone cameras, and I don’t have any personal photos from that time at all. I have maybe a few Polaroids, buried. I know Sub Pop doesn’t have any good pictures of the Mega Mart itself. But we did have a Polaroid camera there, and when people would come and visit, we’d take their picture. I took so many of them. They’re all framed together in the Sub Pop offices now. It’s cool to see Krist Novoselic…with hair! Everyone looks super young. Obviously. It was 20 years ago.

“Ones that are memorable to me: John Doe from X—which if you told me when I was a 16-year-old girl that I’d be working at a record store and John Doe would walk in, I’d’ve been like ‘no f—ing way’ because I loved X, so much. And he totally ripped his shirt off! I wasn’t expecting that. Ripped it open, I should say. He was bare-chested in his photo.

“The Soundgarden one stands out because they were doing promo for Superunknown at the time, and at the Sub Pop office, that record was getting non-stop play. They were huge and about to get huger. They came in with an MTV crew, and it was just an exciting time.

Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick came by, and I was like holy sh–. Jonathan [Poneman] was a huge Cheap Trick fan. So I hit him up, and let him know. And I’m chatting with Bun E., and he’s talking about all these records on the wall, saying he was playing a show that night at Under the Rail. Three significant things happened because of this. He put me on the list for the show, plus one, which totally ruled. Second thing is I played him Soundgarden, which he had never heard before, and he loved it. And third, Sub Pop got to do a 7” with Cheap Trick.

“I worked there from opening day in ’93 for a year and a half, and then moved across the street and worked at Sub Pop for around four more years. The beauty of Sub Pop was and is that they promote from within. It was like going to indie rock college. I worked in the sales department, then band merchandise, R&D, international product development…”

Energy
“The beauty of the store was it was across the street from [correction] next door to the Moore Hotel, which was in a lot of ways a flop house. Crazy sh– would happen all the time. And the Mega Mart became the water cooler. Jonathan [Poneman] would always come over, and talk about whatever story happened that day. It was tiny. Hence the name Mega Mart. We tried to do in-store concerts, and we did the Spinanes, and the store was so packed that someone fainted. I was like, ‘wow, this rules!’

“I always remember Bruce [Pavitt] saying his concept for the Mega Mart was for it to be a Christian Science Reading Room. We got so many tourists. The label was huge, Nirvana was huge. So, you couldn’t get access to the label, but you could get into the store. There were so many Japanese tourists. Always something charming about these young, cool Japanese kids who would travel all this distance to show up, and ask a million questions, because they loved Seattle bands.

“The tourists that came after Kurt died, that was kind of gruesome. Even more so for people who were connected to the fabric of Nirvana.

“Opening day of the store we were giving away copies of Nirvana’s Bleach. It was bonkers. It was such a different time in Seattle. You used to be able to walk down 2nd Avenue and be able to see the water on every block. Now there are high rises blocking the view of the ocean. You know you’re old when you start missing parking lots.”

 

[Below, watch Sub Pop’s Lacey Swain eat a sandwich—and discuss the finer points
of the new Mega Mart and its retrospective art installation, along with
Sub Pop art directors Jeff Kleinsmith and Sasha Barr]:

 

The current incarnation of the Sub Pop Mega Mart is open
for a limited time at 6003 12th Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98108.

Not in Seattle? Shop Sub Pop merch the old-fashioned way: online.

 
 

[Text and interview by Andrew Matson. Andrew writes about music and culture for publications including The Seattle Times, NPR, and The Stranger. Follow Andrew on Twitter here. Photos by Robin Stein—see more of Robin’s work here. Vintage Mega Mart ad courtesy of Sub Pop’s official Tumblr page. Video courtesy of Sub Pop’s Youtube page.]

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