October 23rd, 2011
Tonight I went to Neumos a music venue in Capitol Hill, Seattle to see the alternative rock band Mudhoney. Formed here in Seattle in 1988, their “dirty” sound (combining rock and punk) was a heavy influence on the distorted sound of Grunge that was to follow, and they inspired bands such as Nirvana.
The band lineup has remained essentially the same, with only a change in bass player in 2000. Tonight they played a tight and energetic set to a passionate crowd, opening early with their biggest song Touch Me I’m Sick. This was the first time I had ever seen them play live and they did not disappoint.
Originally this gig was meant to be with another well-known Seattle band the Fastbacks (known for their early pop punk sound), but for what ever reason they could not play, so I assumed Mudhoney would headline the other 3 acts that played. This didn’t happen, they came on third and some other band headlined! No idea who they were as I left as soon as Mudhoney finished playing!
Afterwards, as I was standing outside the venue with some other punters I noticed Mudhoney band members loading their equipment into their van. This got me thinking about the fickleness of fame and the music business.
Here is a band that heavily influenced the legendary Grunge music scene in the Pacific Northwest (some might even argue that they started it), they have toured all over the world, played big festivals, recently supported Pearl Jam on their 20th anniversary tour, released numerous albums, have a loyal cult like following, but never really had any major commercial success. Now here they are playing in a relatively small venue, not headlining and loading their own vehicle with the help of one roadie/guitar tech!
Mudhoney kind of remind me of one of my favourite metal bands Anvil (from Canada). In their case they influenced major thrash metal bands like Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax in the early 1980’s, had some fame, then disappeared for 25 years (even so they stuck it out and kept making albums throughout that period), only coming back into the world spotlight in the past couple of years due to an excellent documentary on their “failed” career Anvil! The Story Of Anvil. Now they are regularly touring the world and experiencing some well overdue success, yet they will still play small venues for the fans.
But there was one thing I noticed with both bands. When they play music they are having fun, smiling and joking with each other. Then when I saw Mudhoney outside they were the same, smiling and joking. Anvil are also much the same and they like to mingle with the crowd, chat to their fans, sign autographs, pose in photos etc.
Compare this to the band I discussed in my previous post Guns N’ Roses who had mega fame, huge success, played to massive stadium crowds, had an entourage etc. They literally had it all, but along with all that success came the bloated excess of drugs, alcohol and eventual breakup of the original band (Guns N’ Roses still tour but only singer Axl Rose remains from the original lineup). Who knows, in the end maybe bands like Mudhoney are much better off just the way they are?