Having spent my formative years, growing up in the 90’s, I’ve always felt my generation was somewhat skipped over when it came to culturally defining moments. Sure we witnessed many notable, global events, but when it came to a statement or generationally demarcating movement, we seemed to fall short. We existed between the calamities of the Bush presidencies, and lived through a decade of relative peace and economic stability. Capitalist commercialism seemed to be figuring out how to reach every corner of the alternative culture, and we struggled against that tide.
We were also a generation that had to navigate through some pretty horrendous fads, and quite possibly the shallowest pool of pop music talent that has yet existed during a decade length span. Along came the grunge revolution which at the time for those of us too young to understand the influences, seemed cool, different perhaps, but the voices that spoke loudest to me and my group of friends weren’t coming through the radio, or television and we liked it that way.
I and my friends, trended toward the punk and more aggressive styles of rebellious music, choosing to see the burgeoning scene being somewhat manufactured by a mechanism that brought us the various fads before it. The mechanism that just so happened to see commercial value in what a scene had started to grow into. While much of what built the grunge scene was coming from a place familiar to us, what it quickly became was nothing more than the same, foreign land we had no desire to visit. I mean no disrespect as there were certainly some curiosity purchases at the Sam Goody on my part, and I definitely succumbed to the MTV hype around whomever happened to be in Reality Bites or Singles, but it never quite pulled me away from the anti-establishment prose that spoke to me at that time in my life through less recognized music.
What many of my schoolmates and generational brethren didn’t quite see, was the scene behind the scene in the Pacific Northwest that largely shaped what became the grunge movement. Bands like Poison Idea, The Fastbacks, The Wipers along with many others, helped create a musical foundation from which other bands used as a stepping stone to mold and vault the NW music scene into pop culture and onto televisions and movie scores across the globe. While we started to see Nirvana and Pearl Jam tee shirts en masse through the halls of our high school, my friends and I were listening to The Gits, Sicko, The Descendents, NOFX and Propaghandi and it seemed to more properly parallel our segregated trajectory through teenage life. Outsiders, but intentionally so.
Many bands bled through our circles at that time. We didn’t have facebook or pitchfork to introduce and connect us to new music. We had MTV which for us, provided us with a list of music to not listen to (aside perhaps, from 120 minutes or Yo MTV Raps on occasion) and rags like Maximumrockandroll which alerted us to tours or insight through band interviews and record reviews. We all shared music as we stumbled across it. We’d drive into Portland to see any band we could at La Luna, Suburbia or in someone’s basement. As our circles grew, we locked onto any local northwest band we could find, even starting our own, mostly out of boredom. Many great bands graced the PNW musical landscape during that time. One of those bands was BUM.
BUM came onto the scene in the early 90’s. Based in Victoria, BC, their sound, when layered into the music of the time in the PNW, stood apart from the noisy, emotionally melancholy garage rock that was synonymous with what came to be recognized as the Seattle grunge scene. Cleaner, faster and more melodic, they travelled a different path. A path that we wanted to wander along.
Fast forward a couple decades. My brother, our good friend and bandmate Zach and I drove up to Seattle to visit KEXP (visit them HERE) for our friend West’s radio show last month where he had invited BUM to play live on air to promote a show they were playing that evening. After a 20 year hiatus, Bum had recently begun to play together again, and it was glorious...
Bum, live at KEXP in studio, on Sonic Reducer
We were lucky enough to be standing around in the sound booth, watching through a window, listening over the speakers run through the PA, and it was awesome.
There’s something truly special about shared experience, no matter how insignificant your personal role may be in the grand scheme. As a fan, we look to musicians as idols, as inspiration, as a voice to express what we are perhaps incapable of to the same effect, and sometimes as a soundtrack to events throughout our lives. When being a fan is met with friendly reception, it turns it into something different, something far more transformative.
Photo © Wendy Nesbitt (see more from Wendy HERE)
For a night, we got to party along with folks who helped shape the scene that we identified with, and much of what we’ve tried to emulate in our own artistic output since. A band that has influenced many bands since, bands I’m sure many of us listen to now. We spent the night yelling and dancing to music that brought us back to a place that we’d put behind us. A time and place that while fond, has since evaporated into managing a day’s required tasks, responsibilities for ourselves and our families, and for that one night, all of our time spent on the outside looking in, paid off.
Photo © Wendy Nesbitt (see more from Wendy HERE)
Thank you to BUM for getting back together. Thank you to Wendy Nesbitt for sharing your awesome photography, and thank you for the read.
Find BUM HERE and follow them on FB HERE. Listen, enjoy and if you’re anywhere near the Pacific Northwest keep an eye out for upcoming shows in Victoria on June 12th and Nanaimo on June 13th. Maybe we’ll see you there.
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Cheers and happy shooting,
Wow Tyson, what a great write-up on a non-photography subject on a photo blog. Well done, even though I’m (as you know) from a much earlier generation, and not a fan of, uh, certain genres, but I am continually finding new artists that somehow I was previously ignorant of. Thing is, those artists are sometimes from quite a ways back, i.e. BB King (God rest his soul), Stevie Ray Vaughn (him too), and others. Amazingly, and I mean amazingly, Mick Jagger is still kicking! My sort of latest discoveries involve Warren Haynes along with Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks (Rolling Stone rated him one of the top 100 guitar players, and I never heard of him until fairly recently). So now I’m listening to Joe Bonamasso (check out his song “Stop”, played at Royal Albert Hall in London, please use headphones) but I’m almost embarrassed to say that it’s the brass (one sax, one trumpet, and one trombone as far as I can tell) that make this song so great. Ok, his guitar playing ain’t so bad either. I suppose this little diatribe reveals that my preferred genre is blues (I like jazz too), and if that makes me a fuddy duddy, who cares? Keep it up. I once told some young feller who was interested in what I do for a living to forget all that, the only thing that matters is art and music. I hope he was listening. Thanks again.
Thanks Dan. I’m always amazed at how much good music is out there once you start digging around.
Be proud in your fuddy duddiness 🙂