Monday, August 3, 2009

The Mysteries of the Pacific Northwest Uncovered

The Northwest remains shrouded in mystery, even after seeing it all first hand. There are two mysteries that did slightly clear themselves up. They both hang on the hinges that are Stone Gossard.

The first one is Pearl Jam's new single and faded grungeness

2001 marked the coming out of Pearl Jelly (the smoother, more polished, less grunge Pearl Jam). Stone decided to release a solo album. Call me crazy but I don't think an upright bass and a Kenny G stand in count as positive points on a grungeness scorecard. I don't think its gotten much better. Now, the only scent of grunge on him comes in the form of some faux fraying on his feet. Target actually was the most logical step in this progression, but to everyone who missed out one Stone's solo album (which was pretty much the entire world) it seems like a complete 180. Time to party like its 1999 in 2009.

The second mystery is Shawn Smith

Here is a guy that was at the heart of the biggest music movement in the 1990's. Stone split time between Pearl Jam and Shawn's band Brad. He was the anchor of recently reunited Satchel. He was a part of Andy Wood's Mother Love Bone. He had his hands in as many things as Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. He could do no wrong. I won't speculate as to how or why he fell off the radar because I wasn't there. But I will say where he is now. He is still writing as good of songs as ever but is obviously no longer at the forefront. But he is still the guy the artists look up to. I have always been intrigued by the artists that my favorite artists look up to. Dylan loved Woody Guthrie. He admired Hank Williams. The Beatles and Brian Wilson had a mutual admiration. In fact, Paul McCartney's favorite song is "God Only Knows" off of Pet Sounds. Sometimes the artists that get admired have a lot of commercial success. More often that not however, they get surpassed by the admirer and end up disappearing from the public eye. This is the city where Shawn Smith lives. He wasn't so lucky as to pass away at a young age and shroud him in mystique. Instead he is still playing to tiny, star studded crowds, continuing to be the guy that the other artists look up to. Its not the most glorious place to be, but it is perhaps the most respected. If you go to one of his shows you are likely to see Stone there being the first one to clap after every song.

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