“Music sounds better when you’re young and impressionable.” courtesy of Bruce Pavitt
Bruce Pavitt may be 23 years removed from his post as co-owner of Sub Pop Records, but he hasn’t given up being a taste-maker—nor a custodian for Northwest music history. To commemorate his 40 years of advocacy for quality music as a critic, label boss, and disc jockey, Pavitt will be DJing an event called Sub Popular: 50 Years of Indie and Alternative Music at McMenamins Elks Temple’s Spanish Ballroom in Tacoma on September 11 (it’s free and all ages).
“I will be using this opportunity to especially emphasize indie classics from the Northwest, and to put them in historical context,” Pavitt said in an email interview. “Hopefully, all of the tracks played will display some degree of spirit and style. Sample track: ‘Dashboard’ by Modest Mouse.”
Thankfully, this event won’t be a one-off: Pavitt asked the Spanish Ballroom for a monthly DJ night and they ended up giving him the second Wednesday. “In addition to playing loud music in a fancy hotel, I will also be executing some impromptu interviews with local visionaries/scenesters,” Pavitt says. “On September 11, I’ll be checking in with [K Records founder] Calvin Johnson and [Stranger Genius] Steve Fisk.”
I wonder if Pavitt thinks music was better overall when he was first starting to DJ at Olympia radio station KAOS, launching his Subterranean Pop zine, and working at Sub Pop than it is now. “Yes, yes, yes. Generally speaking, music sounds better when you’re young and impressionable.
“That said, the roster of bands from the late ’70s/early ’80s was particularly dynamic, with more stylistic diversity than what you will hear on current college/community radio. Examples: Talking Heads, Ramones, Television, the Clash, Public Image Limited, Wire, Young Marble Giants, the Fall, the Slits, Joy Division, Gang of Four, B-52s, the Cramps, Pylon, the Feelies, X, the Dead Kennedys, the Wipers, Echo & the Bunnymen, XTC, Elvis Costello, X-Ray Spex, A Certain Ratio, the Normal, Cabaret Voltaire, the Cure, the Monochrome Set, Tuxedomoon, Half Japanese, Stiff Little Fingers, Delta 5, Suicide, Patti Smith Group, the Voidoids, ESG, Liquid Liquid, the Residents, the Gun Club, Blurt, Devo, Pere Ubu, the Blackouts, Alternative TV, the Pop Group, and Killing Joke. The Sub Pop/Seattle thing is also worthy of review and posterity.”