Summer and music go together like peanut butter and jelly, or ice cream and chocolate sauce, or the Fun Forest and cotton candy. It's tough to choose just one summer memory. I'm celebrating my 20th high-school reunion this year, so apropos, let's close our eyes and drift back to the steamy summer of '82.
Then, as now, there were no all-ages rock 'n' roll venues to speak of. Hearing live music as a minor was strictly catch as catch can. Those who were around back then will remember that a lot of the action was at a few small, funky downtown galleries, notably Roscoe Louie.
If I remember correctly, Roscoe Louie was on Yesler (or was it Washington?), adjacent to the alley that runs between First Avenue and Western Avenue. The alley, of course, was convenient for any underage drinking or other unsavory activities one might want to engage in. Unfortunately, these sorts of venues are now forever a thing of the past, driven out of downtown by the real-estate value explosion of the late '80s and early '90s.
But back then, it was different. Rent a space, hang out a shingle that says "gallery," and you're ready to go: paintings, parties, punk rock — whatever you want.
The magical summer night in question featured the Fastbacks and the Living. I wanted to see the Fastbacks because I liked the name — I mean, what's cooler than a fastback muscle car? The band had to be cool, too, and they were kids my age who had gone to Nathan Hale. And the bassist in the Living, Todd Fleischmann, was an acquaintance (he went out with a friend's sister), so I would know at least one person there, which was important. This was a tight-knit little scene, very close.
I would be lying if I didn't say it was the GREATEST ROCK SHOW OF ALL TIME. Like my peers, I had been to lots of big concerts at the Seattle Center or Kingdome: Elton John in '75, Wings in '76, Bad Company in '77, Aerosmith in '78, Ted Nugent and Rush in '79, and so on. And we saw touring punk-rock bands, like the Dickies and the Police and the Ramones and the Dead Kennedys, at the Showbox or Paramount or HUB Ballroom. But this was a whole new level of excitement. I mean, these were kids from my neighborhood, my age, playing loud and fast and pretty damn good, too.
They were actual rockers, which meant I could be one, too. The Living opened with Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz," one of the coolest songs ever, and they even did the little intro rap ("Ready, Todd; alright, Duff; OK, fellas, let's go!"). And my friend Ben and I and the 30 other people at the show were RIGHT THERE, slam dancing and bumping into the band and sweating. There was no stage, no differentiation between the band and the crowd. It was just one big steamy ball of energy.
The Fastbacks kicked it right over the top. The band's leader, Kurt Bloch, came out caked head to toe in some sort of white powder, wearing only a diaper. Kim and Lulu were the two cutest, coolest girls I'd ever seen in my life, Lulu all spunky energy and Kim just as badass as anyone ever to set foot on a stage. Richard Stuverud pounded the skins in a whirl of sticks, arms and hair, a latter-day Keith Moon. The songs were catchy and melodic.
I was ecstatic — I hadn't known it when I walked in that night, but this was the music I had been wanting to hear, to see, to touch. It was as if you walked into Baskin and Robbins and they now had 32 flavors instead of just 31, and that new, extra flavor was the greatest thing you'd ever tasted in your life.
After the show, Ben and I and a few others were hanging out in front of the gallery, winding down in a sort of post-orgasmic daze. A large group of frat-boy types around the corner at Doc Maynard's sniffed us out and started advancing down the street, taunting us with crude locker-room epithets. I was scared. I mean, there were at least 20 of these huge drunk guys, and our ragtag little group would be no match. I was looking to run down the alley.
And then Todd Fleischmann just snapped. Todd was a pretty strong guy and into body building and martial arts and just plain crazy to boot, and he took off up the street with his shirt off, screaming at the top of his lungs. He didn't utter a word, just roared like a lion. The frat boys dispersed, post haste. Score one for the good guys.
Dave Dederer is writing a book about his experiences in The Presidents of the United States of America and also doing public-relations consulting.