Today: The Changing Dynamic of the Seattle Scene

The emergence of "real" bands also has changed the dynamics of the student rock 'n' roller. With so many successful bands in the Northwest in the past decade, more aspiring rockers think of music as an actual career. A decade ago, most of the Seattle scene bands all started off thinking they were going to have day jobs instead of music careers--and education at universities played a role in that. Today, when superstardom seems ordinary, fewer bands in the area seem to have ties to the University because many young musicians expect (sometimes wrongly) that they will be able to make a living from playing music.

Screaming Trees includes (from left) Gary Lee Conner, guitar; former UW student Barrett Martin, drums; Mark Lanegan, vocals; and Van Conner, bass. Photo by Michael Lane, courtesy of Epic Records.

Still, as rock 'n' roll becomes a real career path, some successful musicians are now starting to think about graduate school. Dave Dederer of The Presidents of the United States went to grad school at the UW, one of the few rockers with such lofty credentials. And drummer Barrett Martin-- who has played with some of the biggest groups in the region including Mad Season, Screaming Trees and Skinyard--now says he'd like to go back to the UW for postgraduate study when his music career slows down.

"I'd love to have the time to study anthropology, or sociology, and it seems like it would be a great luxury to have the time spend your life working in that," he says. Could Eddie Vedder be next, perhaps enrolling to study political science to better handle his fight with Ticketmaster?

The Presidents of the United States of America include (from left) former UW grad student Dave Dederder, Jason Finn and Chris Ballew. Photo by Karen Mason, courtesy of Columbia Records.
The bands that have found the greatest success from the Northwest in the past couple of years no longer reflect such a singular sensibility as grunge, so even though the scene continues, it's getting less national press. Bands like Foo Fighters, The Presidents of the United States of America, and Everclear represent the second wave of the Northwest scene and they all were played on commercial radio before KCMU.

Yet as time marches on, the history books remind us of a time when you could see Nirvana at the HUB for a buck, when Soundgarden was playing just up the street at the Rainbow Tavern, and when KCMU was the only station worth punching in on your car radio. It was a era of innocence when the measure of success was determined by playing a show at the Scoundrel's Lair (now a pizza place, across from the Red Robin on Eastlake, and a longtime UW hangout) to 20 of your friends and fellow students.

"I remember back when Bruce Pavitt was doing his Sub Pop radio show for KCMU," recalls Mike Fuller. "I followed one of his shifts once and when I went in there he was asleep. The record that he'd been playing was stuck with the needle in the center groove and it was going `kachung, kachung.' Bruce was slumped over the control panel snoring. I don't know how long it had been that way but it could have been hours. And the funny thing was, not a single person had called up the station to complain." *

Author Charles R. Cross, '81, was editor of The Daily in 1979. Since 1985 he has been editor of The Rocket, the Northwest's rock magazine. His work has also appeared in national publications including Rolling Stone.

Best of the Northwest: Cross's Fantasy Band of UW Alumni and Former Students
Return to the Beginning of "Schoolhouse Rock"
Editor's Column on UW Rock and Roll
Letters to the Editor About "Schoolhouse Rock"

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