Half a Century of Northwest Rock: The Sonics and Mudhoney
Video of The Sonics performing “Cinderella” posted on YouTube by cawfitawk.
What kind of music does a band fronted by a nearly 70-year-old man who’s had a heart transplant play? If the band happens to be legendary Tacoma rockers The Sonics, the answer is “garage rock masterpieces at earsplitting volume.” Actively performing for the first time since 1968, the band headlined at The Showbox on February 2. Opening act Mudhoney are veteran enough that they could be listed as the elder statesmen on a different bill but still deliver the high-decibel goods. The Sonics acknowledged the direct connection between their pioneering ‘60’s garage punk and Mudhoney, whose singer, Mark Arm, may or may not have labeled the Seattle sound as “grunge” in the late ‘80’s by calling the younger act “the greatest band in the world.”
The Sonics are a key touchstone in the history of the Northwest’s loudest contribution to world culture. If you knew what you were looking for on the stage Saturday night, you could almost see lines on the Seattle Band Map reaching out through time and space, connecting everyone at The Showbox to the lost music venue immortalized in Jimi Hendrix’s “Spanish Castle Magic.” But don’t think of The Sonics as a nostalgia act. They still play uncompromising rock ‘n’ roll the same way they did in their youth. The wild power of their songs may have limited their radio play in 1965, but today songs such as “Strychnine,” “Psycho” and “The Witch” from the album Here Are The Sonics sound amazingly current and of a piece with the same northwest tradition as Mudhoney’s half-joking, half-serious first single, “Touch Me, I’m Sick.”
Right now, in some garage someplace, it’s a certainty that some new band is forming that will carry this particularly Northwest strain of music forward for another generation to reveal in the ear-ringing glory of distorted guitars, driving drums and masterful screaming.