Was Seattle Bigger than Hype?

Was Seattle Bigger than Hype?

In crafting a documentary dealing with the rise and subsequent falling away of the Seattle thing, it would have been pretty easy for Doug Pray, the film’s director, to come off like an exploitative Hollywood type. And for that reason, it’s surprising to see some really candid interviews with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil. But in wading through some of the live footage captured for inclusion in Hype!, it makes sense that some of the scene’s biggest names were all calm and thoughtful when having the camera turned on them.

Seattle, like any major city, by the nineties already counted three decades of rock and roll history. So, folks engaged with the local scene already figured the media blitz as a mindless rush towards what was new. No journalist then currently working on stories related to the music sought out the Wailers or the Sonics, each group easily figuring as the earliest proponents of what would occur some decade’s earlier.

What Pray and the film’s producer, Steven Helvey, did well was to at least work back towards the tail end of the seventies and include some of the punkier groups then strutting around town. There’s a decent amount of screen time given over to the Fastbacks – a pop punk band before the term really existed – on stage as well as on the ole interview couch.

Also included was the Mono Men, a more garage oriented band than anything national press ever included in the Seattle debacle. But the inclusion of such an ensemble points to Hype!’s intent to document stuff that was still in town and people who positively contributed to the culture shift all this music resulted in.

There’s a bit of tongue and cheek stuff included from Sub Pop’s two founders – Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt. And while that was a forgone conclusion, there’s no real discussion of the record the Sub Pop dudes were associated with for a time. But in talking about marketing, both Poneman and Pavitt talked about conceiving a local sound, picking bands that already fit into that and exploiting the semi-bucolic surroundings (Tad explains he wasn’t actually adept at using a chainsaw).

Yeah, it was all a business in the end – well, even in the beginning. What helps most while watching Hype! aren’t the grand platitudes Veder spits out, but the genuine affection producer Jack Endino expressed over and over again for the bands he worked with. And that’s what making anything with your friends is supposed to be about.