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Sub Pop and Seattle's Seminal Comix Culture
Written by Larry Reid | Filed under rockPeter BaggeJim WoodringFantagraphics BookstoreeventsDanny BlandCharles Burns 3 Jul 2013 12:22 PM

My first encounter with Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt came when he participated in an art show I co-curated at Rosco Louie gallery called "Famous Artists of the 80s," which opened on New Year's Eve at the dawn of that decade. Bruce contributed a delightfully playful painting rendered on the headboard of a baby crib. Though still a student at Evergreen State College, he came closest to fulfilling the ironic premise of the exhibition.

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Pavitt soon began producing his hand crafted Subterranean Pop fanzine, enlisting recent Evergreen alumni Lynda Barry to create the cover of issue 2 and Charles Burns to illustrate the back cover of issue 4. At this point the young editor was anxious to have the esoteric regional music he was promoting available for readers to experience. The inexpensive cassette format with a mini-zine insert ideally suited the dual-purpose publication. He again tapped Burns to draw the cover of the three subsequent cassette releases, and later the cover for the landmark Sub Pop 200 vinyl release.

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Pavitt had an intuitive appreciation of the alternative musicians, cartoonists, and graphic designers in the region. As the '80s progressed, these elements combined to create an amazing atmosphere in Seattle that would soon impact popular culture on a global scale.

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By the end of the decade I was director of Seattle's Center on Contemporary Art. In 1989 I coerced Pavitt and partner Jonathan Poneman to program a weekend concert series at this space. The shows featured Nirvana, Mudhoney, GWAR, Dwarves, Supersuckers, Tad, Dickless and Cat Butt. It's worth noting that Cat Butt's Danny Bland helped book the bands. None of the acts were named publicly. The event was promoted simply as SODA POP: Super Sugar Big Buzz - a reference to Mudhoney's recent Sub Pop release Superfuzz Bigmuff. (During Mudhoney's raucous set, the audience was showered with 80 pounds of powdered sugar.) In retrospect, this event seemed to suggest that something extraordinary was about to happen. 

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On Saturday, July 13, the legendary Seattle label commemorates 25 years of going out of business with the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee featuring free concerts by more than 15 amazing bands throughout the historic Georgetown arts community. Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery contributes to the festivities with SODA POP: Super Sugar Big Buzz, an art exhibition, panel discussion and reading fousing on the formative years of Sub Pop, emphasizing the role of regional cartoonists in shaping the attitudes and aesthetics of the emerging youth movement. Don't miss this! Make travel arrangements and hotel reservations now!

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