touch me i’m sick

Tonight was the release party for legendary Seattle photographer Charles Peterson’s third book, Touch Me I’m Sick. I was going to say, “If you don’t know Charles’ work…” but it’s hard for me to imagine anyone who cares about and listens to music who isn’t familiar with it. He photographed everyone who was anyone in the halcyon days of the Seattle music scene – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden – as well as countless others, from Sonic Youth to Sleater-Kinney, and probably hundreds of other lesser known bands. He was practically the house photographer for Sub Pop Records, back in the day.

This book was a sight unseen purchase for me. I’ve followed his work forever and have been a fan since the first time I saw his photos. He captures the movement and energy of what it’s like to BE THERE; he loves the music and that love informs his work. He doesn’t photograph as an outsider; his pictures take you into his head as well as into the scene, no matter what or where it is.

So buy the damn thing.

Now, onto the party. We showed up early, because they were selling the book, and Charles was signing them, and also because this was a party an awful lot of people were going to want to get into. We bought our books, took them to the car, went out for dinner. By the time we came back, an hour later, Girl Trouble was on the stage and the party was in full swing.

Walking into the Croc at that moment was like walking into a time warp, taking you back to 1992. Girl Trouble is blasting, the scenesters were out in force, and one of the first people we saw was Kim Thayil, formerly of the mighty (and much beloved in this house) Soundgarden. We bump into Mark Arm at the back bar, and find ourselves standing behind Steve Turner in the show room. It felt like a rock and roll high school reunion, except I was the transfer student who didn’t arrive until the last year, and my companion was there representing her older sister who couldn’t make it.

Girl Trouble were predictable, but fun. They’re in the book, they are truly old school. They’ve always reminded me of a hardcore punk version of a frat house’s toga party band. Plus, we’d all drunk enough by then that it sounded just fine to us.

The Briefs, however, were another story. I saw them a few times at the beginning of their career, and while I really wanted to like them, I just wasn’t all that impressed. Tonight, three years later, holy shit! Oh, my god! They were loud and brash and bold and exciting and full of boundless energy. It was like a cross between the Buzzcocks and Devo – yeah, they were derivative as fuck, but unlike another band we both thought of immediately (*cough* Strokes *cough*), they absolutely reveled in it. They swam in it, rolled around in it, spit great mouthfuls of their influences into the air and laughed when it landed on their heads. I have not had so much fun at a Seattle show by a local band in a really long time. And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t note that their bass player is another Seattle photography legend, Mr. Lance Mercer, who tonight was wearing a red jumpsuit that for all the world reminded me of what Mick Jones wore when the Clash opened for the Who at Shea Stadium (clearly, Mick was thinking “visibility” that night). Fashionwise, the other guys were mixing new wave (both coasts) with punk rock (more of a British flavor). And the sunglasses looked like they came straight off the rack at Poseur (which was the ultimate punk/new wave clothing store in LA, a very long time ago…)

It was a silly, fun, relaxed, slightly crazy evening. Not bad for a Thursday night.