Top 10 Reasons 2009 Rocked Like It was 1991, Pt. 2

If you grew up when grunge blew up—in the Northwest or unfortunately far away, like me—you probably felt a few tugs at your heartstrings via your eardrums (and eyeballs) this year. Maybe what you heard gave you a little thrill. Maybe it pissed you off. Either way, it was a fine year for remembering and reliving Seattle’s flannel-rock heyday. Here’s the most compelling (second half of the) evidence. (Check out items 10-6 in Part 1 here.)

5. Mudhoney plays the West Seattle streets

Grunge’s elder statesmen could have passed on playing under a tent on SW Alaska Street. They’ve toured all over the planet—since 1988—after all. But Mudhoney embraced its neighborhood roots (frontman Mark Arm and former bassist Matt Lukin are residents), and West Seattle Summer Fest attendees were given a (free) sonic treat not soon forgotten.

Introduced by then-King County Exec candidate Dow Constantine (who apparently knows Arm, among other musicians, from the scene’s early days), the always-full-throttle band played a 75-minute set to a delighted sea of friends and families. Thirty- and forty-something fans danced with kids on their shoulders. Younger people crowdsurfed—courteously, if that’s possible. In the street. While Mudhoney brought it. It was an experience, I believe, nearing what the church folks call “fellowship.”

4. Pearl Jam returns home to KeyArena

It’s become a tradition of sorts: Pearl Jam executes a tour without playing Seattle. (The Gorge doesn’t count.) Then, when the city’s feeling most neglected, the greatest band around gives us two incredible nights at KeyArena. This time, four years had passed and new factors played into the band’s shows and Eddie Vedder’s banter. New president. No basketball team. New album. The fresh enthusiasm and optimism found on that record, Backspacer, fired up both September shows, making each (rarity, fan favorite, and big hit-boasting) two-hour night yet another standout event. Hope the wait is shorter this time.

3. Nirvana’s records, Reading show get special treatment

Nirvana would have marked its 20th year in 2009 had things gone well for Kurt Cobain and the trio stayed together. (The odds weren’t good.) Because of that, the band was remembered this year more than in many years past. Sub Pop reissued Nirvana’s debut, Bleach, on 180g white vinyl and CD on November 3. (Both versions featured a previously unearthed 1990 Portland show.) On the same day, Geffen released the band’s legendary 1992 Reading Festival performance on vinyl, CD, and DVD. A month later, Nevermind, In Utero, and the MTV Unplugged record were given the limited-run 180g treatment. That much-hyped Reading set, finally available for all to see, lived up to its praise; Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl were truly amazing—and obviously feeling it—that night. You have to believe there could have been many more like it.

2. Chris Cornell joins Pearl Jam for Temple of the Dog reunion

It was just for one song, “Hunger Strike,” but when Chris Cornell joined Pearl Jam on LA’s Gibson Amphitheater stage in October, Temple of the Dog was back. Formed in 1990 as a reaction to Mother Love Bone frontman Andy Wood’s death, the band included Cornell and all of Pearl Jam’s current members. (Drummer Matt Cameron was with Soundgarden at the time.) Temple of the Dog existed only briefly, putting out just one self-titled record in 1991. This four-minute alignment was the first since all the guys joined for two songs in 2003. When will it happen again?

1. “Tadgarden” plays surprise set at the Croc

Soundgarden reunion rumors swirl pretty regularly, and are always empty hot air. But they gained momentum in 2009 despite the band’s players gathering behind Tad Doyle, not Chris Cornell, for a one-off set at the revived Crocodile in March. Tad, not blessed with Cornell’s pipes, didn’t exactly fill the former frontman’s shoes as stomp in them. But who cared? There wasn’t a bigger, more thrilling surprise in Seattle—hell, in rock music—this year. (Didn’t hurt that Mark Arm and Wayne Kramer were also on hand for Tom Morello’s magical Justice Tour.) “Tadgarden” sounded fantastic. And gave Cornell more than empty rumors to contemplate. It. Could. Happen.