“This is home and everything else is bullshit,” Rob Lind, the sax player for the Sonics, said Sunday night to a packed room at Tacoma’s Alma Mater. The Sonics hadn’t played Tacoma, their hometown, in six years. And when Lind acknowledged the band’s roots, the room went understandably wild. At the Home Shows earlier this month, where the mood was akin to religious rapture, Eddie Vedder winked at the whole thing: “We’re Pearl Jam and we’re from Seattle, Washington. So I guess that must mean we’re home.”
This week three internationally touring local acts come home. Brandi Carlile plays the Moore Theatre on Saturday. That same night Foo Fighters play Safeco Field, with Krist Novoselic's new band, Giants in the Trees, opening. And Fleet Foxes are the penultimate main-stage act at Bumbershoot on Sunday night.
The reasons that crowds love big acts coming home aren’t tough to grasp: We figure, on some level, the music sounds of this place (anything from bucolic folk to dissonant punk). And as the Sonics mentioned a number of times during their set, the bands become sort of traveling ambassadors for the region. We also get a vicarious thrill when local acts hit it big (they walked the same streets we did!), and when you go to the show, it feels, maybe more directly, like that fame is bestowed back on you.
But over the last decade, bands coming home has extra implications. Since the advent of Spotify, everything is instantly tangible, which is cool, but it also diffuses any sense of ownership. That’s probably why vinyl, and now cassettes, have hurtled back from the grave. In a decade, vinyl sales went from under $2 million a year to over to $14.3 million in 2017.
I think a local band coming home functions in a similar way. Since music trades in emotional recognition, you feel that the local artist is more like you, a product of similar circumstance, so any transmitted feeling is grounded. Place can’t be fabricated. When a band returns, it is yours again. Even if the actual similarity is superficial—even if it’s imagined—it’s comforting as hell.
I know bands play this stuff up to construct a sentimental experience. Sunday, the Sonics lathered the nostalgia on brazenly, even though all the members but Lind weren't in the original 60s lineups (Gerry Roslie and Larry Parypa stopped touring with the band recently), and at least one of them hailed from LA. But when they ripped through standards—“The Witch,” “Strychnine”—to close their set, all locomotive drumming and tonsil-rattling yowl and Lind's squealing sax, it didn’t matter. The confluence of place and sound subverted any conscious criticisms of pandering or lineup inauthenticity. This was our music and we were home.
Aug 31–Sept 2, Seattle Center, $130–$240
Sept 1, Moore Theatre, Sold Out
Sept 1, Safeco Field, $35–$99