Grunge is Dad Rock, now. Just accept it. It’s not the end of music, and whether you’re annoyed by Skrillex or terrified of Odd Future, the fact that everyone born after 1990 can drive a car, vote, die in war, and legally drink in any bar in the country doesn’t mean the apathetic sludge pop created during the Gen-X heyday is any less great. Similarly, seeing Soundgarden in 2013 must be what it was like to see The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin in around 1981 – cock rock turned daddy dick for an area crowd of fans willing to pay top dollar to pump their fist and brag to their friends that they were there, man.
Before launching into the parody song “Big Dumb Sex,” Chris Cornell told the crowd that the band had written the tune as a joke all those years ago as their brand of music started attracting more meatheads than skinny guys with dark circles under their eyes. It was funny then, but it didn’t play well to the crowd of mostly men over 40, many of whom wore baseball caps (because they’re fans of actual baseball), and couldn’t stand through the entire two-and-a-half hour set. And, all of whom paid over $50 a pop to see one of their favorite acts dangle on the mortal coil before drying into the fucking embarrassing husk of band Black Sabbath trots out for outdoor music festivals.
Always uncomfortably between the sensitive frat-boy undertones of Pearl Jam, who’s lead singer last graced Portland with a ukulele in hand, and the drifter everyman’s poetry of Nirvana, who’s drummer rocks out with a former Beatle, it’s no surprise to see Soundgarden embark on an extended reunion tour as Cornell plays opener for Obama’s inauguration festivities.
Though the band is less energetic than the powerhouse entertainment of Bruce Springstein, they are succinct musicians with a heavy tone and professional skill set more bands of our era could stand to replicate. Because, while the youthful passion is diminished, along with Cornell’s ability to hit all the staggering notes in his repertoire, I’d rather see Soundgarden almost any day of the week over some bullshit like Mumford & Sons.
Words by Aaron Coulter
Photo: Rachel Milbauer