SEATTLE -- Certainly Pavement singer Steve Malkmus came for the music and the chance to play with some of his friends.
But he was also there to help save the trees.
And, in his own small way, he did.
"I'm just excited as hell to be able to play with the guys from Silkworm," Malkmus said prior to the show held Friday night at the
Crocodile Cafe to benefit Washington's wilderness. "The cause is an excellent one, and I get
the chance to play with some of my favorite people."
Though not as old as the ancient forests that the bands attending were trying to help preserve, some of the music performed was
culled from the deepest recesses of the rock 'n' roll cellar. Still, when it was all said and done, the Washington Wilderness Coalition,
the event's sponsors, had pulled off a powerfully entertaining and educational evening for the some 600 in attendance, raising about
$5,000 for the cause.
"It was one of the best benefit shows we've ever had," said Peter English, booking manager of the legendary cafe that had invited
members of Pavement, as well as the Posies, Young Fresh Fellows, Silkworm, the Presidents of the United States of America, Harvey
Danger and Severna Park to lend their music to the moment, while helping the crowd of mostly twentysomethings to educate
themselves about the importance of protecting Washington's wilderness.
Malkmus, singer/songwriter and guitarist for alterna-rockers Pavement, said he was happy to show up to put on an amazing albeit
vintage-style show as the Crust Brothers, featuring members of Silkworm. The band moniker would only begin to shed light on a
setlist that included such crusty, old rockers as Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone," Marvin Gaye's "Heard it Through the
Grapevine" and the Rolling Stone's "Bitch," which saw a spirited Malkmus jumping frantically across the stage and ushering the event
to a new level of fervor.
The remainder of their set for this first-ever event was made up of old Bob Dylan tunes and even a few new tracks by his son, Jakob
Dylan, from his band the Wallflowers' last album Bringing Down The Horse.
This isn't the first time that Seattle musicians
have been involved in the protection of the environment. In the past year, members of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and the now-defunct Soundgarden whipped out their checkbooks and bought
up huge tracts of wilderness east of Seattle in the Cascade mountain range. "I'm proud
to live here in Seattle," said 23-year-old Tracy Walker, who attended the benefit that night. "The musicians here care about more than
just money and egos."
Concert organizer Trevor Fitzgibbon, noting that the show was a well-rounded success, said that there are plans for more benefit
shows. "The bands were all incredible and I want to thank them all," he said.
One of the goals of the coalition is to pressure governmental officials to push forward laws that would serve to protect the wilderness
area, Fitzgibbon said at a pre-show press conference. "We want an executive order from the White House to get these areas protected.
We want clean water, wild salmon and the last areas of wilderness our generation has left."
The other big draw of the night was the Minus Five, featuring famed singer/guitarist Scott McCaughey, of The Young Fresh Fellows,
recently back from Athens, Ga., where he wrapped up some session work for R.E.M..
McCaughey, who looks sort-of like a cross between Sammy Hagar and Robert
Plant, played enthusiastically to fans who were packed close to the stage. Strumming his acoustic guitar, and singing his short, brilliant
pop songs, he was caught smiling a few times, and the looseness of the band's music poured out onto the dancing onlookers.
Minus Five played for about an hour and a half and filled their set with
some of McCaughey's new work as well as a few recognizable tunes off the band's latest CD, The Lonesome Death of Buck
McCoy, including "Popsycle Shop" and "Cross Every Line." A rag-tag team of rotating musicians under McCaughey's guidance,
the Minus Five on this night included drummer Jason Finn of the Presidents, as well as Ken Stringfellow of Posies and Big Star fame
and Jim Talstra from Tesla.
Their music was, as always, inventive and exciting, alternating between an explosion of alternative folk that inspires serious flashbacks
to early-1960s Dylan and a more contemporary, blaring electric noise courtesy of Stringfellow and Talstra. "I'm basically here
because I love to play with the Minus Five," Finn said, adding that he isn't as abreast of the cause to save Washington's wilderness as
he would like to be. "I'm really happy to be a part of it and I hope the event does some good."
And while the band rarely -- if ever -- rehearses McCaughey's tunes, they share the traditional jazz-band mentality, showing up at the
gig, setting up and letting the music flow as it will. It can get pretty chaotic at times, but that night there was a certain sweetness and
refreshing honesty to their spontaneous play, somehow befitting the event.
Malkmus, a native of California who now lives in Portland, Ore., knows the difficulties that the Washington Wilderness Coalition
faces in the months ahead as it continues to push its agenda, but he also understands the importance of persevering through the
hardships. "[The environment] affects us all, no matter where we live," he said. [Tues., Dec. 9, 1997, 9 a.m.