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Originally published July 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 14, 2008 at 5:29 AM

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Sub Pop turns 20 in rockin' style

Sub Pop, Seattle's seminal indie record label, threw itself a grand ol' birthday party to celebrate — as Sub Pop would put it ...

Seattle Times staff and freelancers

Sub Pop, Seattle's seminal indie record label, threw itself a grand ol' birthday party to celebrate — as Sub Pop would put it — going out of business for 20 years.

The label that launched Green River, Mudhoney and Nirvana has stayed on top of the Northwest and national music scenes for two decades (along with Nirvana albums, top Sub Pop sellers are the Postal Service, the Shins and Iron and Wine). The party? A giant two-day concert festival at Redmond's Marymoor Park. Thousands turned out to hear sets from Sub Pop stars of yesteryear (a reunited Green River), today (headliners Wolf Parade, who have a new critical-hit album) and tomorrow (the buzzing Fleet Foxes).

The Seattle Times blogged SP20 all weekend. Some excerpts:

SATURDAY

2:13 p.m. — Getting started with the Obits

The Obits, a four-piece band from New York, opened the festival with a hard-driving set of minimalist rock. The band played a blistering show at the Funhouse Friday night, and showed no signs of slowing down, with a spirited blend of psychedelic and garage rock that was drenched in reverb-heavy guitar and propelled by rhythmic and thundering drums. Led by Rick Froberg (Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes), the band is currently in talks with Sub Pop to release a new album.

Early festival attendees hunkered down in the front of the stage — where the most shade was to be had — and were treated to a solid show.

— Jeff Albertson

2:39 p.m. — The Constantines are as awesome as SP20 is hot

Sky: Cloudless

Weather: Hot

Trees: Mostly coniferous

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Knolls: Grassy

SP20 is situated in a part of Marymoor Park that has trees and grass hills. It is beautiful. Lots of people have no shirts on. Plenty are sleeveless and the rest have their sleeves pushed up.

Good thing it's a sweaty occasion for the Constantines: Their music glorifies toil, work, sweat and simple pleasures. Starting their set with the refrain "Nighttime/Anytime (It's Alright)," the lyric and song title off their Sub Pop album "Shine a Light," singer Steven Lambke smiled through their entire set.

The Constantines played the big stage, or "This Stage," which is right next to the small stage, or "That Stage." The stages are fronted by a huge sport-court plastic mat, surrounded by those grassy knolls.

— Andrew Matson

3 p.m. — Girl Trouble on the outskirts of Sub Pop

Just outside the entrance of the Sub Pop Festival at Marymoor Park, Tacoma garage band Girl Trouble played. They were not invited to play on one of the stages, but as the band behind the first full-length record Sub Pop ever released (a record with the ironic matrix number of K/SP-20), Girl Trouble kicked off their own show outside.

They created quite a stir.

— Marian Liu

4:26 p.m. — No trouble for Girl Trouble

Here's what Sub Pop had to say about Girl Trouble's hours-long set:

"We at Sub Pop are honored to share the park with Girl Trouble and look forward to their first-ever acoustic performance. It's just this sort of IY ("Invite Yourself") attitude that we hope will make SP20 a memorable event. Plus, Girl Trouble has promised a complimentary bag of chips to the first 40 attendees. Just try to get there before we do."

That's from Chris Jacobs, Sub Pop general manager.

— M.L.

4:36 p.m. — Pissed Jeans is loud!

While Pissed Jeans played incredibly loud songs full of electric guitar feedback, moaning and screaming, I tried to shout to my friend that I'd see her later, during the Fleet Foxes' set.

"What? You're going to get me three vodkas?" she yelled back.

"No, Fleet Foxes ... forget it."

And now Fleet Foxes are harmonizing "Sun Giant" a cappella, which sounds indescribably lovely.

Could there be two more different bands than Pissed Jeans and Fleet Foxes? Another reason Sub Pop is great: variety.

— A.M.

8:15 p.m. — Mark Arm is punker than you

Twenty years after releasing what is widely considered as the seminal grunge EP, "Superfuzz Bigmuff," Mudhoney's Mark Arm still has more charisma, stage presence and raw power than most front men half his age. Arm and bandmates Steve Turner (guitar), Guy Maddison (bass) and Dan Peters (drums) tore through a set of classic hits including the punk-rock anthem "Touch Me I'm Sick," "You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face)," and a slew of newer tunes from their equally impressive "The Lucky Ones," released this year.

Arm stumbled a bit on the lyrics to "In 'N' Out of Grace," the chill-inducing hard-core epic from their debut EP, but was able to laugh it off. Mudhoney look and sound like they are having as much fun now as they did when they first started tearing the roofs off Seattle clubs two decades ago.

— J.A.

9:22 p.m. — Iron and Wine soothes

Iron and Wine is Sam Beam, and he played his SP20 set solo with an acoustic guitar. His voice was breathy, but not too much, and his guitar fingerpicking was precise. His slow, easy-listening songs went down smoothly — perfect salves for ears ravaged all day by grunge and noise bands. The comforting energy was exactly what everyone needed.

Yes, he played his famous cover of the Postal Service's "Such Great Heights." Yes, couples kissed during it.

— A.M.

SUNDAY

12:31 p.m. — A cheery, serene vibe

Here we go: Day 2 of SP20.

The weather is exactly the same as it was yesterday, clear and hot, and from where I sit by the smaller of the festival's two stages in some pine tree shade, I can smell Banana Boat.

Last night ended with big-time famous New Zealand duo Flight of the Conchords, and today began with relatively unknown New Zealand indie-pop group the Ruby Suns. A small crowd in front of the big stage bopped along to Ryan McPhun and Amee Robinson's guy/girl duo of cute, electronic pop. It was sorta tribal — if "cool Portland house party" is a tribe.

It was an easy-listening start of a sun-saturated, 10-hour day at certainly the best music festival happening anywhere in the world right now.

Even easier listening? Grand Archives, which just started with Mat Brooke's friendly acoustic strumming and whistling. Along with Fleet Foxes, Grand Archives' music mirrors the Marymoor setting better than any other SP20 band. It's truly music to lay out in the sun to.

— A.M.

4:08 p.m. — Overseas invasion

A faraway spice floated to Redmond all the way from Oxford, England, and it tastes like dance-punk.

Foals just finished their set of arty, speedy, disco-drummed rock. I ventured out of my shady area (for bloggers, photographers and other nerds) and stood smack-dab in the middle of the giant plastic dance floor/sport court to watch the set in billion-degree heat. (The heat cannot be overstated. Every breeze is gold.)

Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis communicates in aggressive, semi-fey yelps, each line a kiss-off voiced to carry a soccer field. I mean a football field.

French punk group Les Thugs are playing at the small stage. It's basic-sounding punk with pop nods here and there, but Les Thugs are good at communicating a barely reigned in energy that's really appealing.

Les Thugs have been on Sub Pop longer than any other band still on the label. They rock.

— A.M.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

UPDATE - 12:19 PM
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UPDATE - 12:19 PM
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