It’s satisfying to reflect on how Portland has been home to some great musicians over the years. Some that we know of; Ben Deily of the Lemonheads, Adam Gardner of Guster, Hutch and Kathy from The Thermals and the legendary BeBe Buell (rock n’ roll mother/sister/friend/singer/muse). This city has been a choice spot for many to hang their hats for some years now. Music, food, art, beer, the coast, good people, we pretty much have it all. I mean, you know, we could use some more parking spots, but that’s a rant for another time.
There’s more rock royalty living here in Portland than one might think. Kim Warnick of the Fastbacks (and eventually Visqueen) loves living in Portland.
“I’m grateful to live in such a stunning city”, Warnick told me before the stunning city was blasted by Snowplooza this past week. According to Kim, her former home and music launch pad of Seattle has gotten too big and she's not sure she belongs there anymore. She moved to Portland in 2012 and has found a new home here. You can see her almost postcard love for the city through some of the pictures she posts on social media from time to time.
If you go to the Fastbacks starting days of the late 70s, Kim built something special (along with Lulu Gargiulo and Kurt Bloch) that would certainly sound familiar in future bands. Like one of their biggest influences The Ramones, the ‘Backs were fueled by pop music and rock n roll. Yet with Kim and Lulu, the dual female vocals would add a signature touch to the band’s pop punk sound. Their sound has influenced many other bands. Take Veruca Salt, Shonen Knife, and Sleater-Kinney, for example.
Through a handful of records, live records, many singles, EPs and compilation appearances, the Fastback’s helped pioneer a sound as well as a movement of new music from the Pacific Northwest that would gain some serious traction a decade later as we all know. Warnick was there and doing it prior to grunge, prior to Sub Pop Records, prior to the movie Singles, prior to the Riot grrrl scene. She and The Fastbacks were trailblazers for sure.
Warnick claims that Patti Smith, Dee Dee Ramone and Joan Jett are her holy trilogy of rock gods. Great three pack if you ask me and I can totally feel all three in her music. It was Joan Jett who provided one of Warnick’s greatest music memories though. In my ongoing series still stuck between the titles of, “I Once Caught a Fish This Big..” or “Oh My, Have I Got a Story for You..”; Seattle’s loss/Portland Maine’s gain explains that time she got to open live for Joan Jett and the revealing meeting that was held after the show backstage.
Throughout the decades my band was fortunate to be able to open for a lot of my heroes and idols. We were lucky. Just a few of them; Ramones, Buzzcocks, Cheap Trick, GnR (before they really broke), and Joan Jett, not once, but twice. That was the biggest one for me as she is one of the main reasons I even tried to play rock n roll in the first place. The Runaways were doing what I wanted to do, but I was still stuck in high school while they were touring Japan. Sadly, they never made it to Seattle but Joan did finally in 1981 when her first record Bad Reputation was released.
I remember hearing about this show and begging the promoter to "please, please, please let us open." He knew he couldn't say no because I would just keep bugging him. It happened! This was before "I Love Rock N Roll" was everywhere on the radio, which is probably why there were only about 100 people there, but that didn't matter to me. I finally got to see her in person in a tiny club in Seattle and finally got to actually meet her (she's short!). They say don't meet your idols and I say, "bullshit."
We were both pretty wasted that night, but she sat me down next to her and instantly ripped open her jeans. Um, it was surreal, but she wanted to show me her tattoo of a jet. That jet is on the back of the import version of that first record. I think I might've blushed, but I was just so excited to ask her some Runaways questions. She passed out on my shoulder before that happened. Oh well.
The point of this story is that I was one of those record collectors that had to make sure all my LP's were in those plastic slip covers to keep 'em all MINT. On the back of that first record there is a pic of that same jet tattoo. I would always try and brush off this stray tiny hair that I just assumed was on the outside of the plastic cover. Once I saw where her tattoo was when I finally realized it was the same one on the back cover of the record… and it was a pubic hair! Like they say, "the more you know."
Really it just shows you that I was and am still a giant nerd when it comes to fandom and I love her to this day. Hero. We got to open for her again in 2002 which was amazing. So killer to know your idol. She is a gem. The real deal. I love rock n roll!