By Randall Roberts
He’s out there somewhere. I know it. He apparently comes every year. At least that’s what they tell me up in Seattle, where Bruce Pavitt, co-founder of Sub Pop Records, is some sort of minor legend. You know, Bruce Pavitt, the dude with the vision to uncover a few of the great rock bands of the 1990s: current or former home of Mudhoney, Nirvana, Sleater-Kinney, the Shins, Postal Service and the wonderfully odd new Jennifer Gentle record.
Photos by Charlie Evans More after the jump.
I’ve been right there with him since, in 1986, I stumbled across a record called Sub Pop 100. It’s a beast of a compilation, the first ever Sub pop release, and carried me away to some freakish new world with Scratch Acid, Naked Raygun, the Wipers, Sonic Youth, Skinny Puppy (yes, rock snobs, Skinny puppy once appeared on Sub Pop), Shonen Knife, and the U-Men. At a time when most of what I knew about angst arrived via the Violent Femmes, Sub Pop 100 was transformative.
For that, not to mention sub pop’s whole philosophy, I wanted to track down Pavitt, wanted to shake his hand, give him a piece of bubble gum or something, say, you know, what you did on a large scale with Nirvana et at was really cool, but the coolest thing of all was Sub Pop 100.
But I only tell half of the story. There’s another reason why I want to find Bruce Pavitt at Burning Man — especially at Burning Man. The desire has as its seed in a 1990 interview with Mark Arm of Mudhoney
Q: Tell me about Bruce Pavitt of Sub Pop. Did he really blow all those people?
Mark Arm: Oh yeah, those T-shirts that say BRUCE PAVITT GAVE ME HEAD. Well, he gave some of us head. Once you get a T-shirt out there's a couple people who are gonna be wearing it for the show aspect of it. Bunch of posers and shit. People posing as, like, Bruce Pavitt penile desires. But he has given a lot of people head. But not as many people as there are T-shirts. In fact, I don't have a T-shirt and he's given me head.
Well. Armed, so to speak, with this information, I figured maybe I could get more than a handshake out of the deal. I mean, if I can score a hummer from the guy who introduced the Vaselines to America, brought us Beat Happening’s Black Candy, well, that would make for an historic Burning Man.
The mission: Find, without the aid of the Internet, a single person amidst this morass of punks, hippies, survivalists, exhibitionists, Libertarians, corporate CEOs, losers, find the guy who to me embodies at least three but maybe even seven of these highly evolved traits. By just asking your average freaks on the playa whether they know where Bruce Pavitt sets up camp, is it possible to find him before the man burns (again) on Saturday night? Might I share a cocktail with the man, followed by a little lovin’?
Stay tuned over the next five days to see whether one man’s dream could possibly come true.