All across the world, but particularly in the Pacific Northwest - and especially in Tacoma - the influence is still felt. The impact of certain bands called the Sonics, the Wailers, the Ventures and others still reverberates. These were groundbreaking bands in the late '50s and early '60s that helped pave the way for punk, grunge and everything generally loud that came to follow. The Sonics poked holes in their amps to attain that sweet level of distortion, and out of those holes burst decades of garage-rock spirit and punk-rock attitude.
Sunday, the Tacoma Historical Society will gather for its 5th Annual Destiny Dinner, although this time the focus will rest on the rock 'n' roll pioneers of the Pacific Northwest.
"Part of what makes Tacomans Tacomans is our respect for our cultural heritage, and rock 'n' roll is a part of that," says Owen Atkins, member of the Fucking Eagles, as well as a Tacoma Historical Society member. "A long-standing trend in Tacoma is being the unsung place. ... It's pretty notable that (this music) happened here. A lot of people attribute it to the noise. We're used to having planes fly over our heads from McCord Air Force base and SeaTac, and the factories - people associate it with this kind of loudness. I feel like that might've stuck into the sound of the '50s and '60s. This raucous, loud spirit."
Atkins is quick to assure me this banquet dinner is not going to be a concert. Sure, in attendance will be such Tacoma rock luminaries as Little Bill and the Blue Notes, Buck Ormsby and Gail Harris of the Wailers, Jerry Miller of the great psych-rock group Moby Grape and Don Wilson of the Ventures. But these legends will be present to tell stories of the early days of Tacoma rock. Their records live forever, but the stories these men tell are invaluable. Emceeing the event will be former State Rep. Dennis Flannigan. Flannigan was around during the pivotal moments in the building of Tacoma rock, and has a million stories of his own to share.
"There was a strange moment, around 1955 or '57, during a time when young people got together and were listening to rock and roll from elsewhere, and it was unique moment in Tacoma," says Flannigan. "I really want the city to know that, whether they loved or didn't love rock and roll, or whether they love it now or not, it was a city that did something. If you talk to British bands, someone said Tacoma was the Liverpool of American rock and roll. I think there's something to that idea, where it was working families' music. That really was what all that was about."
Regardless what you feel about these Tacoma bands from half a century ago, their presence continues to be felt at a primal level in just about every band emerging on the scene striving for that loud sound that hits you right in the gut.
Sunday, you'll have the opportunity to see how it all got started.
Tacoma Historical Society's 5th Annual Destiny Dinner
Sunday, Oct. 9, 5 p.m., $80, $60 for THS members
Tacoma Yacht Club, 5401 N. Waterfront Dr., Tacoma
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