Artists of the Year

Makers who mattered in 1995


by Gina Arnold

It's a sad commentary on the unholy state of the current pop zeitgeist--a place where one frequently hears the obnoxious doings of rock personalities like Hole's Courtney Love and Oasis's Liam Gallagher described as "refreshing"--that admiring or lauding Eddie Vedder is considered totally unhip.

Well, call me a hickoid, but this year I found Vedder's activities particularly inspiring. In January, the guy rented three hours of satellite airtime on which he played his favorite records, talked to friends about politics and feminism, let some really cool bands play live, and said "fuck" a lot. In April, he toured America in the back of a van as drummer for his wife's band Hovercraft and singer for Mike Watt. In June, he and his band Pearl Jam attempted to launch a stadium tour which bypassed the corporate ogre Ticketmaster. And in November, during some make-up concert dates in Utah and California, Vedder took a low-wattage radio station on the road with him in order to broadcast late-night pirate radio shows, where he played more cool records and spoke directly to fans by phone. (The station still operates some nights in Seattle.)

But that's not all. This autumn, I was privileged enough to see my favorite band--the Fastbacks--open for Pearl Jam at both the Delta Center in Utah and at San Jose's Spartan Stadium, thus playing the biggest (and best paid) gigs of their lives by a factor of 30,000 or something. The evenings--which were later characterized by the Fastbacks' tearful Kim Warnick as "awesome"--came courtesy of Vedder, a richly deserved reward for a long, hard and essentially thankless career. The Fastbacks played the show of their lives. But it was Pearl Jam who were really roaring, blistering, holding the huge crowd rapt in the firm grip of what passes for real religious ecstasy in America, just pouring it on out. Watching it from the top, you could see this sea of shining faces, singing along, surging forward, positively praying--a vast expanse of boys all with their lips parted, hands in the air, emitting hot waves of love out of their eyes and their mouths and their bodies. Musically, Pearl Jam are able to transcend the somewhat moribund genre they so perfectly characterize by injecting it with a kind of spiritual purity that resonates loudly, especially in stadiums like that one. And Ed himself is a symbol of personal integrity whose virtues somehow seem apparent to the sea of kids in the audience. Simply put, he radiates generosity and kindness, two things one doesn't see much of in the music business, but which would be nice to see more of--in music, and in life.

Gina Arnold is a Bay Area writer.


by Julie Caniglia

Last spring I was up all night devouring Bust's "My Life As A Girl" issue, and, licking my fingers the next morning, wrote a breathless fan letter/ thank-you to its coeditors, who go by the names Betty Boob and Celina Hex (pictured), and art director Areola. Yes, it was as good as if not better than sex, and judging from the letters they print--a confetti shower of superlatives, subscription checks, and vows of eternal devotion--lots of other people think so, too.

Bust burst forth about two and a half years ago, and has been filling out quite nicely ever since. Every issue has a theme, which inevitably allows for certain timeless topics--namely, sex, relationships, and, unavoidably, men: thus, the current "Men We Love" issue (the love being generously and pragmatically seasoned with hate, disgust, scorn, and disappointment).

This zine is an essential guide for women negotiating a new kind of adulthood, where uncertainties and pitfalls are as plentiful as the delights and opportunities created by feminism. Most of its writers are older women, married women, and mothers who are not fans of Ladies' Home Journal, but are primarily white and of a certain means, background, and age--too old to be riot grrrls, too young to be first- or even second-generation feminists. Not trying to be all things to all people is part of its success (and part of what makes zines zines), but nevertheless Bust has caught the fancy of a remarkably broad readership. Plenty of guys have learned that Bust can provide them with the best sense of what modern women are about short of eavesdropping. And just as older women took a shine to Sassy, it seems that plenty of teens are turning on to Bust (a life-saver in light of Sassy's sissification). It's undoubtedly feminist--the F-word and its various prefixes get occasionally tossed around--but such tags are too boring. Bust is most successful at expressing a spirit, rather than an agenda or ideology.

With its growing popularity and page counts, I'd make a case for calling Bust a truly alternative magazine. It's featuring more nationally known writers and well-chosen celebrity interviews (but please don't quit with all the great articles by pseudonymous writers like Christy Love!), and even chain bookstores now stock multiple copies. It would seemingly be time for the "sell-out" whining to commence, but I say, all the more power to these bodacious babes. Look for their "Bad Girl" issue in February.

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