Nick Hornby, Pink Slips, Pink Floyd

nick hornby songbookI was reading Nick Hornby’s Songbook (a worthy read for any music enthusiast) yesterday, and I came across this line:

“You’re either for music or you’re against it, and being for it means embracing anyone who’s any good.”

I liked that, even tweeted it. I thought it a good reminder for someone like me who writes about music to not dismiss something out of hand because of some preconceived notion of how bad it will be, and it brought to mind The Pink Slips, Grace McKagan’s band. She’s the daughter of Duff. I had the opportunity to see them back in March opening for Into the Cold on a Friday night at the Crocodile. I was running video that night for Into the Cold so I was there early for sound checks and had to be for the whole of the show for all bands, and I must admit that I was quite prepared not to like The Pink Slips. When I found out they were opening, I had these ideas:

1. Grace McKagan is 16 and so is likely not yet musically mature. Did I really want to hear forty-five minutes of her band? No.

2. She’s Duff McKagan’s daughter, and so the only reason her band is getting this gig is because of that connection, not because the band is any good.

3. I’ve played in two bands in Seattle but never played the Crocodile. (See number 2)

4. The band’s name, The Pink Slips, is way too similar to Walking Papers, Duff’s newest project. Is that just a coincidence?

To see those things now, it makes me seem petty and close-minded. If I call myself a music writer—never a critic, mind you—shouldn’t I be open to experiencing new things? Shouldn’t I seek them out? Indeed, I should. I also shouldn’t hold it against a young band for using any connection they might have. If I had that kind of connection when I was sixteen and playing in my first band, I would have used it. More power to them if they did. And finally, whatever failings I’ve had in my own musical endeavors shouldn’t be used to prejudge others. No, I’ve never played the Crocodile. I probably never will.

So I offer an apology to The Pink Slips for being so prepared to not like them because the truth of it is that they were pretty good. I didn’t love them, but they were watchable. I didn’t retreat to the bar to escape their music. I actually went up front for a few songs to get a few pictures on my phone as it struck me that I should write about them sometime, not that night, but sometime.

And if you’re wondering what they sound like, I’m going skip that for now, because I wasn’t taking notes that night, so I don’t have anything to reference in the moment. I don’t want my memory to fail me and thus you. But I’ll also refrain from commenting on how they sounded that night because the next day I found this video of The Pink Slips playing on KISW.

I like that tune, that instrumentation. It reminds me of an early Pink Floyd song called “Cymbaline” from the soundtrack for More. It’s got the same mellow, acoustic vibe. It’s a little folksy, a little hippie, a little rock. I liked it enough upon my first viewing that I didn’t even think about the fact that I’ve also never played on the radio. That only makes me laugh now, though. And for Grace’s part, she has played on the radio, and at all of sixteen years old. That’s pretty damn cool.

And regarding their sound, I say they should do more songs like the one they did on KISW. It isn’t that alt-country-indie-folk thing that’s so popular in this town. It’s a little darker, and to my ears, that’s never a bad thing.

And if you aren’t familiar with “Cymbaline,” here it is.


Dave O’Leary is a writer and musician living in Seattle. The Music Book, his second novel, was published by Booktrope in September 2014. In addition to writing for Northwest Music Scene, he has also had work published in The Monarch Review and on Visit his website at Photo by Stacy Albright,

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