HYPE!: Pacific Northwest Pop Power

Music doc mines the “Seattle Scene” for all it’s worth.

Before the spectacle of grunge music exploded all over America, a wave was building in Seattle that would eventually change the entire landscape of rock music. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned, and the documentary Hype! recently released on Blu-ray for its 20th anniversary, shows the aftermath, warts and all.

Well, I guess that depends on whose plans we’re talking about. The myriad bands that just wanted to make music and play it for local audiences made out okay. So did ambitious record label execs who milked a moment. Those wanting to become rich and famous definitely experienced a mixed bag, and Seattleites just got tired of the whole thing.

A movement that ended up with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains (a Big Four if there ever was one) started much smaller, but not any less musically adventurous. Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, and the Melvins, among countless others, started blowing up Northwest stages in the ‘80s. It took a while, but eventually everyone wanted a piece of “The Seattle Sound,” and a musical revolution was born.

Seattle was both a perfect place for this to happen and an impossible place to sustain it. The land of rain and clouds meant outsiders stayed out and plenty of people stayed indoors doing things like playing music. On the other hand, Seattleites tend to be nonplussed toward fame and fortune, and so the whiff of inauthenticity made it a tough go come the late ‘90s.

Another aspect of this movement Hype! exposes is the subversive humor behind all of it. Musicians are a different breed, and what they find funny doesn’t always translate. This is especially true for this group, as the “Screw it!” attitude of the music gives bands license to be as silly as they want to be.

The ultimate example of this was the contemporaneous prank played on the New York Times. The “Paper of Record” got Megan Jasper, a receptionist at Sub Pop records, on the phone and fell for a slew of false jargon that ostensibly was the lingo of Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill. Phrases like “harsh realm” and “swingin’ on the flippity-flop” made their way into print, with guffaws all around.

Edward Louis Severson III

Jasper’s employer made out much better in this period. Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman realized early on that Sub Pop could be the face of “The Scene” to the outside world, and before long, their black and white logo meant a lot to record buyers everywhere.

By the time Hype! was filmed in in the mid-‘90s, Kurt Cobain was dead, and the world had moved on from Seattle as the ultimate source of coolness. The interviews are all great, and the older footage really connects. Twenty years on, Hype! continues to be a fantastic record of a time that produced some amazing bands, music that still holds up to this day.


  • NEW HD Transfer from the 35mm Interpositive
  • NEW “Hype! 20 Years After” — Featuring New Interviews with Members of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and The Fastbacks, Record Producers Jack Endino and Steve Fisk, Manager Susan Silver, and Photographer Charles Peterson
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Director Doug Pray
  • Audio Commentary by Director Doug Pray and Producer Steve Helvey
  • Peter Bagge’s Animated Short, “Hate”
  • Additional Performances (with Optional Director’s Commentary) by Mudhoney, Supersuckers, Pond, and The Gits
  • Additional Interviews with Megan Jasper, Art Chantry, Tad, Leighton Beezer, Peter Bagge, and More
  • Theatrical Trailer
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