Blu-ray Review: Hype! (Collector’s Edition)

Are you old enough to remember the time Seattle exploded? For those of you who don’t remember, Seattle was a town that was mainly known in the 80s for Microsoft, Boeing, drizzle and more drizzle. For those who followed music, the ’80s was all about discovering the next scene city where the next group of hitmaking bands were playing dive bars for tips, but were about to sign to major labels. Athens, Austin, San Diego, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago all had their moment of buzz when reporters and record label A&R folks flocked in hopes finding and signing the next big thing. Having survived the locust descending on the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, it’s a weird feeling. It’s worse when they leave to find the next city and you doubt your coolness. It seemed like this scene buzz was just an excuse for major labels and Rolling Stone to burn expense accounts on the road. That is until they touched down in Seattle. This lonely little city in the north west corner wrapped America in flannel shirts. Hype! Collector’s Edition captures the place, sound and time as it filmed the immediate aftermath of a cultural explosion.

The music of Seattle came out of necessity since a lot of bands didn’t want to spend the long hours driving from San Francisco to Seattle. That’s a lot of time and gas money for a struggling band. Luckily enough kids got that idea that they would just entertain themselves. Bands formed and kept music in the clubs. Since this was during the days before the internet, people across the country were rather unsure what was really happening up there. The bands got a chance to develop. They had a local label in Sub Pop that was eager to make something happen in their backyard. They had an amazing photographer in Charles Peterson who understood how to capture the bands and the energy of what the rest of the country was missing. When the scene broke, it came as hard as any British invasion. It was the promise of what the next scene concept demanded.

The documentary could easily have sold itself out to just covering the obvious and easily commercial bands. This is not merely the story of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. There was more to the scene than Soundgarden, Alice In Chains or the dozens of others bands that found themselves with a major label contract. That’s not to say that Nirvana isn’t covered. They have the original video of Kurt belting out “Teen Spirit” live for the first time. Eddie Vedder talks a bit about the cost of fame in relationship with Pearl Jam. But there was so much more time the time than a handful of multi-platinum artists and the movie supplies it. There’s performances from the Poses, Young Fresh Fellows and the Melvins. There’s visit to clubs with bands that you might have never heard of.

Doug Pray and his crew capture the time and yet gives it a touch of reflection. His interview subjects don’t mind talking about being in the center of a hurricane. There’s a bit of astonishment that this scene thing finally happened to one city. There is a bit of confusion how bands that have played a handful of shows are walking away with record deals. But such is what happens when nobody wants to go home without signing someone in the next big scene. Nobody wants to come up empty handed when asked, “Where’s our grunge band!”

The sad part of the film is that the next big scene concept is pretty much over. The record sales are in the tank. The major labels no longer have the power. Any band can get their music onto the internet just like everyone else. Nobody needs a scene anymore to thrive in order to get attention from the kids around the world. Hype! is an accurate document of what it was like when Seattle happened that is still an engrossing time capsule.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the details of the clubs and Sub Pop offices. You will thrill to old concert posters. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Surround that brings out the atmosphere of the live performances. There’s also the original 2.0 mix for those lucky enough to see it in a theater 20 years ago.

Audio Commentaries include a new talk with director Doug Pray and his original commentary from 2004. He has plenty of tales of capturing the shows and hunting down the performers.

Hype! 20 Years After (16:10) looks back at the movie and the scene with folks from the film including members of Fastbacks, Mudhoney and Soundgarden. They talk about how the suicide of Kurt Cobain put a chill to the scene. Sadly the featurette was being made soon after Chris Cornell’s death. Kim Thayil speaks of his bandmate’s passing.

Peter Bagge’s “Hate” (4:07) is a cartoon about two scenesters upset that other towns want to steal Seattle’s music heat. Bagge wisely brings up that what truly empowered the scene was cheap rent.

Additional Performances includes songs from Mudhoney, Pond, Supersuckers and The Gits. There’s a director’s commentary option.

Interview Outtakes has more time with Megan Jasper, Art Chantry, Tad, Leighton Beezer, Peter Bagge and random quotes from others.

Theatrical Trailer (2:12) promotes the 20th anniversary of the film and the scene.

Shout! Factory presents Hype! Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Doug Pray. Narrative Structure by: Brian Levy. Starring: Eddie Vedder, Tad and Charles Peterson. Running Time: 83 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Released: September 29, 2017.

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