Once again, the Layne Staley Tribute weekend was a monumental success. This event is an annual weekend tribute for the lives of Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, Mad Season and Class of 99, and Mike Starr of Alice in Chains and Red Sun Red. Both events sold out before the shows began. Alternative Nation was honored to be a part of this weekend’s festivities starting with the gathering that was held at the Seattle Center Fountain on Thursday August 18th. There was a visitation and sharing session where we lit bright candles we brought. We had the opportunity to talk about what Layne and Mike Starr’s lives meant to us. It was a very moving and private experience. Nancy McCallum, Layne’s mom, plans the gatherings and is always attends. Kathleen Austin was also there. She is Demri Parrot’s mother. Demri and Layne were once engaged and thought to be soul mates. It is always gratifying for me to be at these events and to be around such strong women, who honor their children with so many people.
The Saturday night main event on August 20th was held at the Crocodile: the iconic venue where Alice in Chains performed at early in their career. Layne’s mom, Nancy McCallum, who plans the events and was also in attendance. (We got a surprise from her later on in the show too.)
Words cannot really express how this show was from start to finish. The entire show was beyond stellar and the surprise guests brought their trademark talents.
Here’s the lineup in order of appearance:
First up were newcomers to the tribute, Washed in Black, Seattle’s premiere Pearl Jam tribute band. Let me tell you, lead singer Steve McKeever has the vocals to give Vedder a run for his money. Their set included songs from PJ’s freshman album TEN and several other favorites. As hot as the venue was, the packed house was singing along with them.
Next up was Outshined, Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog tribute band. When I went to live stream, one of the commenters asked if Chris Cornell was there! That is Kevin James Hoffman’s almighty vocals. It has always been my opinion that Kevin has one of those “uber-rare” voices that are truly hard to find in the 21st century. Outshined played many memorable hits, including “Rusty Cage”. They also included Steve McKeever from Washed in Black on a duo for Temple of the Dog‘s classic “Hunger Strike”.
Following Outshined, we had a brief intermission in which Randy Vanadisson performed “Body and Soul”, with JT Phillips on acoustic guitar. This song is available on iTunes under the band “Laws of Fate”. Randy performed this last year also.
Jar of Flies took to the stage opening their set up with one of my favorites “Rain When I Die”. They included Mad Season’s “Lifeless Dead.” The crowd was intense while they eagerly listened and watched Rane sing those lyrics with such transcendence. Impeccably done by all!
The first guest performer was John Evans, from Sons of Mercury (Jar of Flies accompanied all guest artists on instruments). John performed AIC’s “Facelift” tune, “Bleed the Freak” and “Confusion”. I cannot come up with enough unequivocal words to explain how completely captivated I was with “Confusion”; it was an explosive performance by Seattle’s own talent.
Stacey Meyer of Furniture Girls brought us “Junkhead” once again, as she did last year. Meyer proved she belongs on stage, as she engaged guitarists Shannon Sharp and JT Phillips. While she continued to sing to the packed venue, she took a can of beer an audience member handed her, then when the time was right, she took a swig and then projected the beer from her mouth. With the heat being so high inside the venue, the attendees seemed to love it. Stacey definitely has poise and tenacity.
Jason Kertson of Kertson sang “River of Deceit”, a Mad Season song that I feel is one of Layne’s greatest accomplishments. Jason briefly spoke to the audience about the efforts of getting clean for those who are suffering from addiction. As an accomplished 19-year-old, Jason has a solid voice that’s unitary from others.
When Jason was finished with “River of Deceit”, a familiar sound starting coming from the band a song that resonates with so many of us. It was Mad Season’s “Wake-Up”, sung by a beautiful, strong and captivating woman: Layne Staley’s mother. Jason returned and joined Nancy on the mics and they started singing the song her son wrote and sang all those years ago.
Kevin James Hoffman from Outshined performed “We Die Young”. Another strong performance with Kevin singing the famed hit that brought Alice in Chains to new listeners all over the world in 1990.
“Down in a Hole” and “Right Turn” were then performed by several performers: Rane Stone, Kevin James Hoffman, Stacey Meyer, Jason Kerson again, and Thai Dao, (previously of The Slants and Veritas).
Glenn Cannon from Windowpane came on stage next. I was excited because I had only seen him in YouTube videos. Then I heard the guitars strum of the most recognizable sounds, “What the Hell Have I?” I literally had goosebumps. Glenn and Shannon Sharp (Jar of Flies) harmonized together and truly brought it home. I’ve never heard such a riveting version. They both went on to perform “Got Me Wrong”, from the SAP EP.
“Love Hate Love”, was next as the night was coming to a close. Johndus Beckman of Ten Miles Wide commanded the stage and our mouths dropped in his rendition of this song Layne first sang over 27 years ago. This was a perfect choice for an artist that can make you “feel” the words he sings. I was able to tell Johndus that he emulated perfection on his cover of the song.
The night finally came to a close with “Don’t Follow”.
This main event was a huge collaboration made possible by all the members of each band, and the guest artists. The undertaking to make a weekend like this work comes from mutual love of what they are all trying to achieve; and during that weekend, it was remembering Layne Thomas Staley’s life, legacy, and birthday. We can not forget about Mike Starr because he also was celebrated. Words cannot truly express how honored I was to be a part of something so powerful and moving. It has affected me deeply.
AN asked a few of the band members what they had to say about being a part of something so monumental; here are their comments;
Steve McKeever of Washed in Black: We are honored and humbled to have been a part of the Layne Staley tribute weekend. Meeting Nancy along with furthering the bond with all of the great players this weekend, meant the world to me and the rest of the band. We’re excited for future possibilities. It was truly a magical weekend.
Dann Nunn of Washed in Black: When it was decided that Washed in Black would be included in the 2016 Tribute, we knew it was a great opportunity to be a part of something special, and it did not disappoint. To play to a sold out show at the iconic Crocodile, with so much emotion, energy, talent, and just good people in the room was something that will stay with us always. There’s only one first time.
JT Phillips of Jar of Flies/Outshined: WIB, Jar of Flies and Outshined were honored to share the stage with our guests. They displayed an incredible show of talent that’s in the Seattle music scene and in doing so honored the legacy of Layne Staley and the early Grunge pioneers who all knew each other and helped, collectively, to put Seattle music on the world’s map in the early 90s. The guest contribution to the show was essential to making the night really come together into something special.
Shannon Sharp of Jar of Flies/Outshined: It was a magical night. We are in our 10th year as Jar of Flies and every year gets better and better. This year, we brought in more guests than ever before. This event is bigger than all of us. It’s taken on a communal, family vibe where all of our friends and extended family get together for this occasion to celebrate Layne. Music is absolutely the universal language between us all.
Jason Kertson of Kertson will release “Lonely” on August 27th at Easy Street Records in Seattle.
- Rane Stone-Lead Vocals (Jar of Flies)
- Kevin James Hoffman-Lead Vocals (Outshined)
- JT Phillips-Lead Guitar
- Shannon Sharp-Lead Guitar
- Lee Bruso-Bass
- Daryl Williams-Drums
- Steve McKeever-Lead Vocals
- John Trytek-Rhythm and Lead Guitar
- Michael Daly-Lead Guitar
- Dan Nunn-Bass
- Kevin Hammond-Drums
Jar of Flies, Outshined and Washed in Black also appear together as Best of the Northwest
Thanks to Nancy McCallum who allowed AN to take a photo of her and Rane Stone for this article and for her continued efforts to help make these tribute weekends possible.
Alternative Nation would also like to thank Rebecca Johnson-Daly for allowing us to use the photos that appear in this article (unless otherwise noted below picture).
Special thanks to Rane Stone, of Jar of Flies, who brings his glorious voice each and every time, to relay the lyrics that Layne Staley sang, in a way no one else can. And to JT Phillips of Jar of Flies and Outshined, has been coordinating the tributes for the past few years and for his continued support in making accommodations for me and going out of his way to make this article possible.
Source: Alternative Nation