Beth was driving me to the airport on Thursday morning at the tail end of my recent Seattle visit. As often happens, the conversation turned to musical topics. We expressed our mutual disappointment in not having seen Mark Pickerel working at the Easy Street Records in West Seattle the day before. If you’re not familiar with Mark, he’s something of a local music legend with a career that goes all the way back to the mid-80s. He drummed in Screaming Trees, recorded with members of Nirvana, and was in the bands Truly and the Dark Fantastic. More recently, he’s released three great albums under the name Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands.
Perhaps more important than Mark Pickerel’s many musical accomplishments is the fact that he’s officially Beth’s “rock star crush”. It’s always a treat for her when we happen to be shopping on a day when he’s picking up a shift at the record store. And it’s always a little disappointing when we go out to Easy Street only to find the regular, run-of-the-mill record store clerks working. (I also enjoy Mark Pickerel sightings as he’s got a terrific sense of style and amazing hair. Whenever I see him, I come away thinking that I should dress better and stop giving myself haircuts.)
So we were in the car talking about Mark Pickerel and wondering where he is these days. Then, little over an hour later, we said our goodbyes and I went through airport security. The other side of security is usually the saddest of places, but I’d only walked a hundred yards or so when I came upon this guy performing outside of the Sub Pop shop (as part of Sea-Tac’s City of Music program). It’s Mark Pickerel!
I talked to Mark for a couple minutes, told him about Beth’s crush and our recent trip to Easy Street, and bought a copy of his latest album. Then I stood around for 35 minutes and listened to him play for passersby and their rolling suitcases. I ended up hearing eleven complete songs. Most of them were covers, but there were at least three originals in there, including a new one that mentioned “throwing rattlesnakes at rocks”. I’d forgotten how much I like Mark Pickerel’s voice.
Here’s the setlist:
Setlist: … / Back Room of the Bar (Young Fresh Fellows) / Crescent City (Lucinda Williams) / Be Here to Love Me (Townes Van Zandt) / One More Cup of Coffee (Bob Dylan) / You’ll Be Mine / Rattlesnakes at Rocks / Don’t Look Back / Waiting on a Friend (Rolling Stones) / Back to Black (Amy Winehouse) / Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone (Willie Nelson & others) / Diggy Liggy Lo (Rusty and Doug Kershaw) / …
I kept looking at my watch to make sure I didn’t miss my flight. I eventually decided I was cutting it too close, so I thanked Mark for his songs and headed to my departure gate. The rest of the day consisted of two attempts at a landing, rushing through the longest airport ever only to find myself faced with a two-hour delay, and Delta baggage handlers crushing the shit out of my Jimmy Stewart suitcase (RIP). Needless to say, stumbling upon Mark Pickerel singing at the airport proved to be the highlight of my day.
Oh, and the last thing Mark said to me as I was walking away was, “Say hi to your girlfriend for me.”