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February 6th, 2013 MATTHEW SINGER | Music Stories
 

Black Hole Son

A conversation with Portland’s foremost Soundgarden expert.

music_soundgardenfan_3914REEDER - Image courtesy of Matt Reeder
If music fandom is measured by the number of times people have seen their favorite band live, then Matt Reeder is a lousy Soundgarden fan. He owns 250 bootlegs, all the band’s official releases (including a Superunknown CD-ROM), a binder’s worth of press clippings, a rare European tour shirt worth $100—and exactly one ticket stub from a concert he actually attended, at Washington’s Gorge Amphitheater in July 2011.


Growing up in Salem, Reeder had multiple chances to catch the Seattle grunge titan at its height, when the band would swing through the Salem Armory, but each time, for reasons he can’t even remember, he stayed home. Then, in 1997, Soundgarden broke up. Regrets? Reeder has a few.

In the years between then and the band’s 2010 reunion, the 32-year-old, who teaches French at Portland Community College, has thoroughly atoned for those blown opportunities. In 1999, Reeder started the Soundgarden Live Guide (soundgardenliveguide.com), an online resource dedicated to cataloging, in great detail, every concert the band has ever played. And that, it turns out, is a greater act of tribute than just being another flannel-clad longhair in the crowd. Although Soundgarden is among the biggest bands of its generation, Reeder says it is woefully under-documented as a live act. His site isn’t just the most exhaustive of its kind—it’s the only one. It hasn’t gone unnoticed, either: Guitarist Kim Thayil once referenced the guide in an interview, Reeder says. 

Soundgarden trading card
Matt Reeder, personal collection

This week, Soundgarden comes to Portland for the first time since April 16, 1992, when it performed at the Fox Theater (a show for which there is no known recording or set list). And this time, Reeder is not missing out.


WW: How did you first get into Soundgarden? 

Matt Reeder: I remember listening to KNRK 94.7 a lot when I was first getting into rock music. When I got some money for eighth-grade graduation, I went out and bought Superunknown and Nevermind. Many times I wish I were, like, five years older so that I could have really seen those bands back in the day. I mean, I was 13 when Kurt [Cobain] died, and even though I was a huge fan of Soundgarden from 1994 on, I never saw them.


How did it end up that you’ve seen Soundgarden only once?

Well, I was a total loser in high school and didn’t go to shows at all. So when Soundgarden came through in 1996, I really wanted to go, and it just didn’t happen for some reason or another. Don’t ever miss a concert if you really want to go—I wish somebody would have told me that when I was 15.


Is there a holy grail of Soundgarden bootlegs? 

There are so many shows that have never seen the light of day. The Soundgarden bootleg community just isn’t on the same level as that of their peers. I mean, there are recordings out there of basically every show Pearl Jam has played since 1993. We have recordings of maybe 20 percent of the shows Soundgarden played before the breakup. 


What have you learned about Soundgarden that the casual fan is unaware of?

Who else would have the balls to cover [Spinal Tap’s] “Big Bottom”? 


What’s your favorite Soundgarden song?

“Head Down.” I was 13 when Superunknown came out, and I really didn’t get what they were trying to do with that song at all. It was never my favorite until I heard a live version when I first started collecting bootlegs. It almost instantly became my favorite Soundgarden song, and it has remained so ever since. 


Tell me about that one show you attended. 

I think I was numb the first few songs and spent most of the show just watching with my eyes bugged and my mouth hanging open. I mean, I never thought I’d ever have the opportunity to see them, so it was a surreal experience for me. I’m really looking forward to seeing them in Portland and Seattle on this tour. Those three days are going to be a dream come true. 


SEE IT: Soundgarden plays Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, on Wednesday, Feb. 6. 8 pm. $70.50. All ages.

When Matt met Soundgarden, July 30, 2011:

 

  

When Soundgarden last played Portland: Ad and listing in WW, April 16, 1992, Vol. 18, #25.

 

 

 
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