Classic Rock News

Uncover the "Rosetta Stone" of the grunge era with 'Hype!' documentary

M Hype 102020
Credit: Charles Peterson

Take a trip back to the grunge era with Hype!, which is re-airing tonight on AXS TV at 9 p.m. ET as part of the channel’s Docs That Rock series.

Hype!, which was first released in 1996, documents the rise of Seattle music scene in the early ’90s, which birthed huge bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Throughout the film, director Doug Pray also interviews and captures live footage of all the other bands in the tight-knit Seattle scene that didn’t become famous.

“It’s a performance film in a lot of ways,” Pray tells ABC Audio. “It’s also different kinds of music, which was one of [the other bands’] biggest complaints. They’re like, ‘Well, we don’t play grunge. What is grunge? First of all, what’s grunge, and we don’t play it, I don’t think.'”

Of course, the Seattle scene took off because of Nirvana, which is captured in Hype! with rare footage of the first time Kurt Cobain and company performed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” live. Pray describes that scene as the “Rosetta Stone” of not only Hype!, but the grunge era as a whole.

“You’ve got this one piece of footage that just really, really made sense of it all, and kicked off the explosion,” Pray says.

The director also feels the “Teen Spirit” footage dispels the myth that all grunge music was angry and depressing.

“I think people forget that a lot of this music was super fun, and people were having a blast,” Pray says.

“There’s an energy in that room that I don’t think can ever be duplicated,” he adds. “It’s because it was so sweaty and so tight and so small and so s***ty, [that it’s] just great. Just great.”

By Josh Johnson
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