Northwest '60s garage-rock icons the Sonics perform a triumphant reunion concert at Seattle's Paramount Theatre on October 31, 2008.

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 11/01/2008
  • Essay 8825
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On Halloween night, Friday, October 31, 2008, the Sonics -- Tacoma's legendary '60s garage-rock band -- reunite to perform at Seattle's Paramount Theatre. The venue is the very site of their last local reunion concert, 36 years earlier.

Sonic Booms and Screams

Formed in Tacoma in 1960 -- and named after the then-common sonic booms created by Boeing jets and military aircraft at the nearby McChord Air Force Base -- the Sonics quickly forged a unique and unprecedentedly savage sound whose hallmarks were ratty proto-punk guitar riffs, maniacal screaming, and thunderous drumbeats.

And although their best songs like 1964's "The Witch" (which was initially created in the hopes of sparking a new Halloween season dance-step fad) and 1965's "Psycho" were popular enough to sell many thousands of units locally, the band's radical nature virtually ensured that their commercial potential would be limited.  

Delightful and Raucous

Dissolving by 1968 without having ever scored a big national hit, the Sonics might well have become an answer in a music trivia game. But a devoted coterie maintained reverence for the band's key contributions to an aesthetic that would later become defined as punk rock. After their records were first reissued in 1973, a whole new audience -- all across America and in England and Europe -- discovered the raw power of their delightfully raucous rock 'n' roll.

Finally responding to years' worth of pleas that they reunite, the reconstituted Sonics debuted in late 2007 in New York City -- then played in London, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, and finally back at home. The Seattle gig saw the Sonics perform a dream set-list: 

  • "He's Waitin'"
  •  "Money"
  • "Cinderella"
  • "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"
  • "Boss Hoss"
  • "Keep A Knockin'"
  • "The Hustler"
  • "You've Got Your Head On Backwards"
  • "High Time"
  • "Have Love, Will Travel"
  • "Werewolves of London"
  • "Strychnine"
  • "Lucille"
  • "Walkin' The Dog"
  • "Don't Believe In Christmas"
  • "Night Time is the Right Time"
  • "Shot Down"
  • "Dirty Robber"
  • "Psycho"
  • "Louie Louie"
  • "The Witch"

Opening Acts

The Paramount concert kicked-off with a sweetly subdued opening performance by Ballard's Kate Tucker & the Sons of Sweden, and then a spirited one by Tacoma's riotous Girl Trouble, who'd established themselves throughout the 1990s grunge era as a young band that proudly championed the music of the Sonics and other garage groups that had forged the 1960s original "Northwest Sound."


Peter Blecha, SONIC BOOM! The History of Northwest Rock: From "Louie Louie" to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (New York: Backbeat Books, forthcoming 2009); Peter Blecha personal observation, Sonics Concert, Paramount Theater, October 31, 2008, Seattle.

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