And on and on.
March of Crimes, the Unabombers, Belljar, Clorox Girls, the Displacements, Jailbait Street, the Rickets, the Cleavers and, of course, Malfunkshun — they’re all here, plus many more, in the new multimedia exhibition on display now at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.
“Fearless Music” explores nearly four decades (1980-2018) of the local teen music scene, and includes artifacts, images, recordings and testimonials, courtesy of the very performers who made up some of the most famous Bainbridge-born bands.
It’s not your grandmother’s history lesson — well, maybe it is; did your grandmother ever rock out on the Rock? — and represents a bold new direction for the island institution, according to museum officials.
“I’m so excited for this exhibit because it’s really different than anything the museum’s done in the past,” said Brianna Kosowitz, the museum’s executive director.
“[It was] done by guest curator Merilee Mostov, who assumes a bold, thematic approach to exhibit design and activates diverse perspectives, imagination and critical thinking on historic and current social issues,” she said.
Punk, rock, metal, folk, reggae, new wave — the island’s teen music scene’s sounds are as different as the personalities behind them. And despite the long stretch of time the exhibit covers, beloved as the legacies are and as cooperative as the show’s primary sources proved — both in sharing stories and loaning the museum memorabilia and photos — the exhibition itself came together faster than a Friday night mosh pit.
“I met Brianna at the end of January and she learned about the kind of curating I do, and the style I do, and in February she invited me to guest curate a show,” explained Mostov, who moved to Bainbridge with her husband about two years ago from Ohio.
“I wrote a proposal for the board … for the style of curating I do, which is more thematic, and then after they accepted it Brianna and I, at the end of March, sat down and she presented some ideas she had, we talked about them, and the seed of this idea was the first thing on her list.”
After that, things came together “ridiculously quick,” Mostov said, as she interviewed more than 20 people and gathered the makings of the show.
“It was a load of fun, and because I was new to the region I knew zero when I started,” she said.
Of the ever-evolving scene itself, Mostov said she has “enormous respect for it.”
“These young people were incredibly determined and earnest and hard working, very entrepreneurial, in addition to being what we’d expect, creative and talented — and what does that mean? — they’re critical thinkers,” she said.
More so even than simply talking shop with the bands, Mostov said she designed the show to address what it means to be a teen on Bainbridge Island.
“The scene is not just the musician; it’s the whole crowd that surrounded the musician,” she said. “When I stripped everything down to its core, this isn’t really an exhibit about music. Music was the thread that tied the scenes together, but at it’s core it’s an exhibit about teens and teen culture and this amazing way that through the decades a group of teens built community — a really productive, creative community — with no outside help.
“They weren’t getting paid to do this,” she said. “There’s no monetary incentive. In fact many of them to produce their own [record] or cassette or whatever; they lost money on it. There’s no homework assignment, there’s no grade. It is this intrinsic motivation and curiosity about this topic and really they were brought together from it.”
With some of the show’s youngest contributors still actually in their teen years, “Fearless Music” has an immediacy that may seem out of place in a historical museum.
That, the curator said, is part of the point.
“Five minutes ago is history,” Mostov said. “I think what’s unique about this exhibit for this museum is, and some of the volunteers who are my age or older remarked on this, is maybe as a museum we didn’t think about history being just last year, or five years ago or
10 years ago. But now this museum has opened its heart to thinking, ‘Oh, this is our story. This is a Bainbridge Island story.’”
Kosowitz, who moved to the island and took over as executive director about a year ago, said examining more recent history is going to be a major focus of the programming going forward.
“This is totally revolutionary for the museum,” she said. “With any luck we will work more with Merilee and have some new and exciting shows coming up.”
“Fearless Music” will remain on display through Labor Day Weekend at least, if not longer. Admission to the museum (215 Ericksen Ave. NE) is free.
Visit wwww.bainbridgehistory.org to learn more.