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Help The Hoople

Photo courtesy Michael P. Sheahan, Esq.
Photo courtesy Michael P. Sheahan, Esq.

Years before this little band called Nirvana suddenly put Seattle on the glittery transcontinental map of rock music, a cornball clutch of great local outfits were plying their own inbred brand of Northwest cool, playing for peanuts in small joints to an incestuous tribe of passionate geeks and plaid-clad oafs.

In the early ’80s, the foremost purveyor of portside garage pop was The Young Fresh Fellows, whose savvy pop licks and aw-shucks antics captured the insouciant side of punk rock’s flippant howl. If you don’t know the Fellows, you don’t really know Seattle music — where it all came from, what it means, what it used to be and is.

Fellows front-guy Scott McCaughey — he of the perpetual smile, permanent Ray-Ban sunglasses and ever-straggly long hair — is a straight-up Northwest legend. Where so many of his contemporaries fell away, died off or quit, McCaughey kept plugging away, applying a non-stop work ethic to his significant songwriting genius and his pure joy for performing. When all of us in Seattle who had been enjoying — nay, standing in awe — of McCaughey’s talent saw him playing with R.E.M. for the second half of that great American band’s career (from 1994 until 2011), we weren’t surprised. It felt like a vindication, a triumph.

All of which leads to this: Last month, while on tour with Alejandro Escovedo in San Francisco, McCaughey suffered a stroke. Reports are he’s recovering rapidly but it’s going to be a long haul, so folks in Portland have organized a two-night benefit, “Help the Hoople,” to help with medical expenses. Let’s get this guy back on stage ASAP — the world needs him.

The shows take place Jan. 5 at the Star Theater and Jan. 6 at the Wonder Ballroom, both in Portland, and will include musical appearances from a long list of luminaries: Mike Mills and Peter Buck of R.E.M.; Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney; James Mercer of The Shins; Patterson Hood of Drive By Truckers; Alejandro Escovedo, Count Kellam, Fernando, Justin Townes Earle, M. Ward, The Decembrists, Casey Neill, Kurt Bloch of the Fellows and the Fastbacks and a special appearance by ’90s Portland legends The Dharma Bums; and probably a whole lot more special appearances.

Both shows have two ticket options ($50 general admission, and VIPs for $100); for tickets and further info, visit helpthehoople.org.