Washed in Black – A tribute to Pearl Jam

I have been long time friends with many members of Seattles very awesome tribute bands, especially the guys from Washed in Black.
Below, I am very happy to present a recent chat with lead singer, Steve McKeever.

First up, tell us who you are and the band or bands you are currently in.

I’m Steve McKeever. I’m the lead singer for Washed in Black – a tribute to Pearl Jam. I also sing in a side project called Black Days, an acoustic duo, with my friend and guitarist Vance Proszek.

How is the music scene in Seattle at the moment and how do you fit into it?

The music scene in Seattle seems to be recovering nicely following all the pandemic hysteria of the past two years. People are ready to get back to normal. It got weird there for a while. Though proof of vaccination is no longer mandated, there are a number of venues that were trailblazers in that regard and discriminated against those who weren’t in a rush to become a part of the grand inoculation experiment.

I see Washed in Black has been travelling out of state a bit lately, tell us about that.

We traveled to Idaho in March of this year and had a successful show, but most recently we had a great opportunity to play the Matanuska Brewing Company’s Summer concert series in Eagle River, Alaska.  Awesome venue and incredible people involved. We extended our stay and stuck around to catch Tesla playing the same stage the following night.

I was lucky enough to see you guys at the ElCo in 2018 for the Grunge tribute show, how cool was that show, with that line up?

That seems so long ago. Another lifetime actually. That was a great experience to play the same stage that so many legends have played. It was part of the annual Layne Staley tribute show and was a cool opportunity to meet so many people (yourself included) who were deeply impacted by the music that came out of Seattle in the early 90’s. 

You have been part of some massive shows post covid and we know the tribute scene is strong, have you considered international tours?

We absolutely consider broadening our scope both nationally and internationally. Our bass player/manager Dan Nunn is constantly searching out opportunities. Unfortunately, Covid restrictions still limit our travels abroad. 

You have seen a lot of changes in the music industry and in Seattle, popularity of differing genres and the increasing effects of economics on the industry, how has that effected the band?

We just try to keep on keeping on. Not to continue bringing up Covid, but it really had a huge impact on our momentum. The impact was felt everywhere by everyone. Several of our favorite venues shut down due to the economic impact. The tribute scene is still a commodity, fortunately and we are hopeful that the fans are just as eager to return to shows as we are to play them.

So what’s next for Washed in Black?

We’ve got a few cool shows coming up. We’ll be doing an outdoor acoustic set close to home later this month, followed by a casino gig a few weeks after that.  We’ll be playing very cool festival called FlannelFest in Moses Lake Washington in early October. Lots of great tributes to 90’s music are on the bill. Can’t wait.

Got any secret stuff your working on you want to share?

No secrets really. We’ve got two great newer guitar players to fill the Gossard and McCready roles, so we’ve been working hard to get the set built back up to its former glory. This is our best lineup of players musically and personality-wise. The vibe is better than ever. We’re working on adding some songs we haven’t performed publicly and hope to mix up the set a bit in coming shows.  

The Back 9

What was the first instrument you learned to play and was it the one you wanted to learn?
That’s a sore spot for me. LOL. My best friend when I was young came from a family of accordion players and as a 9 year old I thought that was pretty cool, so my friend’s accordion teacher became my accordion teacher. I played for a couple years and was pretty good at it. It didn’t take long for me to figure out it wasn’t as cool as I thought. Still, it gave me a fundamental understanding of music and taught me to read music, although that knowledge has faded over the years. If I could do it all over again, I would have taken guitar lessons in a heartbeat. 

When we are little, we all want to be someone, who was your someone?
I’m pretty sure I wanted to be Robert Plant. An accordian playing Robert Plant. Hah!!

Which musician or producer have you worked with that you learned the most from?
I’ve learned a little bit from everyone I’ve ever played with. The most important takeaway? Be humble and don’t take yourself too seriously. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Biggest live show to date and were you nervous or stressed out?
It’s tough to pin down our biggest show. We’ve been a band for 7 years now. We’ve had some huge theater  and festival shows and have probably played to upwards of 2,500 people at any one time. Nerves are always a part of the equation pre-show, but it’s more nervous anticipation than nervousness or stress. Performing is what feeds our souls.

Where do you find inspiration for songs and music.
I’m not currently in a writing phase, but when I am I find inspiration randomly. By music I hear, current events, etc…

What is the most useless talent you have?
I can turn a paper clip into a spring. lol. Also, I attract mosquitos as if I were some type of bug amusement park or all you can eat buffet. 

Do you collect old music memorabilia? If so, do you have a particular band or item you collect?
I have a pretty good collection of Pearl Jam items and many written biographies on bands and artists I enjoy. I’ve got a good collection of artwork of my favorite grunge idols as well. 

How do you balance your music with other obligations – family, children, job?
Just have to find that balance and keep calendars synchronized. We’re playing less shows this year so it hasn’t been too difficult. Fortunately, I’ve got a good amount of vacation time at work so it’s not too tough to take a Friday off here and there for travel shows. 

Why does music matter? What does it mean to you?
Music is life. I think it’s a universal force that connects people. It is my escape.

Thank you for your time Steve, always appreciated mate.

No worries at all, brother. Hope you can get back over here in the not too distant future.

Fingers crossed for 2023 man



All photographs have been used with permission from the following sources
Or were from my personal collection
I couldn’t find an active link to credit Optical Ninja.

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