Ahead of John Richards leading the crowd in the “Scarves Up!” tradition at the Sounders match against FC Dallas on Sunday, KEXP is looking back on the station’s history with the team. From KEXP Night at Centurylink Field to the MLS Cup celebrations happening outside KEXP’s New Home, the Rave Green’s history has intertwined with KEXP’s on a number of significant occasions, mirroring the relationship between soccer and music.
In any stadium around the world, hearing the sounds of any team’s supporters is just as visceral of an experience as seeing the team itself play. The adaptation of popular music into fan culture is widespread – Manchester United fans adapting one of Joy Division’s finest songs into “Giggs Will Tear You Apart”, the Italian national team claiming “Seven Nation Army” as an unofficial hymn during the 2006 World Cup, and multiple clubs warping “Oh My Darling Clementine” into the ever-present, always applicable “No One Likes Us, We Don’t Care” are just a few examples of the two worlds colliding. Like any club with a vibrant history and fanbase, The Sounders have their own signature musical elements during the match. Along with a number of chants crafted by their fans, the Sounders FC supporters group Emerald City Supporters singing Woody Guthrie’s “Roll On, Columbia, Roll On” to honor Fredy Montero, the Colombian scorer of their first MLS goal, remains one of the more distinct traditions among any team in the league.
Another key musical match moment is the playing of Seattle native Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along The Watchtower” before the scarf raising ceremony, was conceived by Richards, who has hosted Sounders players Brad Evans, Cristian Roldan, Jordan Morris on the Morning Show. A season ticket holder himself who recently appeared on MLS’s digital series The Movement, Richards once described the decision to become a week-in, week-out regular at matches as something he was proud to do. “We talk about how you should be proud to donate to KEXP, and I’m proud to be a season ticket holder… I felt like I supported my community.” Beyond the Morning show, then-player (and current coach) Gonzalo Pineda joined DJ Chilly for an interview and guest DJ set on El Sonido in June 2015, and after the Sounders won their first MLS Cup in December 2016, the victory parade rally closed with a set from Seattle band Naked Giants in the KEXP Gathering Space. Most notably, however, were the two KEXP Nights at Centurylink Field, where fans received special edition KEXP/Sounders scarves ahead of the match, more than a few of which will be raised in tandem with John’s on Sunday.
As two of the most universal cultural elements in the world, there are people who make soccer and music a core part of their identity: the ones who get song lyrics tattooed on their skin. The ones who spend their nights and weekends singing along with other fans. The ones who swear that the only things you can’t ever change are your mother and your soccer team. These are the people that tune into KEXP looking for new bands alongside longtime favorites and the people watching grizzled Sounders veterans raise the MLS Cup alongside legends-in-the-making. The Sounders fanbase is vivid, loud, and impossible to ignore - just like the music that KEXP champions.