If there is a place where music is born, blooms and never dies in the USA, it is Seattle. You might know that Seattle was the city in which grunge music bloomed, back in the nineties a new and refreshing genre was born out of visceral sound and attitude. But grunge is just the top of the iceberg, for a long time Seattle has been a seedbed for super talented people in the music scene. At least that was enough reason for me to go and visit the legendary city where rockstars were born or became famous. I’ll give you a tour of the city, my special tour for music lovers that everyone will enjoy. So if you are curious and wild at heart, go ahead and keep reading!
Grunge is not dead, it lives in Seattle
Seattle’s sound became the spotlight when many elements came together to make the music scene the big thing that we know about now. On the late eighties, college radios, independent distributors and fanzines were crucial to broadcast the sound that was slowly turning into the grungy, dirty sound that a generation was crying out loud with guitar riffs. One of those fanzines, Sub Pop, started cassettes compilations with indie, local and national music. By promoting new artists, Sub Pop became an identity that supported and boosted the movement that later turned Seattle into the new Liverpool, as said by Rolling Stone magazine.
Seattle- Tacoma International Airport house a Sub Pop store that host album presentations occasionally (after I picked up my luggage I was able to see Tomo Nakayama, folk musician, playing live). Grunge was about not been seen, not been noticed. From fashion to music, everything was just what fit at the moment, cheap thrift clothes and loud dirty noise. The youth was a generation that did not have the ambition to succeed in music and life from a classic point of view. They were not the musicians that would go to LA to get a contract signed. At least at the beginning. A rainy moisty city, coffee in the morning and hard rock at night. A lifestyle that describes the city, and a city that describes grunge. Messy hair, ragged clothes, and a fierce attitude.
The Moore Theatre is the oldest currently active theatre in the city. Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains recorded videos and concerts at this place.
The Crocodile used to be a home base for grunge artists still active nowadays, it works as a restaurant bar with good wood-fired pizzas and signature drinks named after Seattle iconic rock stars, and as a music venue at night.
If you go a little up North to Volunteer Park, you’ll find the original sculpture that inspired Soundgarden’s song Black Hole Sun. Black Sun is the original name and it was built in 1969 by Isamu Noguchi. In front of it, there is the Seattle Asian Museum that is worth the visit, bring comfy clothes to take a nice walk/run in the park.
Yes, we love grunge. But besides grunge bands that came out of Seattle like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Temple of the Dog, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Hole, and the list goes on and on; there is a long story for international acclaimed all-time music stars from Emerald city.
From different genres and music styles, musicians like Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Kenny G, Duff McKagan (Guns n’Roses), Oletta Adams, The Sonics, Mark O’Connor were born or settled in Seattle and became successful. One of the best guitar players of all times, Jimi Hendrix was raised here. There is a statue on Broadway as a memorial. Fleet Foxes, Dave Mathews band, Modest Mouse, and Foofighters are a few contemporary well-known bands still bring Seattle’s artistry to the showbiz.
5 places to check out for a groovy stay
So, you are here and you already visited a few places to get in the mood. You got probably wet, drank some good coffee (perhaps you visited the first Starbucks ….well we should talk about that another day) and now you want to have some fun, I would.
1.- Singles Going Steady
Before it gets dark it’s time to do a little shopping. On 2219 2nd Ave in Belltown you’ll find a neat selection of punk, rock and indie music –mainly but not just- at Singles Going Steady. Seriously if you are looking for some rare edition or want to find a unique unknown artist that you have never heard of, this is the place. The store is really cool, you might meet another music freak like you and have a great conversation (just like I did) and then get home very happy with your purchase.
2. Museum of Pop Culture
Another must visit during day time (maybe not on the same day, a different one …sorry about that but it will take a while in here) is the MoPOP Museum of Pop Culture. It usually hosts music, movies, sci-fi, technology, video games and all kinds of pop culture exhibits and special events. Musically speaking, you will always find something related to a Seattle native band or artist.
3. The Showbox
Still hosts concerts and has a large history of iconic performings. You could check out their website for current concerts so you can get tickets ahead, but even if you don’t it is still a good idea to visit and take a picture. Because of his popular value since 1939, people intended to turn this place into a city landmark through Change.org. As the night ends it is time for the real thing, live music.
4. Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club
It depends on what suits you or what are you in the mood for, but jazz is always a good idea. At Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club you will find music 6 nights a week, local and top artists. I was walking by and the offer for a Sunday evening was 2 shows 5:30 and 7:30 (or so). Is a very intimate place with good drinks and food, small enough so there is no way you can’t see the performers. You’ll know that you can stop by any day and have a wonderful time anyway.
5. Nectar Lounge
If your stay includes a Monday, you’ll be able to experience the best night in the city. Going out to see your favorite artist is awesome, going out to “discover” local talented musicians are amazing, but going out to see how artists are creating music right there in front of you, out of nothing without even know each other is simply the best. Mo Jam Monday at Nectar Lounge is the day of the week when everyone is invited to join and sign up to play live. Of course, there are people that perform often and are familiar with the place and other musicians, which gives it sort of a bohemian private club mood type of thing, just being there to see the magic is incomparable. Bring your best attitude, comfy shoes, and make sure you have a safe ride home cause many beers and drinks are totally worth for this occasion. Hope you enjoy your vacation and let me know about other awesome places to experience musical Seattle!