Now considered one of the great music cities of the world Seattle has only recently earnt this reputation off the back of the grunge era in the 90s, while its city compatriots in Nashville, Chicago and New Orleans have long been famous for their music origins.
The city may not be revered for its long history like the aforementioned cities but as the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix it’s no surprise that its roots flourished from the mid 80s on a grunge wave that would spread across the globe.
It’s not that Seattle suddenly had a scene worth listening too. The city was considered as small, young and undiscovered by the outside world. Obviously so was its music scene.
However the popular success of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains brought Seattle to the world and since then its music scene has exploded into diverse territories.
Take the diversification of label Sub Pop, which recently turned 25 years old, for example. The label is considered as an integral factor in pushing grunge into the mainstream.
The label post 1995 went on to sign internationally renowned local bands such as Modest Mouse, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Postal Service, Death Cab For cutie, Band Of Horses, Fleet Foxes and more recently The Head and The Heart.
In recent years a hip-hop scene has sprung up out of the Emerald City with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis taking the Seattle brand across the world once more.
In the PBS mini documentary, What Makes Seattle’s Music Scene So Unique, a local musician cites the weather as why Seattle has a strong music scene.
“It rains all the time so there is nothing to do outside, so you have to figure out creative things to do inside, so there’s a lot of bands here.”
It also doesn’t hurt that in the post grunge era strong support comes from local radio station KEXP and with over twenty popular venues that attract strong crowds, the Seattle music environment allows for bands to flourish.
Unlike some other famous music cities Seattle’s music history is yet to be defined. Yes it is heavily attributed to the grunge movement, but given its youth and its current era of being home to popular indie acts such as Fleet Foxes, the city’s core sound is hard to pin down.
Easy Street Records, 20 Mercer Street
Located in two areas in Seattle the original store opened in 1988 in West Seattle. It has flourished with its own café and live concerts and events. The second store in Queen Anne doesn’t sell the same delicious food but it does host in store gigs. More importantly both locations are home to large diverse collections of recorded music.
Silver Platters, 701 5th Avenue North
In their 27 years of existence this record establishment has expanded to over three stores. Their range of music, which includes new and used CDs, vinyl and DVDs is the biggest in the Northwest. With an eclectic range of stock expect to find some hidden treasures in any of Silver Platter’s stores.
Sonic Boom Records, 2209 NW Market Street
A dedicated seller of LPs, CDs and 7inches since 1997 this record store is also more than happy to take your collection off your hands. With a reputation for affordable prices and friendly staff Sonic Boom Records is a comfortable environment to do some digging. If not for the recorded music than come here to pick up some tickets to local gigs.
Since its inaugural event in 1997 on the streets of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party has grown steadily. Starting off as a one day one stage event the festival has grown over the years and changed ownership hands a couple of times along the way. Now held over three days the 2010 event attracted around 20,000 people. Past performers have included the likes of Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, MGMT, Jack White, Mudhoney, Girl Talk and Purity Ring.
The Crocodile, 2200 2nd Avenue
Shortened to The Crocodile from The Crocodile Café the reputation of this venue cannot be minimised. Opened in 1991 these walls have seen the likes of Nirvana and Death Cab for Cutie before their respective international ascensions. While the venue was closed for a couple of years, The Crocodile continues to support the best up and coming acts from the city’s music scene. You can sweat and mosh in this space to 2am daily.
The Showbox at The Market, 1426 1st Avenue
This institution in Seattle’s music scene has hosted the biggest and best local and international talent since its opening in 1939. Seeing the city through its many musical eras this 1,100 capacity venue is a stunning old building much in thanks to its chandeliers. However its layout, which ensures that almost anyone can see no matter how far from the stage you’re, is what makes the 200 plus gigs a year here worth paying up for.
EMP Museum, 325 5th Ave N
Architecturally bizarre there is no missing this Seattle destination. Founded in 2000 the EMP museum specializes both in music and science fiction. In the basement you’ll find props from the likes of the Lord Of The Rings and Star Trek, while upstairs you can find rock star costumes. However it’s the exhibitions that make EMP worth visiting. Primarily the celebration of Seattle natives Nirvana, while current exhibitions on Hendrix and women in rock also make the price of admission more than worthwhile.
Jimi Hendrix Statue and Grave Memorial
One of Seattle’s most famous music sons has been immortalised through both a statue at Broadway and Pine St. and his memorial grave site just outside of the city at Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton. While the memorial has Hendrix’s signature scribed in stone, his statue in Seattle sees the musician on his knees enacting one of his famous guitar solos.
Nirvana fans can visit this park area not just to be close to the site where Kurt Cobain ended his life and the mansion owned by the musician and Courtney Love, but more importantly to witness and add to the fan shrines in Viertta. A bench in the park is full of scribing’s dedicated to the memory of Cobain and acts as a de facto memorial for the singer. The park stretches from 39th Avenue E. to Lake Washington Boulevard E.
Seattle Acts You Should Check Out
Fly Moon Royalty – Soundcloud
Adra Boo has the strong vocals providing the soul and Emcee Action Jackson brings in the electronic textures with this duo cracking out some catchy tunes. With some hip-hop and R’n’B elements Fly Moon Royalty have an intriguing and infections swagger. They released their self-titled debut album in 2011.
Case Studies – Soundcloud
Jesse Lortz released his second record, This Is Another Life, under the moniker of Case Studies in 2013. The songwriter’s deep vocals and stripped back music has garnered comparisons with everyone from The National to Leonard Cohen and Fleet Foxes. Lortz also uses his music as an outlet for his art with the artwork to his debut featuring a diorama.
Beat Connection – Soundcloud
As integral members of the city’s emerging chillwave scene this three piece released their debut EP Surf Noir in 2011. Their dreamy electronic was hard to ignore. With energetic synthesisers and infectious guitars Beat Connection know how to get your limbs moving.