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Explore the Sound of Seattle

October 16, 2020

The grey season has arrived. Time for down time and more cerebral indoor pursuits like listening to music and brushing up on Seattle’s rich musical heritage.

You probably know that Seattle has been home to countless artists across multiple genres, including Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Macklemore. A musical incubator, we’re best known for the creation of the Seattle Sound during the Grunge Rock movement.

But how much do you really know about the music and its local origins?  Here are a few ways you can take your friends and family to explore the Seattle Sound.

1.    Pay homage to two of the city’s most famous sons during the Spooky Season:

  • See the marble dome created in memory of Jimi Hendrix at the Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton. 
  • Visit the park bench that’s become an informal memorial to Kurt Cobain at Viretta Park

2.    Get to know a local recording studio

  • Sub Pop produced albums for Nirvana and Mud Honey. Visit the Sub Pop music catalog online or visit the store at SEA Airport in the Central Terminal after security
  • London Bridge Studio in Shoreline produced music by Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. They offer tours to small groups of five people during COVID-19. 

3.    Check out a music exhibit

  • Visit the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), an interactive museum with exhibitions exploring the city’s musical history, including Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses; Hendrix: Wild Blue Angel; a famous guitar gallery and the Interactive Sound Lab. During COVID-19, reservations for an entry time are required
  • Visit the exhibit of Pearl Jam concert posters displayed at SEA Airport next time you are flying. 

4.    Check into a hotel with the right vibes

Can’t head out of town this year? Maybe a staycation at these music-themed hotels.

  • Historic hotels like the The Edgewater have hosted a plethora of famous musicians including The Beatles on their first tour of the USA, Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, and Willie Nelson. It’s where the famous photo of the Beatles fishing out the window was taken. And they have themed suites including the Beatles Suite and the Pearl Jam. Watch a video of the Edgewater’s most famous guests
  • The Hotel Max near the Pike Place Market partnered with Sub Pop records for 19 music-themed rooms with turntables and curated vinyl. 

5.    Visit a vintage or virtual record store

Your ears will be transported to a different time — check out these favorites:

6.    Tune in to radio pioneers

Seattle is home to several pioneering radio stations, including KEXP, which traces its roots to the University of Washington’s student-run station, founded in 1972. 

The University station’s heavy focus on local music in the 1980s led to the station playing a significant role in the rise of the Seattle Sound. In the 1990s, the station received support from Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, becoming KEXP in 2001 and moving into the new state-of-the- art quarters on the Seattle Center campus.

KEXP is a nonprofit arts organization serving music lovers through in-person, broadcast and online programming.  KEXP operates one of the most influential listener-supported radio stations in the world, 90.3 KEXP-FM Seattle, with its online and on-air service reaching over 240,000 global listeners each week. The station hosts community events and produces hundreds of live performances each year, many of which are open to the public at no charge. 

Artists championed by KEXP are not typically supported by traditional non-profit arts organizations or commercial media outlets. They are inventive, contemporary musicians creating new work in popular genres that include rock, hip hop, reggae, country, Latin, modern global, and more. 

  • For a full list of programs, visit the Schedule section at KEXP.ORG.  
  • Listen to the Spotify Playlist that KEXP created for the Port of Seattle. 
  • During COVID-19,  KEXP offers live music every Tuesday and Thursday in Live on KEXP and several other streaming concert series. View the schedule

7.    Get up to speed on the current music scene

When you visit Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), you may be surprised that it’s a great live music venue. The airport’s music program helps travelers discover new music and artists playing in every concourse every day of the week. 

During COVID-19 with live events all over the globe postponed, the live music program at SEA is also temporarily suspended to protect the health and safety of our musicians and travelers. So we brought our local musicians to you in a music streaming series last summer. 

One of the Port's strategic objectives is to advance our region as a leading tourism destination and business gateway. The Tourism Marketing Support Program offers applicants a partnering opportunity to promote their Washington state destination to out-of-state visitors while promoting the use of Port facilities; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, cruise terminals, and recreational marinas. Learn more about this program.

Top image photo credit: "EMP Museum @ Seattle Center (Seattle, Washington)" by @CarShowShooter is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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