Hidden among the streets of Seattle are some of the best kept music secrets in town. Embrace the cutting edge, independent spirit of the Seattle music aficionado and learn firsthand that music is not just a lifestyle here, it’s a state of mind.
KEXP: 305 Harrison Street
Listen like a local and tune in to 90.3 and/or 91.7 (KEXP) while you’re in town. This radio station started as tiny 10-watt KCMU in 1972. The station has since evolved into a nationally significant cultural force as an early leader in the “modern rock” format and, more recently, in Internet radio. Fall in love with KEXP on the airwaves while in town, and become a loyal fan by tuning in on your laptop or smartphone when back at home as a priceless souvenir.
The Crocodile Cafe: 2200 2nd Avenue
This dive bar/music joint is where Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and many others played secret shows during their heyday. Even Death Cab for Cutie got its start here. Fan of the 1996 movie, Hype? See if you can spot The Crocodile Café next time you watch it. Check out a live show while you’re in town.
Photo Source: Sub Pop
Sub Pop: 1932 First Avenue
Not a music buff and wondering why there are souvenir tee shirts with Sub Pop on them? Sub pop is independent record label that started in the early 1980s. Sub Pop’s became the launching pad for early releases by Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and many other 90s grunge icons. The label continues to thrive with an increasingly eclectic roster of alternative pop stars.
Myers Music: 1932 First Avenue
Now a high-end art gallery, this location was once home to Myers Music. With floor to ceiling instruments hanging throughout, Myers gained musical recognition as the music store that young Jimi Hendrix bought his first electric guitar in the late 1950s. Don’t forget to head up to the neighborhood of Capitol Hill to the Jimi Hendrix statue at 900 E. Pine Street to pay homage to this electric guitar god.
The Showbox: 1426 1st Avenue
From jazz icon Duke Ellington to burlesque queen Gypsy Rose, to punk legends the Ramones and local heroes Pearl Jam, this Seattle nightspot should not be missed. Conveniently located near Pike Place market, check out the calendar to see who’s playing when you are visiting.
Dick's Drive-In: 115 Broadway East
The home of the Deluxe burger was immortalized in Sir-Mix-a-Lot’s 1989 hit “Posse on Broadway,” a song that defined the jovial spirit of Seattle’s famous rap label, NastyMix Records. While this song may not have become his most notable one, Seattleite’s bask in the glory of the hometown lyrics.
The Vogue: 2018 1st Avenue
Nirvana, an icon of the 90s grunge scene, played its first Seattle show at this location in 1988. The original venue now houses the rock and roll hair salon Vain. Pop up in for a haircut and perhaps relic in the nostalgia that seeps through the walls. Travel Tip: Pay your respects to Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana at Viretta Park where an unofficial memorial bench sits under a tree covered in handwritten notes and momentos.
High School Musical
Garfield High School: 400 23rd Avenue
Led by the venerable Clarence Acox, the Garfield Jazz Band has established itself as one of the nation’s top high school ensembles. Famous alumni from the music-friendly school, built in 1923, include Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and Ernestine Anderson. Visit by appointment only.
Roosevelt High School: 1410 NE 66 Street
Famous alumni of this “rock ‘n roll high school” include Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist Mike McCready, Guns and Roses bassist Duff McKagan, and Mötley Crüe guitarist Nikki Sixx. Roosevelt’s jazz band annually rivals Garfield’s in national high school competitions. Visit by appointment only.
Blue Moon Tavern: 712 NE 45th Street
The epicenter of beatnik and hippie Seattle, the Blue Moon Tavern is the first and oldest tavern in the University District neighborhood. Regulars included writers like Tom Robbins, and poets such as Theodore Roethke. Next door was another dive bar/music joint, formerly the Rainbow Tavern that had regulars such as blues musician Robert Cray, composer Wayne Horovitz, and 90s grunge band Soundgarden.