Seattle: A rock ‘n’ roll guide

Where to see music

The Crocodile

The Crocodile is a Seattle favourite

The Crocodile has been a staple of the Seattle live music scene ever since it opened its doors in 1991, at the height of the city’s prominence in the so-called grunge movement.

Widely recognised as the best venue for live music in the city, the Belltown venue has a storied history, with innumerable, iconic bands gracing the stage in its early days, including local heroes Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Mudhoney, but also the likes of Cheap Trick, Beastie Boys and R.E.M.

The popular venue was closed for just over a year from December 2007 for renovation and reconstruction, reopening to much relief in March 2009.

The Crocodile continues to host an impressive range of bands and artists from a variety of different genres, and welcomes both international superstars and local upstarts to its stage.

It also hosts everything from burlesque, bingo, karaoke and DJ nights within its cosy confines, and The Back Bar has become a favourite spot for those seeking to enjoy Seattle’s night-life.

A must visit venue if you make it out to Seattle.

Location: 2200 2nd Avenue, Seattle, Washington, United States 98121

Website: www.thecrocodile.com

The Showbox

© Rock 'n' roll travel / William David Wilson

The Showbox is a Seattle institution, and without doubt one of its premier rock ‘n’ roll venues.

The storied, art-deco ballroom on 1st Avenue first opened its doors way back on 24 July 1939, so has been an important cultural and musical venue for over 75 years now.

Throughout its history it has taken in everything from Jazz, hip-hop and the locally spawned Grunge craze exemplified by Mudhoney, Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

Musical icons as diverse as Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters and the Ramones have all played here, and the venue continues to attract and book the big names and provide a welcoming stage for local bands hoping to make it big.

Location: 1426 1st Avenue, Seattle, Washington, United States 98101

Website: www.showboxpresents.com

 

The Moore TheatreCreative Commons / Alex O'Neal

The Moore Theatre is the oldest still running theatre in Seattle, and has been an important venue in the city’s rock ‘n’ roll history.

The Moore and its adjoining Hotel were funded and built in the early 1900s by James A. Moore, the stately building designed by noted architect Edwin W. Houghton. The Theatre first opened its doors in 1907, mainly showcasing plays and shows, as well as hosting the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.

Cleverly designed without vertical supports for the balcony, the theatre boasted excellent vantage points from the get-go.  The exterior is less ornate than the extravagant interior, which features marble, stained glass, mosaic floors plus ivory, olive and gold décor.

The Moore has developed over its 100 year plus existence into a comfortable home for almost every type of performance art. Indeed, it has brought film (including the Seattle International Film Festival it hosted from 1976), art exhibits, talks, political rallies, minstrel shows, graduations and even boxing matches to the masses since.

In 1994, after some time of financial struggle, the Moore Theatre was leased by the Seattle Landmark Association, later named the Seattle Theatre Group. A significant refurbishment was undertaken in July 2013.

From a rock ‘n’ roll standpoint, the venue has played its part in Seattle’s grunge music history, with local bands Soundgarden and Pearl Jam recording EPs and music videos respectively from the theatre.

Location: 1932 2nd Avenue, Seattle, Washington, United States 98101

Website: www.stgpresents.org/moore/

Neumos

Neumos is a Pacific Northwest stop off for many indie bands

A hugely popular Seattle music venue, Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room is a great place to catch a first glimpse of an up and coming local band or a well-established touring alternative rock act.

Originally opening as Moe’s Mo’Roc’N Café in 1994 before being re-furbished and re-launched as Neumos (New Moe’s, geddit?) in 2003, the new venue has since seen the likes of The Shins, Fleet Foxes, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Cat Power and Yeasayer tread the stage amongst many, many others.

The venue boasts impressive acoustics and light production, and its swanky showroom features three full service bars, a second floor mezzanine, and a balcony overlooking the stage.

The whole Neumos also includes Moe’s Bar and Barboza, a renovated, intimate showroom on the lower floor.

The previous incarnation of Moe’s Mo Roc’n Café has a highly interesting history of its own, hosting the debut performance of Neil Young’s collaboration with Pearl Jam, Mirror Ball, whilst a surprise free Radiohead gig almost led to rioting when the room quickly reached its capacity. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton even dropped by in the ‘90s to catch Jakob Dylan’s Wallflowers perform after a fundraiser at the nearby Paramount.

Location: 925 E. Pike Street, Seattle, Washington, United States 98122

Website: www.neumos.com

Benaroya Hall

Creative Commons / LWYang)

Taking up a complete city block at in the heart of downtown Seattle, the wonderful Benaroya Hall is a key player in the Emerald City’s vibrant cultural and artistic life.

Predominantly the home of the Seattle Symphony and classical music, it also hosts performance events of a different kind, including lectures, comedy and yes, rock concerts.

In July 2015 Brian Wilson played an acclaimed concert there with cult folk artist Rodriguez as his support act. Others to play at the impressive space include Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam.

The venue, which boasts two performance halls, was funded by $159 million of private funding, a substantial amount coming from Jack Benaroya, whose surname graces the complex. It opened its doors in September 1998.

Location: 200 University Street, Seattle, Washington, USA 98101

Website: www.seattlesymphony.org/benaroyahall

Sunset Tavern

Sunset Tavern features up and coming indie bands

Located in the burgeoning suburb of Ballard to the Northwest of Seattle’s main centre, the cosy Dive Bar known as The Sunset Tavern presents live music seven days a week.

With a capacity of just 200 people it is not the largest venue, but it more than makes up for this through the intimacy of its shows and decent sound system.

Many up-and-coming alternative rock, alternative-country, punk and electronica bands get their start here, though major names such as local folk heroes Fleet Foxes and grunge progenitors Mudhoney have climbed up on stage here.

All in all, this welcoming former Chinese Restaurant and Fisherman’s Dive Bar is a great venue to experience live music a little away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Seattle.

Location: 5433 Ballard Avenue, Seattle, Washington, United States 98107

Website: www.sunsettavern.com

Neptune

The Neptune Theater is visited by popular bands like The National

Rapidly approaching a century in business, the historic Neptune Theatre has progressed from being a renowned single screen cinema into one of the Emerald City’s newest and best live performance venues (though it still continues to show films).

The Neptune Theatre – now owned and operated by Seattle Theatre Group who also run the historic Paramount and Moore Theatres in the city – moved on from its life as a single-screen movie house in January 2011 and now presents a diverse range of performance art, from comedy and plays to rock ‘n’ roll.

Recent times has seen the Neptune welcome the likes of Animal Collective and American Football to its impressive auditorium with state of the art sound.

On November 14th 2015 the the Neptune Theatre building was designated as a city landmark by the City of Seattle’s Landmark Preservation Board.

Location: 1303 NE 45th Street, Seattle, Washington, United States 98105

Website: www.stgpresents.org/neptune

Paramount Theatre

The Paramount is one of Seattle's best loved venues

Seattle’s Paramount Theatre is one of the Emerald City’s most famous and longest-running venues.

Opening back in March 1928 as the Seattle Theatre, the venue focused primarily on bringing silent films to the masses in the beginning.

In the intervening 85 and more years though, the Paramount has changed its stripes on numerous occasions in a David Bowie-like fashion, going from the silent movie palace it started out as into a vaudevillian performance spot, a cineastes movie house, a Broadway-type theatre and a rock and jazz concert hall.

Like many long-running venues, the Paramount has not been immune to financial problems and a fight for survival. In the early 1990s former Microsoft vice-president Ida Cola stepped in to save the diminishing theatre, re-establishing its former glory under the non-profit Seattle Theatre Group and its previous incarnation the Landmark Association.

After eight months of intensive refurbishment it reopened in March 1995, with a showing of the play Miss Saigon. The theatre has since gone from strength to strength, hosting everything from speaking events, stand-up comedy, Broadway plays, jazz, fashion shows and of course rock concerts.

Location: 911 Pine Street, Seattle, Washington, United States 98101

Website: www.stgpresents.org/paramount

KeyArena

Creative Commons / Cliff

The KeyArena is effectively Seattle’s equivalent of Los Angeles’ Staples Center and New York City’s Madison Square Garden: a giant, multi-purpose arena utilised for everything from concerts, ice shows, circuses, and sporting events such as basketball and boxing.

Going through numerous incarnations (such as Washington State Pavilion, Washington State Coliseum and Seattle Center Coliseum) it was renamed KeyArena in 1995 after a major facelift.

Located just north of Seattle’s downtown, it can be found  in the 74-acre entertainment complex known as Seattle Center, which hosted the 1962 Century 21 Exposition.

KeyArena has a large seating capacity of around 17,000, so is the place to see huge rock and pop acts sailing through town such as The Rolling Stones, U2 and AC/DC.

Location: 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, Washington, United States 98109 

Website: www.keyarena.com


Places of Rock ‘n’ roll interest

Jimi Hendrix Statue

© Rock 'n' roll travel / William David Wilson

Seattle’s most famous and iconic rock ‘n’ roll figure (Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was actually from the small logging town of Aberdeen in Washington State), the legendary Jimi Hendrix was always likely to be immortalised in bronze.

Alas, in 1997 an impressive bronze sculpture was commissioned by music impresario, guitar collector and real-estate developer Mike Malone, to be seated on 1604 Broadway in the bohemian area of Capitol Hill.

Local sculptor Daryl Smith designed the lifelike statue of Hendrix,  features the legendary guitarist in a rock ‘n’ roll moment, sliding on his knees with his trusty Fender Stratocaster wielded horizontally. The detailed portrait even replicates Jimi’s fuzzy afro and trademark bandanna.

Not surprisingly, the statue is popular with rock tourists (even those of the rock star variety), and sits close to the intersection of Broadway and East Pine Street.

Fans regularly gather on Hendrix anniversaries to leave tributes and sometimes play classics from his enviable repertoire. A must visit site for those rock pilgrims travelling to Seattle.

Location: 1604 Broadway, Seattle, Washington, United States 98122

Google Map

EMP MuseumCreative Commons / Cacophony

The eye-catching non-profit, EMP Museum situated in the heart of Seattle by the Space Needle is one of the most impressive contemporary cultural museums in the world.

Founded by Microsoft co-conspirator Paul Allen back in 2000 and designed by noted architect Frank O. Gehry, the Museum bills itself as being “dedicated to the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary popular culture.”

Boasting an impressive Science Fiction Museum will its own annual Hall of Fame, it is its exceptional music related exhibits and collections however that make it a must visit for rock enthusiasts.

Amazing exhibitions on local heroes Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix should be filed under must see, and there are many new exhibitions and artefacts turning up regularly.

 Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic proclaimed that the EMP was “much more than just a museum,” and a visit for discerning rock fans, particularly for those of either a Hendrix or grunge persuasion, will illustrate why.

Location: 325 5th Avenue North, Seattle, Washington, United States 98109

Website: www.empmuseum.org

Google Map

Featured image courtesy of David Herrera