Culture + Style

Think the Seattle Music Scene is Only Known for Grunge? Think Again

There’s more to the Seattle music scene than grunge. Jimi Hendrix statue in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. (Photo: Jack Sullivan/ Alamy)

Quick, I say Seattle music and you say … grunge, right? Who wouldn’t, as flannel-clad rockers like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden turned this Pacific seaport city into a moody music flashpoint in the early ’90s. Even Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain’s untimely death couldn’t dim Seattle’s iconic music cred. Can you say Macklemore? Band of Horses? While there’s nothing like catching a made-it-big-local play to hometown fans, other great live acts are always ready to kill it at these intriguing music venues:

Pike Place Market

Sure, Pike Place Market is a favorite spot for shopping and noshing but it’s also a front-row free ticket to catch some of Seattle’s best buskers. These street performers have been part of the Seattle music scene for decades, and they rotate through the market every hour. Alternative country-folk performer Brandi Carlile got her start as a busker here, so you never know … you might be dropping some coin into the guitar case of the next big superstar.

seattle music dimitriou's jazz alley
Nnena Freelon performing at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley (Photo: Bruce C. Moore)

Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley

If jazz is more your scene, spend an evening at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. This intimate club – all seats are within 50 feet of the stage – hosts up-and-coming acts, alongside legends like Santana and Sérgio Mendes. The real surprise at Jazz Alley is its excellent restaurant that accompanies the smooth sounds of jazz with tasteful notes of Northwest cuisine. While dinner guests generally get preferred seating for the show, you can reserve online ahead of time to book a table closer to the stage.

Little Red Hen

Break out the boots and denim for a taste of Nashville, West Coast style, at the Little Red Hen, north of downtown. “The Hen,” as locals call it, ramps it up with live bands five nights a week. Or, swing on by for karaoke on Monday or Wednesday nights and croon away like Patsy Cline or Willie Nelson. Show up for free line dancing lessons on Monday nights (yep, free) and don’t be surprised if you’re hooked. It’s all about down-home bar food here, with a cheap beer or a shot or two to wash it all down.

experience music project seattle
Rock and science fiction meet at the Experience Music Project Museum. (Photo: Courtesy Experience Music Project)

Experience Music Project

Make your musical encore in Seattle a visit to the Experience Music Project museum, a paean to pop culture housed in a futuristic, Frank Gehry-designed building. With its origins in rock and science fiction, all music lovers can appreciate the absolute interactive coolness of this place that simply screams self-expression. Throw on some earphones at the massive IF VI WAS IX sculpture, made up of 500 musical instruments and 30 computers, so you can listen to the artists’ creative musical interpretations. Or, turn it up to eleven and take home a DVD of your own performance at the museum’s On Stage exhibit. Rock on.


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