Seattle has always made musical waves that echo far beyond the Northwest. If you’re flying in or out of Sea-Tac, find evidence (and unique souvenirs) at Sub Pop Airport Store (17801 International Blvd), where you’ll find gear from the famed local record label credited for launching the grunge scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Then beeline for the funky Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) (*325 Fifth Ave N), honoring rock music, science fiction, and more with mementos displayed inside an ultramodern, Frank Gehry-designed building. The museum commemorates Seattle’s Chris Cornell, late frontman of Soundgarden, with a bronze statue. (On Capitol Hill, another statue pays tribute to Jimi Hendrix, the city’s classic-rock son.)
To hear Seattle’s heartbeat, tune into KEXP (90.3) (*472 First Ave N). What began as a scrappy student- and volunteer-run radio station in 1972 has evolved into an internationally lauded anchor of this community. In 2016, KEXP broadened its scope further with a hip Gathering Space for folks to socialize, work, enjoy coffee from La Marzocco Café (472 First Ave N), peruse Light in the Attic Records (472 First Ave N), and catch free, intimate concerts.
KEXP’s DJ Morgan (aka Morgan Chosnyk) says Seattle music blazes trails because listeners keep an open mind to new genres, which has “provided space for musicians to be creative and express themselves with less structure.”
That openness shines on citywide stages like Showbox (*1426 First Ave), an institution with excellent booking power in an Art Deco building. Music buffs also flock to The Crocodile (2200 Second Ave) in Belltown, where grunge gurus like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Mudhoney got their starts. Cozy listening spaces in Ballard include Tractor Tavern (5213 Ballard Ave NW) and Sunset Tavern (5433 Ballard Ave NW).
“If you get involved in the music scene, you’ll be heartened to see folks going out to shows every night of the week,” DJ Morgan says. “People take chances on each other’s art in this town, and that’s really nice to see.”
“If you stick around in the evening, you can likely catch a show at The Vera Project (305 Harrison St), right across from us at KEXP. You’re always guaranteed [kids] can come in with you since it’s an all-ages venue!”
Bop Street Records (2220 NW Market St): A Ballard staple since 1974, this is a treasure trove of collectible vinyl LPs, 45s, and 78s.
Easy Street Records (4559 California Ave SW): Folks love this West Seattle hub for its cafe and in-store concerts.
Jive Time Records (3506 Fremont Ave N): Dig through crates of vintage vinyl at this Fremont gem.
Silver Platters (multiple locations): This independent music and movie retailer has a massive SoDo outpost.
Sonic Boom Records (2209 NW Market St): This friendly Ballard business is fully stocked with records, CDs, and cassettes.
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