Seattle: Beyond the '90s, music scene still vibrant

Road Journals Blog—Curious about Seattle's vibrant music scene, past and present? Don't have the time—or auditory fortitude—to spend hours in the clubs? The Seattle Music Tour by Foot may be for you.

I took the 2.5-hour guided walking tour as part of my reporting for VIA's current cover story on Seattle. On a bitingly cold January afternoon—an afternoon when elsewhere in the city thousands of screaming Seahawks fans were justifying Qwest Field's reputation as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL—I met my guide, Alex Nine, at a downtown coffee shop. This being Seattle, where better to meet?

Nearly 20 years after Kurt Cobain's death, Nirvana's influence is still felt across Seattle. | Daniel Hartwig/Flickr

Alex is a nice guy but, just as important, he has firsthand knowledge of Seattle's music scene. Born and raised in the city, he's the bassist for local funk-rock-soul band Roxbury Pound, whose self-stated mission is to "deliver the funky goods to the asses of the masses." Though his grasp of Seattle’s distant music history isn't broad, the guy knows his local rock from the late '80s to the present.

We walked from downtown, past Pike Place Market ("buskers' heaven," said Alex), to the far end of Belltown, pausing outside significant spots. Our stops-with-commentary included still-important venues like Showbox at the Market ("Everyone's played here, from Duke Ellington to the Ramones to Soundgarden to Lady Gaga") and The Crocodile, where Alex proudly noted that Roxbury Pound had an upcoming gig. We checked out the Bad Animals recording studio used by many grunge groups, and the handsome, ochre-brick building housing the iconic Sub Pop Records—the most important label in the history of the grunge movement (49 percent of which was sold to Warner Brothers in 1995).

At one point, we stopped in front of a trendy women's boutique called Vain. "Back when this was a club, Nirvana played its first Seattle gig here, in April 1988," Alex said.

Toward the end of the tour I asked Alex what was special about performing before a Seattle audience. "We have the loudest crowds," he told me, beaming with pride, "and not just for football."

Christopher Hall wrote the cover story on Seattle for VIA's May/June 2011 issue.

This blog post was first published in May 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.