I was in the city accredited with being Grunge central.
A few paces away from the Space Needle is the EMP. Previously know as the Experience Music Project and housed in the wonderfully weird and colourful building designed by Frank O Gehry, EMP was a must do for me. I like my music and have a soft spot for Sci Fi. The EMP offered a glimpse in to both of these worlds and I wasn’t going to miss out.
First stop was the Sky Church. An enormous 70′ high space with a screen and sound system to compliment the size of the expanse, Sky Church was running music documentaries whilst I was in the building. I was met by a truly larger than life Kurt Cobain in full flow, Nirvana playing as only they could, intense, full on, in your face. I spent the next 20 minutes in a different time, but not a different place as I was in the city accredited with being Grunge central.
As Seattle is only a couple of hours from home, moments like this make me pinch myself. Yep, I really am on the west coast. Yep, I can come back another day if I want to, this is not a holiday. Good start. Now what?
The central piece in the next gallery was the guitar sculpture, tens of guitars, all shapes, sizes, colours creating a funnel of sound rising skywards. It’s probably the most photographed part of the EMP, striking. Several smaller galleries have a real diverse range of exhibits to browse; a great behind the scenes peek of the Rolling Stones 1972 tour, superb black and white candid images from Jim Marshall; a Nirvana retrospective (what else) charting the rise of what became the sound of Seattle and how Sub Pop records played its part. A new Hendrix in London exhibit was being prepared, so that gives me a reason to come back for a second visit.
Up a level was ‘Worn to be Wild’, how the black leather jacket moved from aviator wear to iconic rebel youth uniform. Hmm, did this jacket miss the sixties? My memories of the exhibit take in Brando and Dean to the Ramones on onwards. Maybe the decade of hedonism didn’t need black leather to make a statement.
Time to suspend reality and head off in to the world of Sci Fi and it’s near neighbour, horror. Wander past Forbidden Planet’s Robby and down in to a small but interesting gallery of Sci Fi artefacts. The Dalek looked like it had seen better days, another run in the the Dr no doubt. I have to admit that I enjoy looking at the detail of models, spacecraft, wacky weapons or the Terminator skull, there were some great imaginations at work to create these.
I’m no Trekkie, but I had to smile at the Tribbles scattered around Kirk’s command chair, it was the final exhibit before moving into the ‘Lure of horror film’ gallery and being welcomed by Alien. A less than subtle reminder of the ties that can bind Sci Fi and horror. I certainly enjoyed browsing this final gallery of my visit to EMP. The exploration of why we watch horror, the ability to explore current issues, daring us to confront our deepest fears, death, solitude, hopelessness. Thoughtful indeed.
I certainly enjoyed my time wandering through EMP. There were areas I didn’t fully explore and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back there to mop up the leftovers. My kind of place.
As this was the total tourist tour, it was time to board the monorail. Another feature of the 1962 world fair, the monorail only runs for around a mile, taking passengers to the downtown core. From Seattle Center to Westlake Center and then a short walk to the renowned public market at Pike Place.
To be honest, living near Vancouver with both Granville Island and Lonsdale Quay markets easily accessible, Pike Place didn’t really provide a wow. I have a suspicion that a lot is made of the first Starbucks coffee shop, just opposite the market, but let’s get some perspective here, we’re talking about a coffee shop.
A wander around the streets, it was so good to see more brick built buildings, and back to the car. The next day was to be the Pioneer Square underground tour and then head out of the city for a little Twin Peaks tourism.