Posts Tagged ‘seattle’

Experience Music Project Museum: Taking Punk To the Masses Exhibit

November 22, 2013

Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses

If you haven’t been to the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum in Seattle, you need to. A friend and I  were able to visit it the day after the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee and, at least, I was nearly overwhelmed. The two music-related exhibitions they were running were Jimi Hendrix in London, and Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. they also had literature, and Sci-Fi exhibits (our admission price included a pack of Magic: The Gathering cards), but were only interested in the music.

The museum is right next to the infamous Space Needle, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. We started our tour meandering around the Hendrix exhibit. It had some pretty cool audio and video clips, and I got to get a picture if the guitar he used at Woodstock. It was definitely cool, but that wasn’t what we were there for.

Trying to find my way around, I stumbled onto the exhibit. Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. It was everything I had hoped for and much, much more. There was so much there, I didn’t know where to begin. I ended up starting at the end – Unplugged. They had some of the guitars used, the set list, and a few tracks playing in the background.

Next for me, was the “In Utero” exhibit. They seemed to have a lot more items from this era. They had stage props, album covers, and, interestingly, the cases and trunks they used to transport what had become a pretty involved set by this point in the band’s history. After I took all that in, I moved to the next section – Nevermind. A lot of time and effort was put in to this part of the exhibit as most “experts” count 1991 as the year punk hit the masses due to the large popularity of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The displayed the guitar Kurt recorded most of “Nevermind” with, and had a huge display focusing on the items Kurt used in the now infamous “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video.

Kurt Cobain's Shirt from the Smells Like Teen Spirit Video

As much attention was given to the ground that was laid before “Nevermind” because, in reality, it’s almost more important. The experiences, the sounds, and the people help shape the band, challenged them musically, and it’s what helped shape “Nevermind” into what it became. There was an excess of really cool items from Kurt’s youth, not the least of which was the four track and suitcase “drum” he used to record “Fecal Matter” – the tape that convinced  Novoselic to form a band with him.  They also had early booking dates, carbon copies of checks, and their first contract for Sub Pop Records. The exhibit also included items from Kurt’s childhood such a painting he entered into his high school art fair.

Nirvana certainly was not the only band to come out of Seattle. The EMP Museum also included a display on the entire “Seattle Sound” scene, and gave a great overview of all the bands it produced. The EMP Museum paid homage to a moment in time that produced the greatest scene in the history of Rock and Roll (but I’m a little biased here!). Tough to say, at this point, if it will ever happen again, but you never know!

Poster from the First Performance of Smells Like Teen Spirit


P.S. While writing this, I was listening to the reissue of Soungarden’s Screaming Life/Fopp EP. Review to come…


The New Face of Grunge Rock

March 1, 2009

Yes readers, grunge rock (or whatever you want to call it) is still going on strong. Thanks to the fine folks over at Sub Pop Records and the resurrection of the vaunted “Sub Pop Singles Club” where they send you vinyl of up and comers that they just signed. There have been many great singles to come from that (as well as a few duds). One single has always stood out as the best ever since I heard it. Despite being only the second single in the series, it is still the best. I am talking, of course of the band Unnatural Helpers. They are the same do-it-yourself no-nonsense style that came to summarize what was known as the grunge movement in the late 80s and that dominated all aspects of mainstream music in the early 90s.

I got their single from Sub Pop in September. I have just about worn down the vinyl playing it so much. Thankfully, Sub Pop records come with download codes so you can download tracks to your computer and listen on yor iPod. Old school meets new school in a really cool way. I truly think this is the future in music. Anyway, back to Unnatural Helpers. They combnie punk and pop that hasn’t been seen since the earlier days of Mudhoney. They are fast and furious with their songs. The Singel had 4 tracks on it and it lasted about 6 Minutes.

I was intrigued by them so I reached out to Sub Pop via Twitter to see if I can find out when the were going to drop their first album. They informed me that they already self-released an album in 2005. Doesn’t get anymore grunge than that. Hearkens back to the early days of Beat Happening.

“Grunge” is more than a term to describe music form Seattle from 87-91. It is a style of music that breaks away from the mainstream. Strips out the overdubbing and overproducing and leaves you with raw emotion. That can happen at any time from any place. I hope that Unnatural Helpers are the start of the Grunge Revival the music and fans so desperately need.
Todd Thurman

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