Travel Blog Pt. 2: Taking the Grunge Plunge in Seattle
As a child of the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was weened on hard rock and hair metal. Then in high school, I heard a band named Alice in Chains that changed the way I appreciate music. They built a bridge between the hard rock and metal I grew up with to the alternative and punk genres I would later discover and grow to love.
This weekend, during my first trip to their hometown of Seattle, I dedicated a full day to exploring the history of the early 90’s Grunge movement.
My Grunge Plunge began with a cab ride from downtown up to the University District, where I visited one of Layne Staley’s favorite hangouts, The Blue Moon Tavern. The Blue Moon is a funky old place located less than a block away from the 5th floor condo where Layne lived and died. The house where Kurt Cobain lived is not far away.
From there, we took a cab back towards the city center to visit a dirty old rock club called El Corazon. This was a launching spot for several Seattle bands in the early 90’s, including Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam actually performed their first show here under the name of Mookie Blaylock. It remains a vital venue for the local metal and alternative rock scene.
For stop #3, we headed back downtown to check out The Crocodile Cafe. This venue opened in 1991, during the height of the grunge explosion. Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video release party was held here. Mad Season played their first show here. The walls of the Crocs are still adorned with tributes to many of the legendary bands of the era.
Our next stop on the Grunge Plunge tour was the venerable Showbox Theatre, across from the Pike Street Market on First Avenue. This concert hall began as a showcase for jazz musicians in the late 1930’s.
The Showbox has been a large part of the local music scene ever since. The list of performers who have graced its stage is long and legendary, ranging from Al Jolsen to Pearl Jam, hundreds of whom are immortalized on the venue’s walls. On this night, we saw veteran grunge pioneers The Melvins.
After The Melvins, we headed over to Pioneer Square for the final stop on our Grunge Plunge tour, the Central Saloon. Established in 1892, this historic watering hole is not only the oldest tavern in Seattle, it also holds a significant place in the town’s rich musical heritage.
Nearly all of the grunge era bands from the Northwest played this venue, including Mother Love Bone, who performed their final show here before their singer Andy Wood died of a drug overdose. Of course, Mother Love Bone would eventually find a new singer and regroup under the name of Pearl Jam. The walls of the Central Saloon are covered with flyers from many of the famous bands who have played there, including this tribute to three of Seattle’s fallen legends.
Although some of the musicians who put Seattle on the map are no longer with us, these venues remain a living history. Watching The Melvins at the Showbox was like traveling back in time. I haven’t seen that much flannel and denim in one place since the 90’s. Then, at the Central Saloon, we saw a phenomenal group called the Rainiers, who will help carry the torch to a new generation of local music lovers.