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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.

The Blue Moon Tavern, on 45th Street in Seattle’s University District, has been around since 1934. It was one of Layne Staley’s favorite local dives and still hosts live music and comedy shows.

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.

4528 8th Avenue NE, Unit 501 C. The 5th floor condo where Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley lived, and was found dead in 2002.

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.

El Corazon, formerly known as “Off the Ramp”, is a gritty old rock club underneath an I-5 off ramp that has hosted some of Seattle’s best rock bands for decades.

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.

The Crocodile Club on 2nd Avenue is one of Seattle’s most famous rock venues

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.

From Nat King Cole to Dizzy Gillespie to the Ramones to Pearl Jam, the Showbox Theater has seen it all

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.

Buzz Osbourne from the Melvins lays down a wicked groove while a rocker throws up their horns

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.

Seattle’s oldest bar, the Central Saloon, has been serving drinks since 1892

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.

This tribute to Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Layne Staley is the centerpiece of the old brick wall at the Central

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.

The Rainiers kick out the jams at the Central Saloon

 

 

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