Another FRIDAY FLASHBACK! based on my own upcoming road trip. It’s off to Seattle, where I plan on visiting Experience Music Project, the Seattle-centric rock museum that Townsman BigSteve chronicled in one of our earliest Rock Town Hall blog posts. I’d hoped that a monthy Trippin’ series would develop, in which Townspeople would report on their own rock-related road trips, but to date I think this is the only rock road trip report. Hrrundivbakshi did report on a curiously named record store he found somewhere in Japan, I believe, so I’m holding out hope that this series will catch fire yet. Should I make it to EMP this weekend, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts. Now let’s revisit a very cool post!
This post initially appeared 1/23/07.
BigSteve, our Townsman in New Orleans, files the following report from Seattle.
I went to the Experience Music Project yesterday. I thought it was definitely worth the visit, and there was more than enough to keep me occupied for 3 hours. There’s actually not that much exhibit space, and one of the, presumably temporary, exhibits was a commercial for Disney musical product that gagged me. The history of rap exhibit was more interesting, but at least the Disney shit helped keep the busloads of kids away from the interesting stuff. The other useless parts of the museum were the interactive areas – you pay extra, go into a “studio” and `make your own CD by playing with a few computer stations. There’s also something where you pay and end up with a DVD of yourself onstage playing with other people in a band. I don’t know how it works, and I wasn’t interested enough to find out.
There’s a very nice exhibit, I assume permanent, on the history of music from the Pacific Northwest. From the Fleetwoods through the Ventures and Raiders and Sonics to grunge and punk. Lots of posters, artifacts, instruments, video – not enough time to look at it all.
The Hendrix exhibit is pretty amazing. I mean, they have the white Strat that he played at Woodstock, the guitar he was most often seen playing. They have pieces of many smashed guitars. Really I could have spent all day looking at this exhibit alone. They had lots of video of him playing, and then they had many of the outfits he was seen wearing in the videos, and you know how important fashion is to me.
The other really great exhibit is on the history of the guitar – a large room with all the walls lined with picture window sized display cases with maybe 100 different guitars. Everything from the earliest electrics to a Steinberger. Amps too. Each one is numbered, and you have an electronic device with headphones so you can punch in the number and hear somebody famous play *that* guitar – Brent Mason chicken picking a Tele, etc. They had a bunch of lap slides, and Greg Leisz played most of those. You could also punch up various people talking about the instrument. It was cool for a gearhead, and again I could have spent a lot more time there.
Three chill-inducing experiences:
- At the beginning of the Hendrix exhibit they had a bunch of drawings he had made when he was little. They were quite good, and you could just feel this poor kid’s creativity trying to find an outlet in the 50s.
- Besides lots of video of Hendrix playing, there was a lot with people talking about him. In one a grey-bearded Robert Wyatt tried to describe what it was like when he first heard Hendrix play. Wyatt is such a cool guy, and I can’t explain it but his recollection was psychedelic in a good way.
- In the guitar exhibit a big screen plays constantly with sort of one minute examples of famous guitarists. Les Paul, Merle Travis, Eddie Cochran, Jeff Beck, Derek & the Dominos, Albert King, etc. By far the best thing I saw yesterday was a clip of Roy Buchanan on some TV show in the 70s playing an instrumental version of “Sweet Dreams” with his faceless backup band. He hardly moved, his face was a total blank, and the guitar sang so nice, very little flashy stuff. It was just a verse or maybe two, but it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I first watched it. I came back later and sat through everybody again to get to Buchanan, same effect. Before I left I just had to go back one more time, even though I was going to be late getting picked up by my buddy Scott. This time it literally brought tears to my eyes, it was just so beautiful. I had to collect myself before I went outside.
Then Scott took me out to the Hendrix gravesite down south around Renton. It’s in a normal cemetery, but they have a nice little dome and some columns, with his autograph etched into the granite a foot high on the outside. It’s ringed by other headstones, mostly blank and waiting, but his mom and dad and a few other people are buried there. It was nice, especially right after seeing the museum.
So anyway, I recommend both the EMP and the memorial to any visitors to Seattle, though your mileage may vary.