The Sound of Seattle

In November 2015, I was sitting at the kitchen counter in my home waiting to click the button to purchase two tickets to Seattle, Washington. I had secretly been contemplating between Colorado and Washington as a surprise vacation for my boyfriend and I to visit in the spring. We had both already been to Colorado on our own, but neither of us had been to Washington. However, I didn’t press “Complete Purchase” immediately. Instead, I decided to wait on it another day. Making a transaction like that gives me anxiety and I wanted to be absolutely sure about us going to an unfamiliar place.

During the next 24 hours, I read through articles and reviews of places to go and things to do. I also happened to be listening to my 90’s Alternative Pandora station (my typical go-to). Then, a Nirvana song started playing, then Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and the rest of the Seattle scene. I thought these songs were speaking to me, telling me to come to Seattle. I have always been impressed by the amount of greatness of music that has stemmed from the Emerald City. Realizing how much of an adventure it would be to visit and experience the place where the grunge scene was born, I knew what I had to do.

The next day, I purchased the flight tickets. Done deal. I was super excited to plan this trip for Travis and I, not only because of the music history, but also because of the sheer beauty and inclusion of nature within the city. It felt like a place we needed to see in person.

Without surprise, it was raining when our plane landed at SeaTac around 8 pm. Despite the rain and cold, the weather was welcoming to us. It was a needed change of pace from the humidity and swarm of pollen in Texas, exemplifying that “spring had sprung”.

The next day was full of things to do. We of course planned to do all of the touristy things (sue me). However, I had also done extensive research on other activities the city has to offer. I originally planned to do a “rock tour” of Seattle through a tourist group, Stalking Seattle.

Apparently, they take groups of people around the city to see its musical history. Unfortunately, the tours were booked the entire week of our stay. Luckily, they have an app that shows and lists the locations of where they take their tours.

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Mural outside of Vain, a hair salon (formerly the Vogue, a music venue).

There were a ton of sights to see according to this app, but we lacked a fundamental resource: time. Nonetheless, we were able to catch a glimpse of some unexpected places, including the venue where Nirvana played their first Seattle show.

As Travis and I were walking the streets of Seattle, he pointed out a mural on the side of a building contained with a multitude of puns,  catchy phrases, and doodles. “You should get a picture of that,” he said. So I did, awkwardly and quickly from the sidewalk. Once we passed the door of the building, I noticed it was Vain, a hair salon. I remembered reading on the Stalking Seattle app that Vain was once Vogue, a music venue. “That’s were Nirvana had their first Seattle show!” I exclaimed. I didn’t particularly want to take a picture of some random building in Seattle, but after realizing it’s significance, I’m so glad Travis pointed it out and made the suggestion to do so.

We had been up early, due to jet lag. It was barely 11 am, but after walking for about an hour and briefly seeing Pike Place, we headed uphill in search of a Bloody Mary. The Hard Rock Cafe was the nearest place that had just opened for the day, so we went in and sat at the bar. I also knew of the treasures the building had to offer due to my handy app. We ordered our breakfast – I mean drinks – and ended up conversing with the bartender near the entire time. She was a native Seattlelite, but friendlier and more extroverted than the majority of the others we met. We asked questions and she happily answered them; we ordered drinks and she cheerfully made them. Her manager even offered a new menu item to us for free. The experience at the Hard Rock was probably the most hospitable (thank you!). Two Bloodys later, Travis and I decided to look around the building to see its novelties (pictured below, captions appear when cursor is hovered).

On our second full day in Seattle, we decided to finally go to the EMP Museum. The museum is notorious for its Nirvana and Hendrix exhibits, instrument structure, and guitar gallery. Our first and most intriguing stop was the Nirvana exhibit. I don’t have any pictures to account for this simply out of respect for

guitars

If VI Was IX, a sculpture at EMP

Cobain, his friends, and family. I was honestly immersed in enjoyment of learning more about the music itself. I watched Montage of Heck a couple of months prior to the Seattle trip and gained a different perspective of Cobain, but after seeing the Nirvana exhibit I developed another new opinion. I realized how human Nirvana was. Even though their individual talents are out of this world, the psyche and essence of Nirvana is pure. It’s real. “‘Most of the music is really personal as far as the emotion and the experiences that I’ve had in my life,’ [Kurt said], dragging on a cigarette, ‘but most of the themes in the songs aren’t that personal. They’re more just stories from TV or books or movies or friends. But definitely the emotion and feeling is from me'” (Azerrad). There’s no doubt that Cobain had the ability to do such an incredible job of communicating those emotions.

Upon returning to Texas, nostalgia resonated within me. I listened to a decent portion of my personal 90’s playlist on the plane. Later that evening once we had been home (and had a few margaritas), I blared “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog in our bedroom. It just seemed like a natural thing to do: to feel free, sing the lyrics, hold my love, and enjoy the moment.

The song was written in honor of Chris Cornell’s friend, Andrew Wood (singer of Mother Love Bone), who died from a heroin overdose. Cornell says, “I was wanting to express the gratitude for my life but also disdain for people where that’s not enough, where they want more” (Crowe). I understood that concept in the moments of being home. I felt like I fell into that category, especially in the last several months. I had taken so many things, especially my life, for granted. I thought going to Seattle would cure my woes of the daily grind. And it did for the few days we were there. I wasn’t stressed or worried about work, working out, expectations, or anything. Instead, I was able to breathe the fresh air and involuntarily smile.

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Special edition cover of Rolling Stone

Two nights later in Texas, Travis and I went out with a group of friends to an old-school arcade. Afterwards, I went to the neighboring Walgreens to buy a soda. As I went up to check out, I had two bright blue eyes staring me in the face. It was Kurt Cobain on the cover of a 90’s special edition of Rolling Stone. I  chuckled at the sheer coincidence of the situation. It was like Seattle was trying to say, “Miss me yet?” Or maybe the ghost of Cobain was warning me to never return.

Would I go back to Seattle? Absolutely. No doubt the atmosphere and culture is day and night compared to Texas. But, I felt a connection to the city that provided me with solace in addition to the musical appeal. One who listens to the music of the deceased singers of the 90’s grunge and alt rock scene probably has a deepened sensitivity and can empathize with those singers. However, we can also learn from them. In just a few short days, Seattle and its music taught me to appreciate life, treat people like human beings, and most importantly, be myself. That’s what I love about traveling to somewhere new. There are no expectations of who you are or have to be.

Regarding the music, Cobain said, “I just hope that it doesn’t end with us. I hope there are other bands that can keep it going.”

 

Note: This week is the 22nd anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death.


References:

  1. Stalking Seattle. Application.
  2. Crowe, Cameron. “Temple of the Dog.” Pearl Jam Twenty. N.p.: Simon and Schuster, 2011. 47. Print.
  3. Humphrey, Clark. Vanishing Seattle. N.p.: Arcardia, 2006. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.
  4. Azerrad, Michael. “Nirvana: Inside the Heart and Mind of Kurt Cobain.” Rolling Stone 16 Apr. 1992: 14. Print.

In the Beginning…

Hello all! Welcome to my first blog, The Music Notes. I’ve been contemplating on how to start my blog (what my first post would be, what logo can I use, how often should I post, what should I post, etc). I have the basics down, but still, everyone has to start somewhere. My inventive boyfriend simply stated, “You could start with your first musical experience, like a concert…” That’s actually a really good idea, I thought to myself. So simple, but so appropriate. However, I want to start with some background information and eventually lead up to my first concert experience.

My first memories of music go back to when I lived with both of my parents, so I must have been younger than four or five. My mom and dad are completely opposite. My dad encompasses the cowboy persona, while my mom probably leans a bit more toward the liberal side and completely devotes herself to her children and their interests. My dad would listen to nothing but country music, but not just any kind of country. It had to be good ole’ boy country music, including but not limited to: George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, and probably some Twitty and Cash in there. Hell, there’s even a VHS tape of me playing with my Barbie dolls and singing “Check Yes Or No” by Strait. Somewhere in the background, my mom would be watching the music video to TLC’s “Waterfalls,” listening to classic rock of the 80’s from when she graduated high school, or recording me singing said Strait song…

After my parents divorced when I was about three or four, my mom and I moved 30 minutes south from my dad. I believe this allowed my mom to be herself a bit more, which in turn, allowed me to be a kid despite having to mature very abruptly. When my mom remarried a few years later, I distinctly remember riding around in the car with her one day listening to several very catchy, upbeat songs. She handed me a cassette tape (I know, it’s wild to think about now!) with a picture of five guys posted up against a white wall. It was the Backstreet Boys. The freakin’ Backstreet Boys. Of course, being five or so when this album came out, I thought it was a gift from the gods. I couldn’t get enough of BSB. Whenever the “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” video would play on MTV- oh snap. Watch out. I’d be singing, no, belting every word to that song. I would even go so far as to pretend I was in the music video and  dancing in the haunted house with them.

everybody-1

Everybodyyyyy yeah

As you can see, I was (still am) a die hard BSB girl. Their music was what I invested into when I was a little kid. BSB continued to make music and eventually released their third album, Millenium, in 1999. In December, either for my birthday or Christmas, my aunt and her then partner bought tickets for us to go see the Backstreet Boys! I couldn’t believe it. I was going to get to see BSB in person! I went back to school  after break and could barely contain my excitement for months.

The day finally arrived where I was going to get to see the Backstreet Boys. I remember wearing a colorful shirt with a weird jacket made out of beads (it served no purpose except that I thought it looked cool). My mom and I drove an hour and a half to my aunt’s house in Houston. Once we got there and settled for a bit, it was finally time to leave to go to the concert itself. My aunt then exclaimed, “No, we can’t go yet!” I was super confused. Why couldn’t we go? My aunt, her partner, and my mom kind of shuffled around for a few minutes. Something was up. Finally, my aunt said we could leave and opened the front door. When I looked out, there was a huge limousine in front of her house! My aunt had rented a limo for all of us to go to the concert! I had never even seen a limo in person, much less been in one! When we got in, all I remember was colorful lights within a spacious, dim car. Oh, and a sunroof! Once we arrived to the Compaq Center (now Lakewood Church), I stuck my blonde head out of the sunroof to take in the colossal size of the building. There were so many people, mostly women, there. One woman with her head stuck out of her limo yelled at me, “I got AJ!” I didn’t know why she yelled her dibs at me, a little kid (I realize now she probably pre-gamed a little too much before the concert). I didn’t respond, but all I remember thinking is: She can have em’. Nick was my favorite, anyway.

The Into the Millennium tour was a big deal. In fact, it won the award for Most Creative Stage Production, as it rightfully should (Lewis). My family and I were sitting in the higher seats, but that did not obstruct our view or make the show less fun. We had a perfect view of the centered, pentagonal stage, surrounded by lights, lasers, and flashing cameras. BSB changed outfits a million times to accompany the songs. But, the most distinctive part of the show for me was when they flew. Yeah, they flew up to the higher seats! Nick just so happened to fly to my side of the building, which made me ecstatic (cue heart eyes). The knights in futuristic suited armor flew in on their horse (a hoverboard?).

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Soooo futuristic.

I remember on television that young girls would cry when they saw the BSB (Blink 182 parodied this in “All the Small Things”). I never really understood that. Like, why would you be crying?! I could understand screaming your head off in excitement, but not crying. Are you sad? Are they tears of joy? Like I said, the crying really confused me. But, it still impacted me. So when I was sitting in the audience of the BSB, I asked myself, “Should I be crying?” I honestly felt kind guilty for not being able to cry, as if I didn’t appreciate the experience enough (although I obviously did). Even at the age of seven, I thought the crying theory was bull and kept on singing “I Want It That Way.”

I went back to my small town and eventually relayed the concert experience to all of my friends, many of who were BSB fans or had never been to a concert. With my BSB Into the Millennium Tour shirt on, I felt like the coolest girl ever because I was probably the only person in the entire school to go to that show. Yet, I still couldn’t believe that I got to see the greatest boy band on Earth perform right in front of me.

Fast forward 15 years later (2014): BSB is going on tour again! I jumped on that. I was 22 years old, but I had a full-time job and could afford to go a concert “just for fun.” This time, I wanted to be closer. I ended up going with my cousin, who actually happened to be at the same show I was back in 1999. She even had an encounter back in the day with Nick, where he actually called her! I’m not sure of the details of how that happened, but it’s still a pretty enviable story. I originally bought us the tickets for two seats at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, TX. However, my cousin found an even better deal for tickets in the pit! This audience was pretty similar to the one back in 99′, consisting mostly of older women and those who had grown into women. My cousin and I got there just in time to be right in front of the stage, literally within arms length of the BSB. As the show began, the boys began marching in Bond-esque suits to “Everybody” then broke into a dance at the cue of, “Backstreet’s back! Alright!”

The night couldn’t have been any better. Because we were so close, I was able to touch each of the BSBs’ hands. AJ even got in the pit with us and took a selfie with my cousin! Even at 22 years old, I was able to feel like a gushing pre-teen again. I guess old habits die hard…

Some people would say that music like the BSB, N’Sync, 98 degrees, and etc. is their “guilty pleasure”. However, I have no guilt about listening to the Backstreet Boys. I’ll still blast their voices on full volume and sing along in my car. It’s all pleasure.


References:

Image 1: What Happens on the Backstreet

Lewis, Mark (2000-02-07). “Springsteen, Backstreet Boys Win Pollstar Concert Industry Awards”. liveDaily.

Image 2: http://www.angelfire.com/va2/intothemillennium/tourdates.html