There's been a lot of ballyhoo over the opening of the Experience Music Project, which has led to widely varied takes on the museum. The wildly colorful exterior alone is the cause of much controversy. But what question it mainly boils down to is: Is it worth $20 to visit?
I think many folks consider themselves to be huge music aficionados, but this museum will spoil that illusion for the less enthusiastic fan. The displays are rather detailed and academic, lending a serious museum-like quality to this "Project." Despite having plenty of diversions like the interactive thrill ride, Experience Music project does offer a serious investigation into the art form of rock music. Many friends have remarked to me how boring the whole thing was, even though they were quite excited initially about visiting the "rock museum."
I know that I have been a huge music forever, as my 3000 CD collection can attest. But I was still somewhat frustrated by aspects of the museum, too. There is a strong bent towards rock and blues, which is perfectly understandable considering that Jimi Hendrix is the focal point of the "Experience." But many significant genres of rock (specifically r&b/soul music) are nearly absent from the museum. Perhaps my biggest gripe is that there is no serious research facility associated with the museum. An interactive computer exhibit downstairs offers some additional information on the museum’s holdings but is in no way a significant research tool for students of popular music studies.
The exhibits are quite well put together and informative. The Northwest Passage in particular was illuminating in both the history of local music and Seattle itself. I’m not really a Jimi Hendrix fan, though the exhibit on his life and work was thoughtfully constructed and engaging.
The interactive musical instrument play area was fun, but the lines to use each piece of equipment had my friend and I running out of their pretty quick. It’s pretty funny (and embarrassing with others waiting outside, watching you) to sing along with Ann & Nancy Wilson of Heart.
The James Brown funk thrill ride was somewhat amusing, but it didn’t seem like a good use of the expensive technology employed in creating it. The kids who rode along with us didn’t seem to absorb anything about funk; all they could talk about was the space ride that lasts for a few seconds at the beginning and end of the ride. I think older children are better suited to appreciating this somewhat mature and academic museum.
One final note: the free audio guides that you can check out to bring along on your trip weigh a ton. You might want to consider going without one, as they don’t provide that much insightful commentary.