Focussing on the Seattle music scene, EMP pays tribute to music everywhere and provides a great experience for most of the family. Housed in a building by Frank O. Gehrey, the design of which can only be described as audacious, a collection of 80,000 artefacts has been gathered for display. Not everything will appeal to any individual, but every visitor will come away with memories of favorite galleries or experiences. It’s a smorgasbord.
Your visit will probably begin in Sound and Vision in which the EMP has recorded the stories of a number of artists and producers…you can hear the voices of Noel Redding, Jackie deShannon, Ice-T, and many more as they tell their stories. Included is a screen showing performance footage. It wasn’t our favourite gallery; as time goes on and, hopefully, more stories are added, it might be.
The Guitar Gallery was something again. A collection of 50 guitars including rare Nationals, Dobros, Fenders, Gibsons, and Rickenbackers tells the story of the development of the guitar. For anyone who cares, it’s really an interesting exhibit, for the guitar as science and as art. A screen features vignettes of the guitar greats; you’ll see Les Paul, Eddie Cochrane, Albert King, Bonnie Raitte, and many more.
In The Northwest Passage, you’ll trace the Seattle music scene from ‘40s jazz to the R & B of the ‘50s and onward. Homegrown Dolton Records produced the Frantics, the Fleetwoods, and the Ventures. As "Battles of the Bands" became popular, the local Kingsmen fought it out with Paul Revere and the Raiders to become the best purveyors of "Louie, Louie". The Kingsmen’s "Louie Louie" was a modest scandal at the time with its muddy lyrics and background comments. There is even a copy of the FBI files on their song available…a little hard to believe by today’s standards. The music in the passage evolves to include groups involved in the psychedelic ‘60s, punk, rap and eventually, grunge. There is striking memorabilia from Heart and Queensryche. It would have been difficult to avoid the Seattle music scene while we were growing up…it was diverse and rich.
Upstairs, you’ll find the Jimi Hendrix Gallery; it’s an amazing collection of the late guitarist’s possessions, letters, and costumes. It is somewhat oddly juxtaposed with The Disney Gallery next door... But EMP is more than just a museum. There is also a Sound Lab where you can try your talent with an electric guitar and for a little money, cut a CD. On the Sound Stage, you can experience the life of a rock star and cut a DVD. Throw in the JBL Theatre running big shows, a restaurant and a bar and you have a place in which you can spend a lot of time.
EMP presents an incredible amount of musical information; it doesn’t pretend to cover the entire field, but what it does cover, it covers well. Go to EMP.