Entertaining The Masses: Grunge’s Hometown Favorite At EMP

Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses — an exhibit with homegrown attitude.

Photo courtesy of EMP/Shelli Hyrkas.

With rare exception, Nirvana will come up whenever someone mentions music and Seattle in the same sentence. This is for good reason. From their humble beginnings in Aberdeen to singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain’s untimely death in 1994, the cultural impact brought about by this threesome has been monumental — not just in Seattle, but throughout the entire music-loving world. 

Nirvana grew from a sloppy, sludge-punk garage band into one of alternative rock’s pioneering entities. Now, you can retrace their journey courtesy of Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses — the new exhibit at the Experience Music Project.

Photo courtesy of EMP/Spin Magazine.

This 225-piece exhibit presents a visual, oral and musical history of the band, with various interviews and artifacts to back it up. Some notable items include Cobain’s famous green sweater worn during the group’s MTV Unplugged performance; the band’s first demo tape, recorded in January 1988 for $152.44 by famed producer Jack Endino; and, of course, plenty of broken guitars.

There are also plenty of interviews with producers, guitar/drum techs, managers and Nirvana themselves, as well as other groups that were influenced by the band. These behind-the-scenes tales give life to the artifacts and recordings, helping to put the music — and the people who made it — into perspective.

But this exhibit isn’t just about Nirvana as a band; it’s also about grunge as a movement. Giant touch-screen video kiosks are set up throughout the exhibit that feature oral and written histories of the punk scenes throughout the country, as well as various concert posters and artwork from the era. There are also listening stations set all over where you can listen to unreleased Nirvana demos and live concert recordings, as well as selections from other influential bands of the era, such as R.E.M., Sonic Youth, and Fugazi.

Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses will run until April 2013 at the EMP|SFM. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and military, and $12 for minors (ages 5-17) and students with ID. These tickets can be purchased on the EMP website.