Experience Music Project
The Experience Music Project (5th Ave. and Harrison St., 206/367-5483 or 877/367-5483, www.empsfm.org, $15 adults, $12 for seniors, military, and kids, free under age 4) has a wildly curvy exterior of multicolored aluminum—said to mimic the shape of an electric guitar. It’s pretty hard to miss this outlandish building plunked on the edge of Seattle Center.
Experience Music Project (EMP) is the brainchild of Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, whose fascination with Seattle-born Jimi Hendrix led him to bankroll much of this 140,000-square-foot homage to rock. The museum opened in 2000 and was an immediate hit, though many folks still complain about its bizarre exterior.
Inside Experience Music Project, visitors are treated to an amazing array of displays and interactive exhibits on musicians and their music. The first level contains Sky Church, which boasts the world’s largest indoor video screen; it’s used for musical performances on Friday and Saturday nights. The Hendrix Gallery is another centerpiece, with the Fender Stratocaster that Hendrix used to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock and other artifacts.
Other attractions include an on-stage section where kids can pretend they're rock stars ($10 including a poster of them in performance), a sound lab where you can join others in loud and fun musical attempts, plus exhibits describing punk, grunge, hip-hop, reggae, and other variations on the theme.
One of the most popular Experience Music Project features is Artist’s Journey, a multimedia ride with a dumb plot and Hollywood special effects. Also at EMP are educational collections that encompass oral histories (from Ann and Nancy Wilson to Dr. Dré), Kurt Cobain’s handwritten song lyrics, Paul Revere and the Raiders’ stage uniforms and instruments, Elvis Presley’s black leather jacket, a pink feather boa worn by Janis Joplin, and lots of other obscure memorabilia. A gift shop, restaurant, lounge (great mixed drinks), and movie theater are here as well.
Since first opening, Experience Music Project made room for SFM—the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, which shares the building with a collection of memorabilia that even music geeks see as a little nerdy. But Sci-Fi enthusiasts will love it for its assortment of props and costumes from the sets of famous shows and movies such as Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and Blade Runner, as well as the interpretive exhibits that explore the origins of sci-fi and examine the innate human desire to explain the unknown and prognosticate the future. The hours are the same as Experience Music Project and admission gets you into both.
Experience Music Project even has its own radio station. KEXP (FM 90.3, www.kexp.org) is a great local radio station with an amazing mix of music and no ads. Although owned by the University of Washington, it is connected to the Experience Music Project.
The last ticket is sold 90 minutes prior to closing. Experience Music Project visitors are each given an electronic Museum Exhibit Guide to carry around, with complete details on virtually everything you'll see. Many folks find these annoying after a short time and turn them off, but rock enthusiasts will discover 16 hours worth of information on these gizmos.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition