I thought today was going to be a write off. The flight up to Seattle should have been a short one at only 1 hour 25, but when it gets delayed an hour and you’re on a tight schedule anyway, its going to be hard to catch it up. But as Seattle was one of our really strong learning cities, as soon as we arrived at the hotel we got straight out again. From the time we checked in, to the time we left, took seven minutes. This was because we are staying next door to the Frank Gehry designed Experience Music Project and we had to see it in close up.
But jumping back a stage. What is Seattle famous for?
On the plane we had a little straw poll and between us came up with the following:
Microsoft, Boeing, Frasier, Amazon, Sleepless in Seattle, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Starbucks and the Space Needle.
We later discovered that it also is world(ish) renowned for being the home of WordPress (my blogging partner of choice), being a HUGE container port and a home to many cruise ships. Oh, and also the home of Laughs Comedy Club (even though this is technically in Kirkland).
To have names like this, which are ALL world class, must make it easier for any city to make big bold statements like the EMP, as it just breeds successful benefactors, which in turn breeds success. I was struck by how green the place is as we flew in on the bumpiest flight I have ever been close to throwing up on. Being close to the Canadian border shows. There are a lot of trees up here.
First impressions are that it is fantastic. My favourite city so far, and with a more European, cosmopolitan, cleaner, more organised feel than LA or San Francisco. I may be proved wrong on this tomorrow.
But on the plane, I also discovered that Seattle should be famous for Seattle’s Best Coffee. A smaller coffee chain than Seattle’s most famous, who sell through high street stores and who also provided the coffee on our flight. To get this contract must be amazing, but to get this contract in the home of Starbucks must be a cause for a major party. Shame the coffee tasted like dirty brown water – probably more to do with airplane service than their true coffee. We did see one later in Downtown Seattle, and because it was so awful on the plane, I can’t say I was tempted to rush in and get an emergency caffeine shot from them.
So anyway, back to the Experience Music Project (or as I incorrectly called it, the Rock N Roll Museum). This is a Frank Gehry designed building that sits just underneath the Sky needle and is one of the most striking buildings you will ever see. To some it’s a monstrosity, to others it’s a work of art. To me it’s an amazing landmark that people want to be photographed with. I have used the term iconic for a number of things we have seen, but in a city were it sits underneath one of the most recognisable structures in the world, it stands out as being truly one on its own. The setting sunlight reflecting of its shiny surfaces, was something that it will be hard to erase from your memory. I want to be photographed by it. It’s that good. I wasn’t though as I forgot to ask someone to do it. I’ll try and remember tomorrow.
So, did the inside live up to the huge promise of the outside?
If you are a muso, then yes. It had all the experiential opportunities that you could ever want. From creating your own CD, by working your way through the sound lab, to the odd synthesiser machines that you can play around with at will. It’s what the Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield should have been.
For me, it was slightly sterile. I was more interested in the structure than the content. Maybe its because I didn’t do the audio tour, but I don’t find a 100 metre run of different album covers that engaging – however coolly designed and 50’s space inspired they are.
Again, a demonstration of this is that I bought books about how the place was built, rather than souvenirs from the place. The architecture is so striking, it is in danger of overshadowing the whole deal. But it is cool though.
Next it was off in the Seattle Monorail. This is a High Tech looking that runs in through the side of the EMP. The obvious assumption to make is that they were built together. But they weren’t. the monorail came first by a good 40 years, having been completed in 1962, in order to transport visitors to Seattle’s World Fair.
Again, its remarkable value at only $2, but the ride is quite short – oh, and bumpy – this is not a super smooth Mag Lev device.
We ate in the City and as it was now deep into Saturday night, headed off over to Kirkland to the Laughs Comedy Club to see the remarkable Emo Philips. If you can’t place the name, have a look at some of his work here.
He is described by many as one of the best joke writers ever, and having watched him, I now have to agree.
Brilliant, simply brilliant. And he was brilliant off stage too, being delighted to sit down and talk ad have his photo taken with anyone who was interested in this tiny, intimate venue.
Before we came away, I said that it was going to be like seeing the USA in fast forward. There is no doubt this is right. It’s like a supersize visit in fast forward. Exhausting, exciting, challenging and brilliant all in one go.
There’s more to see in the morning. The Space Needle and then the Sci Fi Museum and then Boston in the afternoon. Three hour change in time zone and a five hour flight for a chance to catch up with some sleep.