Seattle is a terrible place to live

Sleepless through the metropolis

"I will make sure that Seattle becomes the music city in the world."

It rains a lot in Seattle. This can sometimes lead to a lot of creativity.

On this city tour we will tell you stories that you won't hear anywhere else. Some end with the sentence: And then they died!

Seattle, in the state of Washington: The metropolis in the northwest of the USA is one of the most popular vacation cities. The reason for this is the close proximity to the sea and the wonderful natural landscape. In good weather you can see the snow-covered volcanic peaks of Mount Rainier, which is almost 4,400 meters high. And the numerous green spaces have given Seattle the nickname "The Emerald City": the emerald green city.
The immigration officer at Sea-Tac Airport asked why we were traveling. Do we want to go on vacation? No, we are interested in the music city of Seattle, we explain, in search of the traces of Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles and Kurt Cobain. They were all born in Seattle. It all started here - with nirvana and grunge.

"Yes, there we are, says the officer, hopes you have a lot of fun and waves us through the annoying finger pressure and pupil photo."

We get into the car, the first stop takes us to Renton, a suburb of Seattle.

"Ok, let's go! I hope I can trust the signs. I think we have to go this way. That has to be right. We are just walking over the lawn here, which is probably damp. Well, let's go!"

Carla DeSantis is blonde, around fifty and multi-talented. She advises artists and companies on PR issues and accompanies us through urban musical life.

"We're going to Jimi Hendrix's grave now. That's really interesting: Jimi was in a humble grave for a long time until his family decided on a more appropriate resting place. When the money was together, everything had to be right. Now he's lying here under this one Yes, monument. Again and again visitors try to steal small parts of the tombstone - as a souvenir. Hopefully there will be no rain today. ""

Rock fans from all over the world take the way to Greenwood Cemetery primarily because of him: the revolutionary on the electric guitar who couldn't read notes, but whose virtuoso guitar technique was ingenious and left his fans in a trance. Hendrix didn't even graduate from school, but his ballads were considered a lyrical revelation. He was born and raised in a backyard barrack in Seattle. His final resting place turns out to be an ugly monster made of marble. We walked around the grave complex:

"Look here, here you can see the name and signature of Hendrix carved in stone. Quite massive, but suitable for a great rock star. Oh, this is Jimi's tombstone and there is his guitar. Could be a Fender. It all makes me a little sad . At the former grave you had the feeling of being unobserved. It was more secluded there. Everything here is so massive, somehow a size too big. You can put a mausoleum, a tomb or a museum, but in the end all that counts is the music ! "

"Welcome to our Subseattle Tour. Here you will hear stories that are not told on normal city tours. Stories from outsiders, stories that nobody knows. We tell something from the musical history of Seattle. Some of these incidents are pretty dark, some end with the sentence: And then they died! "

Second stop: We follow a special kind of city tour: the Subseattle Tour. In the middle of downtown, Lucy Wilma leads us to the oldest farmers market in the USA, the Pike Place Market. The marketplace owes its fame to the delicacies that are on offer there and make you forget the usual fast food:

"We are here in Pioneer Square, the oldest part of Seattle. On the right you can see the patch that divides Seattle in half: on the one hand high culture, on the other hand subculture. On the Subseattle Tour we talk about subculture . You will enjoy this! "

Driving with Lucy Wilma is up a small hill north of the city center. Here is the Seattle Center, which was built for the 1962 World's Fair and includes the Seattle Opera House, the Pacific Science Center, two sports arenas, a children's museum, and an amusement park. The city's landmark, the Space Needle, cannot be overlooked: a nearly 200-meter-high observation tower with a restaurant and a 360-degree view over Seattle. But that's not why we are. We are interested in the 591 performing arts businesses from theater to opera and concert halls. Lucy Wilma explains to us that Seattle is the creative metropolis of the USA. With her tiger shirt, bright red lipstick, beret and sunglasses, the boyish city guide gives:

"Ray Charles played in many clubs in the city. He recorded his first album in" The Black Alps Club ", which is on the corner of Jackson and Manor Streets. Today there is not even a reference to Ray Charles Segregation of the Musicians Union. That meant that blacks only played in their clubs. The fact that the musicians' unions were racially segregated is outrageous, but it also promoted enormous creative potential. Ray Charles played mostly blues in this club, and Jimi Hendrix also performed here later on. "

The Subseattle Tour continues. These include such distinctive stops as the Edgewater Hotel at Pier 67, where the Beatles fished in 1964 through the window of room 272 in Puget Sound, the former music store where Jimi Hendrix bought his first electric guitar in the late 1960s, and the apartment building from the music film "Singles". But Lucy also visits the opera house from 1927, in which Igor Stravinsky once conducted, ballrooms and trendy bars. And then, yes, then it goes to the real highlight of every tour:

"You now have a chance to get out and look at the park bench out there. It's kind of a memorial to Kurt Cobain. His house is the one on the right. See the benches? Brand new!"

Washington Boulevard East 171, right on Vieretta Park. Seattles upper class lives here. One villa is more extravagant than the other. In between there is a small green area on a small hill, on top of which are two benches, from which there is a wonderful view of Lake Washington. But that's not why we came here:

"We come here twice a day, seven days a week. During the summer we sometimes see groups of 10 to 15 people standing around the benches. The house belonged to Kurt Cobain, it is now fenced off and private. Many people write Proverbs the fence, read the inscriptions, listen to music. "

Seattle 1994: Generation X had lost its musical mouthpiece, Kurt Cobain, who hit the lifeblood of young people with songs like "Smells like teen spirit" and "All apologies". 15 years later we are looking for this lifeblood. The former Cobains estate is located behind large trees. The pilgrims come every day. The wooden slats of the benches are littered with messages and declarations of love: a wooden guest book!

"It was a terrible, a sad day, one of the worst in my life!"

Tells the Cobain biographer Charles Cross. We met him here on the park bench. At the end of the eighties he worked as an editor for the well-known music magazine "The Rocket" and quickly became aware of Cobain. Cobain used to come to his office, Cross recalls, dropping off demo tapes of his music. Thoughtful and melancholy, Cross sits next to us and lets his gaze wander over Lake Washington:

"Kurt's body was found by an electrician and he called the radio first before informing the police. And the radio called me. That was when I knew it was the end of this incredible man. And then this media circus started here in Seattle! "

The fence of the Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain's home in Seattle is painted with graffiti from his fans. (Marek Ahnert) "Hey, is there any graffiti? The benches are really full of that stuff. The city wastes a lot of money putting up new park benches here on a regular basis. There is an evil curse on these benches. Look: Here lies a feather. What is it? I really can't see it. I'd rather not touch it. Kind of crazy "

"The saddest thing about his death was that you missed his voice. To hear him sing was an incredible gift. And we always wanted to hear him again."

The next day we are back in the taxi. We want to go to the town hall. We have been told that since the Democrat Greg Nichols was elected mayor, music has been given special attention there. Our driver listens to country music. He was stationed in Ramstein, busy with radar systems. Would he know about grunge? Grunge? Hey guys, that's this depressive stoner music, and Cobain, he killed himself. Remain silent.

The first port facilities appear on the right. Opposite you can see the Bremerton shipyards, where ships of the U.S. reserve fleet are moored. Navy in the roadstead.

Heavy storm clouds hang over Seattle, and thunder rumbles. It will soon rain, as is so often the case in the cool port city. Seattle has a reputation for being a rain hole.

Our taxi driver asks whether we would know the most famous houseboat in the world? We suspect what the gigantic man is getting at with the Schautzer. "Sleepless in Seattle - Sleepless in Seattle". His brother-in-law would have sold the houseboat on which Tom Hanks played the widower in love, or at least had a stake in it. We should take a look at the boat. In the middle of the city it is on Lake Union. And hands us his sticky business card. Brother-in-law Frank collects all sorts of things: anecdotes, radios, tape machines, old records. The only thing he doesn't collect is grunge plates. Finally we stop downtown. Our search continues on the 19th floor of a high-rise tower.

"My job is to make Seattle a lively place for musicians. Seattle should become the music capital of the world. When you bring people together here, that is also very important economically. But if you only play the economic card, without the culture." to take into account, then you are trapped in a locked clam. That is of no value at all! "

We meet James Keblas. The dynamic man in his late twenties is responsible for promoting music. Because the city has recognized the importance of the music industry as an important branch of the economy and has founded its own authority. Keblas is its director and proudly presents his numbers in the manner of an auditor:

"The music industry is of great importance to Seattle, both culturally and economically. It is an impressive expression of who we really are. We hold a great musical legacy that prepares us for the future. Music is the 13th largest industry. $ 1.2 billion annually will be turned over in music. 9,000 jobs have been created by the music industry. This is a new model for economic development. This is the only way to interest people and trade in Seattle. But grunge is dead? ] Keblas: Ok, then we'll let him rise again! "

Seattle is a city that struggles with its image in many ways. Official Seattle is struggling with the fact that Jimi Hendrix died of an overdose. Drugs and the whole criminal environment somehow belong to rock'n roll. It's the same with Kurt Cobain. That wasn't a nice story.

Sex, drugs and rock'n roll, that doesn't really fit into the master plan of the cultural administration. But her smart director comes out at the end of the interview: He is a punk rock fan from a good family!

It can be seen from afar. Right next to the city's landmark, the Space Needle, the lookout tower that looks comparatively puny and wrecked today, there is a colossal futuristic building complex: the Experience Music Project. Here we meet Jacob McMurray. The 37-year-old works as a curator and has been responsible for exhibition design since 1994:

"Our museum was designed by Frank O. Gehry, who is known for his idiosyncratic and crazy architecture. You have to imagine it like Jimi Hendrix, who smashed his guitars and piled them into piles of wood: Our museum is very curvy, hardly any right angles . A really impressive architecture for Seattle. "

The house with its windowless, blue and red shimmering surface facade looks like a spaceship that has strayed here from another solar system. Financed by Microsoft founder Paul Allen, the story of popular music is told here.

"Everything here is multimedia. Noises, music and video clips can be heard from every corner. The museum, which was completed in 2000, is mainly visited by tourists. And, as we know, they want to know why so many well-known musicians are coming from Seattle. My theory is: It rains a lot in Seattle, for ten months it's dark and gloomy. You get bored, for example, you play guitar, drink a lot. Sometimes this can lead to a lot of creativity! "

It is evening. Seattle is becoming an unusually lively city for US standards. Even the strictly square downtown, with its not too high towers of office floors, is not completely extinct after close of business. On its periphery there are clubs, discos and pubs. The nightlife beyond the mainstream takes place primarily in the Capitol Hill district, west of downtown.

There we met the three members of the indie rock band Kinski. Guitarist Chris Martin, bassist Lucy Atkinson and drummer Barrett Wilke. They sit around their beers in the evening mood and ask how things are going with Krautrock in Germany. Chris Martin, with his blond shaggy hair, looks like a Viking. He's not very comfortable with the word grunge:

"People pulled the right strings at the right time, in the right place. A lot of this band were just gray and full. When the grunge thing really started it got really bad. They came from all over the place. Even Los Angeles came bands who wanted to be signed here in Seattle. Immediately after the insane success of Nirvana, an incredible number of terribly bad bands gathered here. "

What would he like to read for us: Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix? Dear Jimi Hendrix!

In his song "Room full of mirrors" Hendrix tells the story of a man who is trapped in a self-reflective world that he finds so overwhelming that it haunts him into his dreams. He frees himself by smashing the mirror, but injures himself in the process and turns to an angel who can give him freedom.

The devil breaks loose under the Space Needle in the evening: at the end of August each year, it's bumbershoot time. Then, under the umbrella, rock and folk musicians gather for a folk festival with hot dogs on a stick, ice cream and soft drinks. No fan can be filled with beer and schnapps here. Hippie parents with offspring sit on blankets. In addition, 50 to 60-year-olds, very much in memory of the old days and Bob Dylan, whose son Jakob is represented with a band at the festival.

Blitzentrapper's musicians are from Portland, Oregon; they are known for their quirky, experimental folk rock. Bass player Erik lived in Austria for a long time:

"Yes, the people here are good, but it's like at rock concerts: the people don't dance that much. But you can see if they like or love the music."

Does he still feel the grunge here in Seattle?

"Not anymore. The music that is coming out of Seattle now is a little more quiet. It's like that from Fleet Foxes. The music from our Sub Pop label is not as strong and heavy and loud as it was originally. It there are no more stars. "

He was never a Nirvana fan, but Erik remembers the really wild times when punk raged in Seattle:

"It's more of an old band from Seattle and it's called" The Human ". I think it was 1984, a punkabilly band that is very famous to me. They played here at the Bumbershoot Festival. There is a stage with it a kind of tub and the singer filled it with Patrol. He danced with you and the whole stage is: Up in Flames. Unbelievable, this is a real punk story from Seattle. "

He doesn't like to read out lyrics, but Erik sings us a bit from the Blitzentrapper repertoire. And immediately adds apologetically: He is a bass player and not a singer. You have to go on stage soon.

The Bumbershoot Festival is not Woodstock. Around 11 p.m., the last chords of Blitzentrapper fell silent, the fans chattering peacefully, leaving the meadows under the Space Needle and strolling along the elevated railway towards downtown. Behind us a squad in their twenties is making a noise: two guys in a John Lurie hat and a short-haired girl with horn-rimmed glasses. They overtake us, prance around us, scornfully ask whether we are from the east coast. We are in such a hurry. A fight is in the air. In the end, let them guess where we come from. Our weird accent makes you guess Holland.The three fans come from neighboring Vancouver, are regularly in Seattle for the Bumbershoot Festival and have glassy eyes: some vodka sloshes in their thermos. We want to have a pizza together at Pedro, one of the trendy takeaways somewhere in Capitol Hill. A small, cramped, brightly lit shop. Grunge classics are played on You Tube on the flat screen above the counter. One of the boys from Canada zaps through Green River and Soundgarden videos, then the emaciated Kurt Cobain comes into the picture in front of a morbid cemetery backdrop. We're drinking lemonade. The trio from Vancouver are tired, the pizza tastes great. Tomorrow we're going back home. The conclusion of the bumbershoot trip is drawn with a yawn: Vancouver is cooler, especially at night. We should come over.

The next morning we are sitting in the window of one of those coffee houses that can be found on almost every street corner in Seattle. Foamed milk, vanilla, cinnamon or orange-flavored coffee - Starbucks started its triumphal march through the world from here. The chain has become a symbol of globalization.

Nirvana is dead, Kurt Cobain is dead, the bands of the nineties no longer exist. Mudhoney members keep their heads above water with warehouse jobs. Seattle has returned to normal. And the grunge? We didn't find him. Rap, hip hop and techno are played in Capitol Hill, the downtown clubs. Sub Pop publishes good folk rock with retro charm. Nobody speaks of grunge anymore.

"Oh, what do I know. Grunge is dead, there was no grunge at all!"