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Seattle Music Map

An Insider's Guide to Seattle's Music History

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Kids get Political

As in most of America, the energy of Seattle’s music scene springs from its youth. What’s unusual about this city is the way its younger citizens have banded together to make their presence officially known. One of the only cities to have nightlife laws on the books largely shaped by youth advocates, Seattle is committed to the idea that popular music is good schooling as well as good fun.

The roots of today’s All-Ages Seattle can be found in a loose network of art galleries and alternative spaces with names like Rosco Louie, the Metropolis, Graven Image, and Gorilla Gardens, where ambitious kids and their supporters hosted and performed exciting shows in the 1980s and 1990s. One crucial space was the Velvet Elvis Arts Lounge, where the Foo Fighters performed their first show, and bands like Modest Mouse got their start.

This fertile scene blossomed despite the pressures of the Teen Dance Ordinance, a 1985 law passed by the City to regulate potentially dangerous mingling of adults and minors at new wave discos. By the new millennium, the music community decided to organize. An unprecedented civic effort resulted in an active dialogue among City officials, music professionals, and youth, resulting in the passing of 2002’s All Ages Dance Ordinance, a more effective means of regulating the safety of youth-oriented spaces. This new civic spirit also gave birth to the Vera Project, Seattle’s first City-supported all-ages venue, where kids can see live music every week and learn music-related skills from breakdancing to sound engineering. Currently based at 1916 4th Ave., but making its presence known throughout the city, the Vera Project is the soul of Seattle’s young music scene.