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From Hendrix to Fleet Foxes: Inside Seattle's Vibrant Music Scene

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From U.S. music legends like Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana to chart-toppers such as Fleet Foxes and Macklemore, Seattle, Washington, has been a force in popular music since its folk and jazz heyday of the 1920s.

In a city with such a rich scene, there's no shortage of venues, vinyl shops and arenas. Here's where to start your journey through music history.

Columbia City Theater

Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles are just a few of the artists who've graced the stage at the century-old Columbia City Theater. Originally built for vaudeville, this venue was essential to the Seattle jazz boom of the 1940s, before it transitioned to accommodate the 1980s punk scene. Today, the theater serves as an intersection between Seattle's musical past and present, and continues to book the nation's top artists.

Easy Street Records

A major force in the city's music culture since opening in 1988, Easy Street Records has long held a healthy reputation for hawking hard-to-find albums within its mural-splashed walls. The indie record shop has also hosted performances from both local and national musicians As an added bonus, the record shop has an attached cafe where music fans can munch on rock-inspired eats ranging from the Green Day Salad to the Let It BLT.

Street performers at Pike Place Market

Street performers at Pike Place Market
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Neumos

Born during the 1990s grunge era, Neumos has thrived thanks in part to the venue's impressive interior (think: high-arching ceilings and lighted stained glass installations). Like an indie incubator, Neumos has continue to foster Seattle's rock culture, hosting critically acclaimed artists like Feist, The Shins, Band of Horses and Vampire Weekend.

The Showbox

The Showbox has gone through multiple iterations since it first opened its doors in 1939, but remains an intimate venue wrapped in Seattle music lore. Through the Jazz Age to 90s grunge to today's neo-folk and hiphop, this hot spot has hosted musicians from nearly every genre. Boasting three bars, a state-of-the-art sound system and near-unrestricted sight lines, the venue mirrors the artists it books: memorable and on the cutting edge.

Seattle Great Wheel

Seattle Great Wheel
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The Seattle Center

Long before Jimi Hendrix became a guitar icon, he was just another struggling artist trying to make a living in his hometown, where he played one of his first headliner shows at the former Seattle Center Coliseum. Since then, the artist has been immortalized in a nearby park named in his honor. Today, the Seattle Center complex also hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year including Bumbershoot and the Northwest Folklife festivals.

Pioneer Square

Downtown Seattle's Pioneer Square hosted some of the biggest names in 1990s grunge, including Alice in Chains and Nirvana. Today, the neighborhood is seeing a resurgence with the Upstream Music Fest + Summit. Originally conceived by Microsoft co-founder and famed Seattle resident Paul Allen, this three-day festival features performances from more than 300 regional artists at more than 25 venues.

In between shows, be sure to stop by the nearby Museum of Pop Culture, which features exhibits on local and international music, including classic rock, jazz, soul, gospel, country and the blues.

Museum of Pop Culture

Museum of Pop Culture
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