Take a Self-Guided Tour of Seattle's Sub Pop Sights

Bone up on your Sub Pop history with this tour of the city’s label-affiliated sights
MoPOP's exhibit "Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses"

This article appears in print in the August 2018 issue. Read more from the Seattle magazine feature story here and from the Seattle Business magazine cover story hereClick here to subscribe.

Visit the site of Nirvana’s first Seattle show. Part of a Sub Pop showcase, Kurt Cobain’s first Seattle show took place at a gritty night club called The Vogue. The Belltown location is now home to posh hair salon Vain (2018 First Ave.; 206.441.3441). 

Sub Pop artist photos at Hotel Max. Courtesy Provenance Hotels

Tour a makeshift gallery of grunge. Grunge era photographer Charles Peterson’s iconic black-and-white images of Nirvana, Soundgarden and other Sub Pop bands line the walls at grunge-era hangout The Crocodile Cafe (Belltown, 2200 Second Ave.; 206.441.4618), where those bands often played. Nearby, the entire fifth floor of Hotel Max (downtown, 620 Stewart St.; 206.728.6299) is dedicated to Sub Pop, with turntables and Sub Pop vinyl in every room, and Peterson’s photos lining room and hallway walls.

Drink in that loser feeling. Belly up to the bar at Elysian Brewing (various locations) and see if its Loser ale is on tap; it’s a nod to aspiring bands turned down by Sub Pop with the famous rejection letter that begins, “Dear Loser.”

The Loser Letter many bands wanted to sign with Sub Pop, and most were turned away with this now famous rejection letter. Image courtesy Jason Garcia @ Shutteradvance

Get to the center of it all. Celebrate Sub Pop as the center of our music scene at Seattle Center. Take in the recently returned pop culture exhibit Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses at MoPop (through 2019; 325 Fifth Ave N.; 206.770.2700), featuring band and Sub Pop–related memorabilia. Make a pilgrimage to the new headquarters of longtime Sub Pop ally KEXP-FM 90.3 (472 First Ave. N; 206.520.5800), where, in the station’s former incarnation as KCMU, Pavitt, Poneman, Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil and Mudhoney’s Mark Arm were once DJs (also where the Sub Pop 30th-anniversary Count-Up, a tribute to each of the label’s 1,200 releases, has been going on since March). Or visit the site of Mudhoney’s 2013 concert in the sky at the Space Needle (400 Broad St.; 206.905.2100).

Check out these steps. Look down next time you’re at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Pine Street; along with the likes of local legends Jimi Hendrix, Paul Allen and Bill Gates, Pavitt and Poneman are immortalized there with two pairs of footprints on Nordstrom’s Walk of Fame.

Take something with you. Pick up an LP or postcard at Seattle’s first record-label airport store, the Sub Pop Airport Store (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Concourse C).


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