I would find it hard to imagine any other region in the United States having had more of an influence on rock music over the past several decades than Seattle and the surrounding Puget Sound region of Washington State. Whether it be the memorizing guitar riffs of Jimmy Hendrix, the rockin’ harmonies of Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, the head-banging grunge anthems of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, or the alternative-themed guitar riffs and lyrics of Death Cab for Cutie, the Puget Sound region reigns supreme as rock’s test laboratory for cutting-edge music trends.
Country music may be Nashville’s forte, jazz holds its roots firmly in New Orleans, while the blues call both St. Louis and Memphis their home base. For rock ‘n’ roll, the spectrum of a home has always been much broader. Many cities could claim their moment in the sun, including Cleveland, New York City, Detroit, Chicago, LA, Boston, and San Francisco. But I would be willing to bet, that no urban region in the country has produced more great acts per capita than the Puget Sound. This includes Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Olympia, Bellingham, Anacortes, Bremerton, and surrounding cities and towns.
As an urban planner, history geek, and music lover I am intrigued by the geography of music and why certain genre develop in certain locations. For the Puget Sound region it is harder to pinpoint than other influential music cities. Being an international crossroads between North America and Asia could be one factor, as could the rich Native American heritage of the area. The stunning natural beauty of the region certainly has an influence on its music, while the economic upheaval that took place when the region switched from a manufacturing and resource based economy to a technology and knowledge based one may as well. The region’s proximity to Canada may have also played a part in the equation, as would the region’s creative, artistic, and entrepreneurial persona, which draws newcomers from around the nation and the world.
Lastly, some aspects of greater Seattle’s music scene may have developed organically with the right factors coming together at exactly the right time. Whichever it was (or a combination thereof), Seattle and the Puget Sound region have found their stride musically and continue to run on all cylinders. For those of us who love rock ‘n’ roll, as well as a growing number of other genre, we couldn’t be happier.
Here’s a partial list of band names and performers musical roots from the Puget Sound region (nationally known acts are highlighted).
Alice in Chains
Death Cab for Cutie
Temple of the Dog
The Fall of Troy
The Lonely Forest
The Postal Service
The Presidents of the United States of America
United State of Electronica