INSPIRATION AND FREE LIVE MUSIC AT KEXP’S GATHERING SPACE
This article was updated July of 2019
We regularly visit Seattle’s KEXP radio station gathering space. The first time, Tim and I pushed aside all of our responsibilities for the day to have a date and be among the first people to experience the new KEXP viewing/listening studio, where we had the rare opportunity to witness the musical prowess of Glascow-based Frightened Rabbit.
Afterwards, we walked across the street and had delicious, fresh oysters and a glass of wine at Taylor Shellfish.
The second time, Bella had the day off school so Tim and I took Bella and her friend Navi to see LA-based Local Natives. Both sessions provided an inspiring springboard from which to start the day.
Anyone who is an indie-music lover, musician, music or broadcast media student and wants to spend a few hours being inspired by live music. It’s also a great place to work remotely or meet friends for coffee, when there is no live music scheduled.
In my opinion, the KEXP gathering space, located in the Seattle Center complex, is one of the best-kept secrets in town. For those who are not familiar, KEXP is Seattle’s local independent radio station. It is active around the world, with a sister studio in New York City and strong partnership with the Icelandic music community.
Several days a week anyone can show up at KEXP and watch free live music performances in the studio viewing room or gathering space. Watching an in-studio performance is very cool because you have an up close view of the musicians performing their magic in an intimate room featuring a large, sound-proof window with speakers. To me, there are fewer experiences more exhilarating than seeing live music in a small space. It was during the Frightened Rabbit performance that I finally realized that drummers are often times using three limbs to do different things to make music, and if they also sing, that is four synchronized actions. For a guitar student like me who is still trying to teach my two hands to work together independently, the experience was awe-inspiring. It’s also pretty cool to see the DJ in the space, interviewing the musicians between songs (the bands usually play 3-5 songs).
The featured bands are often touring and playing somewhere around town that night, in case you feel like you need more. I recently went on a tour of the station (shout out to my realtor Sam Lamb for inviting me to her monthly outings) and think that any music lover would be so inspired by the behind the scenes tour. Our volunteer guide was super knowledgeable and embodied the spirit of the KEXP community. Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned during the tour is the fact that KEXP receives more than 10,000 demo CDs/music files every year and that Don Yates, the music director, spends 8 hours a day in his office listening to every single submission!
The gathering space itself has an open floorplan and features glass window walls that they open when the weather is nice, couches and chairs for lounging, tables for working (they have WIFI), reading or hanging out, a gallery wall featuring music-themed photography, a vinyl shop and La Marzocco, a café and showroom for their hand-built espresso machines. Coffee aficionados will appreciate monthly visits from coffee roasters from around the world.
IF YOU GO
Check the KEXP website for the live, in-studio and community gathering space performance schedules. Look for the performances that state “public sign up”.
Show up at the KEXP gathering space 90 minutes before the scheduled performance. Sign in at the front desk and get a ticket (the first 75 people are granted free tickets).
Grab coffee drinks at the café, check out the vinyl pop-up shop and gallery wall in the gathering space or head outside for a stroll around Seattle Center.
30 minutes prior to the taping, claim your spot in line outside the studio doors to get a good viewing spot, (although any spots in the studio viewing room are probably good).
Station tours for up to 10 people are given daily at 2 p.m. and and 10 a.m. during the summer. Reservations are recommended. E-mail email@example.com or call 206-520-5892.