From Crosscut: Finally a Hard Rock for Vedder, Cobain, Hendrix and others

I wrote the below article for Crosscut. You can click here to view the entire article.

Location, location, location. That is one of the many selling points of Seattle’s Hard Rock Cafe, which opened its doors to the public last Wednesday and is looking to make its mark on the local music scene.

The two-story, 14,000-square-foot restaurant’s prime real estate at the corner of First Avenue and Pike Street will likely attract heavy foot traffic from tourists and locals alike. Inside, Hard Rock’s hip and modern atmosphere will give diners plenty of eye candy to enjoy in the form of local music memorabilia from Hard Rock’s collection — including guitars owned by Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, hand-written notes from Courtney Love and Quincy Jones, and more.

If it’s grunge you’re looking for then the first floor of Hard Rock Seattle is where you’ll want to eat. Local icons ranging from Mother Love Bone’s Andy Wood to the Presidents of the United States of America have guitars on the walls and interesting items like the topper of Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain’s wedding cake make for a uniquely Seattle dining experience. The decision to focus the Hard Rock on more recent music history as opposed to The Sonics or Hendrix (Hendrix is represented upstairs, the Sonics are absent) was wise as it adds to the restaurant’s cool, modern vibe.

Keeping with the modern theme, the Emerald City version of the worldwide restaurant chain is as much a shrine to technology as it is a shrine to rock ’n’ roll. Upon entering the restaurant, patrons will undoubtedly notice the Rock Wall Solo, an interactive touch-screen wall where visitors can search and view memorabilia from Hard Rock’s collection. The booths on the first floor also have touch-screen displays where patrons can vote for what to play on the jukebox and virtually browse items from the Hard Rock’s collection.

Want to read John Lennon’s hand-written lyrics to “Imagine” while waiting for your drinks? You can do that. How about checking out some Hammer pants worn by MC Hammer during the video shoot for “Dancing Machine”? That’s in the system too. More than 1,500 items from Hard Rock’s collection have been digitally scanned into the virtual units. According to Joe Tenczar, Hard Rock’s CIO, Hard Rock has the world’s largest collection of rock memorabilia, with more than 72,000 pieces. Tenczar said more items could be added to Seattle’s virtual catalog once they are scanned into the system.

“The goal is to make it a fun, interactive experience for music fans,” he said. “We want to have more than food and drinks, we want people to have fun and walk away having had an experience to go along with their meal.”

Adding to the interactivity is a phone tour, which allows diners to call a number (206-204-4666) and enter a code next to an item to learn more about the piece. I recommend #55, which describes hand-written notes taped to an Eddie Vedder acoustic guitar.

While Hard Rock Seattle isn’t claiming to be a historical chronicler of the local music scene, there are several key players from the past couple of decades missing from the restaurant’s representation. Elliott Smith, Mudhoney, Sleater-Kinney, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie are a few of the notable omissions.

*** Hard Rock Seattle photo by Mat Hayward

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