What makes someone grunge

What was left of the grunge : Seattle turns the music down quietly

Seattle on a mild spring afternoon. Charity Drewery steers her black Dodge minivan with a little too much swing into the cul-de-sac next to the Museum of Pop Culture. She jumps out of the car, jokes a little and urges you to hurry. We get in, it goes out onto 5th Avenue North, full throttle.

Drewery connects her iPhone to the car radio, a Pearl Jam song booms out of the speakers. The cable has a loose connection, small background noises shoot up the guitar chords of the legendary Seattle band.

Charity rocks anyway, confidently steering the car in the direction of downtown. She is strangely ageless and has medium-length blonde hair. She calls her tour “Stalking Seattle”. Seven days a week she drives one, sometimes two small groups across town for $ 65 per person.

It shows those places that were important for the grunge culture. Grunge is the sound with which the city in the northwest of the USA suddenly became famous in the early 1990s. The biggest heroes of the scene were bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. The demand for Charity's city tour is high, especially this year, a quarter of a century after the suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.

Seattle is not a tourist metropolis. Anyone who climbs on the Space Needle, the symbol of the 1962 World's Fair, has seen it all. Few stay here longer than a day or two. Maybe because otherwise there just isn't that much going on.

Maybe also because the city doesn't make it easy for you. The weather: changeable. Sometimes the sun bangs down from the sky, sometimes it rains torrents. The streets: steep. The city stands, or so it is at least said, on seven mountains.

In between there is water. To change from one part of the city to the other, you have to cross bridges, as a pedestrian you are often only separated from the thunder of the freeways by a narrow parapet.

The Dead of Rock Seattle

Charity is now using one of them to control their car. Our destination is perhaps the saddest place in Seattle. Far to the east of the city there are older single-family houses on spacious lawns. Previously older Volvo station wagons, VW buses, now and then a Porsche 911 or a Beetle.

The residents defiantly left the election boards from the last presidential election so typical of American residential areas in the front gardens. They reveal that this is Bernie Sanders Land. Another curve, another hill, then Charity parks.

The garage extension in which the electrician Gary T. Smith found the body of Kurt Cobain on April 8, 1994, has not been standing for a long time. The couple, who bought the house built in 1902 in the 1990s, converted - and closed the property with a rather massive gate.

The fans of the Nirvana singer of course pay their respects to their idol: The park bench that stands on the small lawn next to the house has become a well-attended pilgrimage site. "It's Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away", the Neil Young quote from Cobain's farewell letter, was written on the old wood with a white pen.

Some letters are on the bench with declarations of love, lines of text, pictures. A few flowers wither, on the back is a black and white sticker from Sub Pop, the label on which Nirvana released their first album and which still exists today.

Kurt Cobain isn't the only one dead in Rock-Seattle. On March 16, 1990, Andrew Wood, singer of the band Mother Love Bone, was found unconscious in his apartment after a heroin overdose. Three days later, the family switched off the life-support devices.

Layne Staley of Alice In Chains died on April 5, 2002 in his apartment from a so-called speedball, a mixture of cocaine and heroin. Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell committed suicide in a Detroit hotel room on May 18, 2017.

What does it do to a city when it loses four of its greatest musical heroes? What if the voices that made them audible in the first place fall silent one after the other? It historicizes the streets. Ordinary places become memorials.

Charity drives them off, one after the other. The "Black Hole Sun", a sculpture by the artist Isamu Noguchi, gave its name to a Soundgarden hit. It is reminiscent of a very large donut.

In 1988, Nirvana made their live debut at The Central, a small bar near Pioneer Square. Today there are burgers and beer, and a few photos of the heroes of yore hang on the walls.

“Don't leave anything in the car, not even a jacket. Two weeks ago they smashed my side window and stole everything, ”warns Charity as she parks the minivan on the curb. Downtown Seattle is no longer a trustworthy area. On many streets, homeless people have settled in small tent settlements. The scent of marijuana hangs in the air, garbage piles up on the side of the road.

In the 90s, says Charity, life was raging here. When a hip band played in one of the clubs on the weekend, there was no getting through. Hollywood director Cameron Crowe even made a film about the scene at the time: "Singles - Lonely Together" reported on the life and love of some early twenties between rehearsal rooms and mini-jobs.

In addition to stars like Bridget Fonda and Matt Dillon, Crowe also persuaded members of Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Soundgarden to play small roles, and the reaction in town was critical. There was talk of a sell-out, of betrayal of the ideals of the scene.

Today we are a little bit proud of “singles”. Charity also stops at the apartment block in which the protagonists lived, pointing out the car window at a café where the film was being shot.

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