If you're not yet 21, don't despair: You still have many nightlife options. Several traditional venues and clubs recognize the attraction of holding all-ages events, and why not? Building customer loyalty at an early age only benefits them. If you want to stay informed about all-ages shows, check The Stranger's online calendar daily, and if you're on Facebook, you should think about joining the Seattle DIY Shows! group for on-the-downlow intel.
As recently as 2007 in our Back to School issue, Stranger music editor Eric Grandy lamented the dearth of options for underage music lovers. Things have improved on this front in both established venues and underground, off-the-grid spaces, art galleries, record stores, and the reemergence of Washington Hall. Even Frye Art Museum has opened up to the idea of hosting music events. Keep your eyes and ears open, kid; many sonic riches await you.
The epicenter of underage culture in Seattle, Vera Project is a multifaceted organization that hosts music shows and art exhibits while also holding workshops and classes involving audio engineering, live and studio recording, event production, silkscreen printing, and more. Not only does it offer many great opportunities to learn valuable creative skills, it also books several high-quality shows a month featuring a diverse array of local and touring acts of the indie persuasion—like Frankie Cosmos, Moor Mother, Terry Malts, and Gringo Star. If you want to gain experience and make connections in the local arts scene, do yourself a solid by signing up to volunteer or doing an internship at Vera.
Belltown fixture the Crocodile holds an eclectic all-ages performance series called the Pizza Pulpit in its back bar, which features rising new artists such as folkies Antonioni, hiphop up-and-comer Limanjaya, and wild psych-rockers Rainy Day Splish Splosh Band. Hiphop heads can sample some top local action with the Sunday monthly Home Slice night put on by Nu Era producer Andrew Savoie and DJ Able Fader. And every Monday the Crocodile holds the free Liquid Courage Karaoke.
A hot spot for open-minded musicians and fans of said musicians, this University District bar/cafe holds the notorious Racer Sessions every Sunday, where you bring your instrument(s) and your boldest ideas and improvise with others. You will leave exhilarated... or exasperated, depending on your temperament and skill level. But you will definitely not leave bored.
Get in the habit of listening to Hollow Earth Radio. (A low-power terrestrial spot on the dial is coming to 100.3 FM, KHUH.) A big part of being young, obviously, is expanding your sonic horizons, and in Seattle, the biggest bang for your buck comes from tuning in to HER and its panoply of knowledgeable, adventurous programmers. In addition, HER brings in way-left-of-center musicians (Gate, Horse Lords, Nordra, etc.) to perform live, usually for cheap cover fees, and it also hosts the annual musical smorgasbord known as Magma Fest. HER's tiny space makes for intimate viewing/listening experiences that will likely change your life for the better.
This small, spartan space sporadically showcases highbrow music for people with long attention spans. Its organizers aren't the greatest at promotion, but if you diligently read The Stranger's music calendar, you can catch some amazing under-the-radar acts like experimental-electronic luminaries Michael Flora and Lichens, minimal-techno great WNDFRM, and local ambient-music superstar Panabrite, all of whom will raise your IQ significantly.
A midsize space in the Central District with a rich history, Washington Hall has hosted legends like Jimi Hendrix, Afrika Bambaataa, and David Byrne, and more recently, breakdance troupe Massive Monkees and Portland ambient guitarist Grouper. It's just recently getting back into booking events, so things are quiet now, but expect an uptick in activity soon.
Paul Allen's plaything serves the all-ages community through its many teen artist workshops. You can hone your songwriting chops, learn how to program video games, practice your performance skills, and pursue other edifying goals at the Experience Music Project Museum. Also, the annual Pop Conference in April offers a deep-nerd dive into several musical topics such as this year's multifarious examination of the voice in music via some of the world's finest critics and thinkers' presentations. Oh, you should take a stroll through the museum at least once in your life, too, to see exhibits like Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses.
If you're into jazz, these two establishments could be your godsend. Royal Room caters to crowds that want edgy avant-garde offerings (e.g., owner Wayne Horvitz's many projects and fiery Norwegian fusionists Bushman's Revenge), while Jazz Alley generally hews to more traditional jazz artists like Ramsey Lewis and aging fusion legends like John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, and Chick Corea, while occasionally delving into R&B and funk (Tower of Power, Average White Band, Dr. John, etc.).
These longtime bastions of metal, punk, and their many variants—as well as any Insane Clown Posse satellite artist and the odd weird tangent, like Chrome and Ariel Pink—often have all-ages shows. (Remember when legendary post-punk legends the Slits played El Corazon in 2006? Oh wait, you were still in grade school... never mind.) The atmosphere is grimy as fuck and there are years of toxic testosterone residue on the walls, but if you're into headbanging and moshing, these joints could become your home away from home.
Very similar in booking philosophy to El Corazon and Funhouse [see above], Studio Seven is known for starting gigs early in the evening in order to make time for its larger shows. If you dig extreme metal, you'll end up spending a lot of time here.
Black Lodge (REDACTED)
The wily weirdos who run Black Lodge don't want us to write about them. The problem is, though, Black Lodge throws too many cool shows for us to ignore 'em. So we recommend that you put the small, gritty DIY club on your radar (hit up Google) and keep your eyes peeled for a steady stream of underground-rock and experimental-music bookings that almost always take rewarding risks. Just don't tell 'em we sent you.
Many other Seattle venues (Neumos, Chop Suey, Paramount, Neptune, Moore, Showbox) often have all-ages shows, too. Read our Things To Do calendar for detailed info regarding them.