Duuude! The Experience Music Project is like, totally fucking cool. And it's butt ugly, but whatever. Most musicians' pads are. The key to the EMP is not looking good; it's customization. Duuude, the JBL sound system (the finest speakers money can buy) is customized throughout. The Sky Church--which is a Jimi Hendrix concept, a communal space devoted to the reverence of music--is strung with customized Christmas lights; the finest Christmas lights money can buy. Instead of just blinking, they flicker in orange; not in imitation of candlelight, but in boastful superiority to the cactus- and rose-covered Christmas lights that adorn the walls of a certain Capitol Hill bar frequented by local musicians. Does the Cha-Cha have disco balls hanging from the ceiling? Sky Church has, like, several, surrounded by silver-gray drapery (like that tie-dye hanging from the ceiling in the dorm room of the biggest stoner on your hall) that breathes, up and down, billowing and puckering. Why? Dude, 'cause it can! 'Cause it's totally fucking cool.
But the coolest thing about Sky Church is the custom 40-by-70-foot video screen with custom "wall of sound" acoustics. The screen is the largest in the world (ours is bigger than yours, suckers!), and it'll blow your mind. Problem is, the floor of Sky Church has about the same dimensions as the screen, which means you can barely get 40 feet away from the 40-foot screen. It bugs. From every vantage point in the room, the screen is too close. Bad enough that musicians have shit hearing, but the Sky Church screen will ruin your eyes as well. Then we'll have a bunch of blind, deaf, Helen Keller-types running around trying to experience music! Punk rock!
Next to the Sky Church is the Roots and Branches sculpture, which is so cool-looking; like a tornado made of over 500 used guitars. It was created by an artist named Trimpin, which sounds enough like "trippin'" that it won't be long before the laser light show will have some serious competition from Roots and Branches. Plus, 40 of the guitars have been customized so that they're self-tuning and computer-controlled. So you can hear them wail, baby! Guitars that play themselves: Trippy, huh?
There are some exhibits of like, old records and show posters, but even those are customized by the guitar-pick-shaped Museum Exhibit Guide (MEG), which, in truly Kinks-y irony, is named like a woman and talks like a man. MEG is like the finest guitar pick money can buy crossed with the finest Palm Pilot money can buy, and you can be sure it was Paul Allen's vision all the way. For those who really dig geeking out, MEG is meta-customized: Not only can you pick and choose what information you want from each exhibit, but you can customize the Windows CE OS (Microsoft represent!) by bookmarking additional information hyperlinks and MP3s from the exhibits to be viewed later in the museum's customized Compaq computer lab.
Every inch of the museum begs the question, "Why?" Yeah, it's totally cool. It's customized. It's the finest music museum money can buy. And its education programs, like Experience Summer Camp, with counselors like Ann and Nancy Wilson, will benefit Seattle's youth and earn EMP its precious 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization status, but still, "Why?" Was Paul Allen just sitting around one day saying, "Geez, I need somewhere to put this $240 million!" Or is it, as the museum's publicity says, that Paul Allen wanted everyone to know how he feels when he listens to music? Either way, the Experience Music Project, cool as it may be, is for people who don't usually experience music. Show me a music museum with no place to sit, shitty sound, and overpriced booze; a place where you can do a line of coke off a hooker's ass; and then we'll talk about experiencing music.