Unless you're already a sanctioned record nerd, or well on your way, you may find yourself entrapped by some predictable progressions upon entering college. Some of the most common (boring) phases are: the Pink Floyd Phase, the Bob Dylan Phase, the Jimi Hendrix Phase (if it didn't take in high school), or, God forbid, the Bob Marley Phase (resist the temptation to grow dreadlocks, especially if you are white). If you do experience symptoms of such a phase, embrace it but keep it brief, and don't make a big deal about it—no posters on the wall, no excessively talking people's ear off.
As a rule, music talk should generally be avoided, unless you're saying something to the effect of "Have you heard them/he/she/it?" or "Yes! I love them/he/she/it. Put it on!" or "No, I've never heard them/he/she/it. Let's hear it" or "No, they/he/she/it have/has never really done it for me." Always admit when you don't know an artist, record, or song; anyone who would judge you for not knowing is not worth your time, and it's often easily exposed when you lie about things in such uncharted territory. Plus, you'll never learn it if you pretend to already know it. If you must jibber-jabber about music for any length of time, watch it with the genre names, bub. Half the time they mean something different to everyone involved, and using them just makes you sound like an ass-hole music critic, and no one wants to hang out with those dudes.
Once you have expediently processed your Bob Dylan Phase, investigate his superior alternative Leonard Cohen, starting with Songs from a Room, and ending long before the second half of his discography. Pink Floyd? Chuck everything but The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Hendrix? You can go wherever you like after Jimi, but keep all of his records because he is a God. Marley? Put the bong away (or in the trash if it features a skull and/or jester likeness) and get yourself in touch with Desmond Dekker, who traded more in rocksteady, which you should be listening to instead of reggae anyway—it precedes Marley, it's slower, and it's better. Also, get onto some classic dub records—King Tubby's At the Controls is an excellent start.
Where to See Music if You're Not 21
Vera Project is the one to know about, because they book some serious national talent—Shellac of North America, Future Islands, and WHY?, to name a few coming up—and it's always all ages. It's in Seattle Center (the park below the Space Needle). Other venues include Q Cafe, just south of the Ballard Bridge; Cairo, an art gallery/clothing store/DIY warehouse on Capitol Hill that features excellent lineups of quality local and touring bands; and Ground Zero in Bellevue (that city on the other side of Lake Washington). But there is a new development in the all-ages music scene, and you are HELLA STOKED on it. Seattle Theatre Group, which books some of the best shows in this city, has recently reopened the Neptune Theatre in the University District as an all-ages-friendly (bar with ID) venue with a capacity of 850 to 1,000. The sound system is tits, and the sight lines are great—it used to be a movie theater.
A Note About Fake IDs and Getting into 21+ Areas Before You're 21
Don't do it. Not only are you fucking over everyone who works there (the venue and its employees are liable if they even let you inside), but you're fucking yourself over in the future. Seattle's bar workers all know each other.
Where to Buy Music
Get the fuck off the internet, put your shoes on, and walk/bus/drive to a real-live record store. Here are some of the stores you'll want to check out: Easy Street Records (Lower Queen Anne, West Seattle): Knowledgeable staff, great selection—the Queen Anne location is bigger, but the West Seattle one has a cafe. Both host semiregular, free all-ages shows with quality acts. Sonic Boom (Ballard): Also a great selection and knowledgeable staff. Loads of 7-inch vinyl that you want to own. They also host great and free all-ages shows. Bop Street Records (Ballard): A giant cavern of mostly used vinyl. Let someone know where you are going and when you should be back, because you could get lost in the basement. Be prepared to haggle over unpriced vinyl. Jive Time (Fremont): Clean used vinyl that they actually go out and find and bring to the store. Few places do this. Singles Going Steady (Belltown): More select punk, metal, and rock selections than you can shake a stick at. Totally nice folks. Neptune Music Company (University District, directly under Neptune Theatre): Mike "Moose Knuckle" Nipper, our resident record-buying elitist, says: "I haven't been there forever, but I know lots of people have pulled rare stuff... good stock."
A Note on Vinyl
Sure, MP3s are great for when you're walking around alone or on the bus, but to truly experience a record, you must get a turntable. Every audiophile everywhere will tell you that vinyl sounds better. This is actually entirely true.