On the first Thursday of every month, the EMP/SFM opens its doors for free for a couple of hours, letting in those of us who wouldn’t normally spend an evening and $15 at the decade-old Seattle Center museum. But even if you’ve made EMP a regular part of your cultural experience, there’s no way you’ve seen it all.
Here are four things to take in for free this Thursday:
1. Us on Roofs (Sky Church). This Gig Harbor trio may not have won EMP’s 2010 Sound Off! battle of the bands, but they clearly made a good impression on its Youth Advisory Board, who booked them for a return visit—a good sign for all-ages music. With an eight-track record (last May’s Robes of Feathers) under their belt, Us on Roofs provides a relaxed, poetic brand of syncopated indie rock that builds on guitarist/keyboardist Brian Fisher’s lyrical approach and an affinity for familiar, catchy, guitar-driven melodies.
2. Beamz (Sound Lab). Tucked away in the lab’s back corner is an odd, easily overlooked W-shaped instrument called Beamz that undeniably furthers EMP’s claim of technological superiority. Simply by interrupting one or more of its six laser beams, each of which triggers an instrument or sound of the user’s choosing, Beamz is effectively a sampling instrument—and a unique one at that. Plus, no matter what combination of lasers is tripped, the computer will ensure that the result is harmonious and you look like a pro.
3. Road Stories (Sound and Vision). Touring is one of the most glorified aspects of the popular conception of the music business—but the less-glamorous parts, while perhaps not as enticing, are just as fascinating. In the “Road Stories” section of EMP’s oral-history gallery Sound and Vision, artists present a glimpse of the truth: Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil tells about getting pulled over by local sheriffs and DEA agents en route to a gig in New Orleans, and Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye offers especially humorous insights into his early attempts at hitting the road: “Tommy Clinton’s parents called and said that he could either bring the van back or they weren’t going to pay for college—so that was the end of the tour.”
4. Battlestar Galactica. Previously closed during free first Thursdays, this SFM exhibit—based on an interstellar TV drama in which the last humans, fleeing a cybernetic horde, search for the legendary planet Earth—will now be fully accessible. Showstoppers include three full-size prop spaceships (sadly off limits), complemented by concept art and storyboards for context. But the display also deals in the series’ spiritual and moral dilemmas, mirroring many of the museum’s other artifacts and the sci-fi genre as a whole.