EXCELLENCE IN CITYNESS: KEXP GATHERING SPACE

The KEXP Gathering Space has an unwieldy, nonprofit-y name, but it’s very cool. There are lots of nice chairs, and a record shop, and a coffee shop, and all kinds of cool kids and fancy creatives hang out there all the time, along with the kind of young north Seattle dad who wears stubble and brewery t-shirts.

KEXP does all sorts of events there all the time, and its offices and studios are on the other side of the wall from the Gathering Space. In fact, you can see the on air DJ from a giant, soundproof window behind a stage that takes up the north wall of the room. That’s kind of weird. I would hate to work in that context. I think one of the best things about being a DJ is that it’s a public job, but you can pick your nose if you really need to.

Anyway, the room is very big, and the chairs are actually comfortable, unlike the chairs in most public places. Most public places look comfortable, but are actually hostile spaces for the real public.

The Hilton hotels of the ‘50s and ‘60s are a classic example. They were constructed as tools of commerce and Cold War propaganda, which in this (as in many) cases was the same damn thing. Conrad Hilton was a devoted anti-Communist, and wanted his hotels to trumpet American exceptionalism—even convey a sense of utopia. Hilton lobbies were designed to keep their guests in and the local, exotic public out, like fortresses.

KEXP’s space, meanwhile, conveys another feeling, its own brand. It’s a warm sort of expensive Gen X cool: you can’t imagine ‘80s Kim Gordon spending a lot of time there, but late Aughts Thurston Moore would like it very much.

The KEXP space is a comfortable, artfully lit advertisement for the synthesis of counterculture and ecommerce. The look (and most of the time the soundtrack) is punk rock-derived, but it was seeded by Paul Allen’s money, and there are guys crushing code on their computers.

The dream of the ‘90s is very much alive in this place, one block down the street from the “Singles” apartment building. The espresso is very fancy, which works for me. (You can get soda water from a public tap!) I used to be a barista and a musician. Now I’m a writer and still a musician, but I’m learning how to code so that I can do fancier jobs. The fancy coffee makes that work a lot easier.


Also published on Medium.