To experience a country through its music is to get a taste of its soul. The United States of America has its own distinct musical history. From blues to jazz, bluegrass, hip-hop, rock & roll, EDM, country, soul and techno, every state in the US has sounds that define its heritage. Much of the country’s musical past has been preserved in museums in the form of instruments and iconography.
Here is a look at six US cities that have deep musical roots.
Known as the live music capital of the world, Austin is home to music festivals such as The South by Southwest held every spring and the Austin City Limits held in Zilker Park. With 2,000 local recording artists playing blues, pop, rock, indie and other genres, the Austin live music scene is diverse. Even Rodeo Austin is not complete without music. Check out The Empire Control Room, a modern music space at 7th and Red River dedicated to quirky musical events.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The birthplace of jazz, you can expect to see street musicians belting out soul-stirring music at the French Quarter of New Orleans. If you’re looking for some food to go with the music, the Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro or The Court of Two Sisters is the place for a brunch buffet. For the best view of Jackson Square and the perfect vantage point to listen to street musicians, pop into Tableau, a three-storey Spanish Colonial building serving French-Creole cuisine. As night falls, The Maison is a go-to spot. Other attractions include the New Orleans Jazz Museum, New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum and the Jax Brewery, which features a museum, shops and a view of the Mississippi River.
Los Angeles, California
The birthplace of gangsta rap, LA is the capital of West Coast Rap and G-funk. Home to popular musicians Ice-T, N.W.A, Public Enemy, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur, LA is a musical power-house. The Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theatre and the Wiltern bring in international stars. The Grammy Museum is a must-visit. Rock music fans can check out the Rock Walk at the Guitar Centre on Sunset Boulevard, and browse through the stacks at Amoeba Music, the largest independent record store in the world. Look out for the Capitol Records Building, which is shaped like a stack of vinyl records.
Ever since the 1920s, Seattle’s sound has always been gritty, underground and genre-bending. Its musical legacy includes labels such as Reciprocal Recording and Sub Pop that published Nirvana and Soundgarden; to modern bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, Mount Eerie and Sunny Day Real Estate. Find hard-to-find albums at Easy Street Records. And get on the Stalking Seattle Rock & Roll Sightseeing Tour, which covers the city’s history from Jimi Hendrix to all the grunge landmarks. Walk around the “Sonic Bloom” musical flowers at the Space Needle, explore exhibitions dedicated to popular music at the Museum of Pop Culture and, if you’re into the vinyl comeback, check out Bop Street Records.
Elvis Presley’s former home, Graceland, is at Memphis. Next to the mansion, the Trophy Building displays his Grammys and his gold and platinum records. The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music is a storehouse of Memphis’s musical history. The experience is not complete without witnessing the Beale Street Flippers in the neon lights singing the blues.
If you are a music lover, you will fall in love with Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, a route that crosses 19 counties and 50 towns including Bristol, full of concert venues, festivals, historic halls and small intimate music clubs. Bristol’s Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a 7,300-square metre space, houses an array of permanent and travelling displays, a performance area and interactive experiences. Listen to old-time music at The Pickin’ Porch weekly show or a variety of genres at the popular Full Moon Jam or Border Bash summer concert series. In addition to bluegrass and country tunes, you can hear indie music, Americana and Southern rock as well. At the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, audiences are treated to country music performances.