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The Hendrix Gallery
Jimi Hendrix' Legacy Finds Permanent Home In Seattle
by Steve Stav
Billionaire Paul Allen and architect Frank Gehry certainly had something to do with Experience Music Project's design and construction, but it also could be said that Seattle's music mecca/metallic monolith is the house that Hendrix built. In fact, prior to the unique building's groundbreaking, it was rumoured that it would be a music museum centered around native son Jimi Hendrix. That wasn't the case, but the guitarist's legacy and influence literally shaped the building and Experience Music's mission. EMP is a unique, multi-exhibit showcase, with a theater, concert hall, restaurant and hands-on education facilities. However, though some Hendrix artifacts have been on display, other artists and music genres -- from Elvis Presley to funk -- have taken center stage at the EMP since its doors opened three years ago.
This summer, Jimi Hendrix has come home.
Up the long flight of stairs from EMP's wildly popular disco exhibit now lies the world's largest collection of Hendrix memorabilia, a veritable shrine to rock's greatest guitarist. But it's much more than a place of worship; the Hendrix Gallery, by design, is a journey through one of the most extraordinary musical odysseys ever undertaken, and a fascinating look at the personal life of a legend.
Hardcore Hendrix fans will be amazed even before passing through the exhibit's entrance, as it's flanked by wall-mounted covers of almost every Hendrix album and single ever issued worldwide 0- even the not-so-legit pressings.
Divided into chronologically-ordered sections, the Hendrix Gallery first introduces visitors to Hendrix's family tree (photos of his vaudeville-performing grandparents) and early days in Seattle -- even the Hendrix family's stereo is featured. Training photos and letters to home will surprise those who did not know that Hendrix served as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne; also amazing are early photos of a young Jimi with the likes of Little Richard and the Isley Brothers.
The Gallery continues with eye-popping memorabilia from his mid-'60s stint in Greenwich village, and his career-pivoting London adventures. Guitar afficionados and studio freaks will be dumbstruck by the gear on display, starting with a whole "Experience" setup, with Mitch Mitchell's drum kit, recently departed Noel Redding's bass rig, and Hendrix' white Strat and Marshall amp. Also featured is a console from Electric Ladyland Studios, as well as his Octavia and Uni-Vibe pedals.
Altogether, the Gallery is overwhelming in its "completeness" -- thanks to the partnership of EMP and Experience Hendrix, L.L.C., there's everything from handwritten lyrics to Hendrix' diary and stage clothing (Isle of Wight, Rainbow Bridge, his trademark hat) to a well-produced video presentation, which includes Jimi's "Star Spangled Banner." Indeed, the curators' (including Janie and Bob Hendrix) desire to educate as well as dazzle the public has resulted in an unforgettable "experience" for fans and oblivious tourists alike.
Though the exhibit and EMP itself is obviously a commercial venture, it's also obvious that the Hendrix Gallery is a labor of love...and a destination worthy of a cross-country pilgrimage.