Jam Session at the EMP!

All right guys, I’ve got an original scene from my novel for you! Keep in mind that is is a first draft, and will probably look quite a bit different once it’s been edited.

This is the scene where Kevin takes Evie and Brandon to the Experience Music Project. It was probably my favorite scene to write, and I can’t tell you how many times I listened to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on repeat while writing this.

That will make more sense once you’ve read it… So read it all ready!




They decided that they wanted to help me unpack. Now. I picked a relatively safe box, mostly CDs and books, and let them have at it.They weren’t even halfway through the box when Evie yawned.

“You sure have a lot of CDs,” she moaned. Brandon slid another row of discs into my new entertainment stand; in alphabetical order as he’d insisted.

“Have you been to the EMP yet?” he asked, returning to the box.

“No,” I told him, flipping through a book I forgot I had. “I’ve seen it but I haven’t been inside.”

Both children went still and stared at me, shocked.

“You haven’t been?” Brandon asked again.

“You have to go!” Evie cried out. She almost knocked the box over in her rush to get to me. She babbled about various attractions and what had been her favorite parts. I got lost in the cyclone of words.

“When did you guys go there?” I didn’t imagine their father was the kind of guy to take them on family outings. I was right.

“Liza took us when we first moved here.” Brandon stated.

“We have to go!” Evie insisted, reaching a dangerous pitch.

“Ok,” I told her, begging her to quiet down. “We’ll go tomorrow.”

“Yay,” she screamed, bouncing on the hardwood floors. I pitied the downstairs neighbors.

They finished my new CD display discussing what we’d do first tomorrow. I might have dreaded the idea of spending my Saturday in a museum, but the excitement on Evie’s face made me smile anyway.


The next morning we walked to the EMP, Evie bouncing the whole way. We arrived at the distinct building just before ten. We bought our tickets and then sat on a bench in the amphitheatre. Well, Brandon and I sat. Evie continued running around, jumping from concrete stair to concrete stair. A part of my brain thought she might get hurt, but the rest of me knew it unwise to try and rein in all that energy.

We watched the Amtrak go over our heads, and squinted at the sun’s reflection on the copper side of the building.

Simultaneous to the doors’ opening Evie shouted, “It’s ten!” she pointed to her pink Disney Princess watch. She came running to our bench and dragged us over to the doors. Evie dropped my hand and bolted through the sliding doors. I chased after her to find the girl frozen in front of what looked like a guitar tornado.

The immense sculpture spanned from its narrow base on the ground floor, widening as it reached all the way to the third floor ceiling. Acoustic and electric, bass and mandolin, were all somehow glued together to form a cyclone of six strings. And twelve strings. And pretty much any kind of strings.

“Wow,” I breathed. Evie looked up at me.

“I knew you’d like it.” A proud look covered her face. Before I could reply she took my hand hauled me toward the stairs. Brandon followed along dutifully.

Led down a hallway I found myself surrounded by more Jimi Hendrix memorabilia than I knew existed. Guitars, smashed and whole, were on display, including a replica of the one he burned at Woodstock. Journal entries and personal photos hung in glass cases, illustrating a life I could never imagine.

The three of us kept walking, following the crowd, when Brandon tugged on my sleeve.

“I think you’ll like this part,” he told me. He pointed toward a less populated hall.

When we walked in I realized it was a physical timeline of Seattle’s music scene. Only mildly interested in Seattle’s jazz movement in the 20s, we fast-forwarded down the hall. I stopped, transfixed, before a pale yellow guitar.

“What is it?” Evie asked. She didn’t understand the importance of this guitar over all the others we’d seen so far. I looked at the green sweater on display next to the guitar before I answered her.

“It’s Kurt Cobain’s guitar.”

“Who’s that?” At first I was dumbfounded that she didn’t know who he was, then I reminded myself that she’s only eight. Cobain was long dead before she was born.

“I’ll teach you when we get back to the apartment.” This satisfied her and we continued slowly through the hall of the remains of my musical heroes.

After the somber walk through of Grunge history, Evie tugged us into the Sound Lab; a large room filled with interactive instruments and recording studios. There we played electronic drums that lit up as we hit them and learned famous riffs on electric guitars.

I was pumped up and have a good time when I saw the line for “On Stage!” “Let’s do that,” I said, puling the kids behind me.

“What is it?” Evie asked, unsure.

“You get on stage and they tape a music video, then you can buy the DVD!” Brandon told her, his voice truly excited for the first time.

“I don’t want to,” Evie whispered, pulling against my hand.

“Why?” I looked down at her. She looked at her brother and then back to me.

“I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

She wouldn’t answer me right away. She waved for me to come down to her level. That’s pretty far down for me. But, I dropped down to the balls of my feet so she could whisper in my ear.

“I can’t sing.”

“That’s ok,” I smiled at her. “I’ll help you.” She still looked dubious. “And,” I whispered in her ear, “I can’t sing either.”

“Really?” she asked, her voice hopeful. I nodded, my face serious.

“Just have fun, Evie.” I knew I’d convinced her when she smiled back at me.

“Let’s go,” she cried, taking each of us by the hand.

As we got closer to the front of the line I asked the kids what song we should do.

“A Nirvana song,” Brandon demanded.

“Who’s that?” Evie asked, concerned she wouldn’t know the song.

“Remember that guy’s guitar from earlier?” I asked. She nodded that she did. “His band.” She thought about it carefully and then shrugged.


Within minutes we were on the stage. Brandon sat behind the drum kit. Each pad would light up when he should hit it. I slung the guitar over my shoulder, a big grin on my face. Evie’s pale face, wrought with nerves, barely reached the microphone, even though the technicians had lowered it as far as it’d go. She gulped and looked back at me. I shot her a grin and two thumbs up, the guitar dangling at my waist from its strap. She returned a nervous smile.

The music started after Brandon counted us in on his drumsticks. The opening riff of “It Smells Like Teen Spirit” filled the room. The fake crowd roared. Evie looked over at me, grinning.

The lyrics were scrolling on a big screen, like karaoke. Luckily Evie was a great a reader. I sang along to help her with some words and to give her confidence. Half way through Evie was jamming out, her ponytail fallen out, hair streaming. Her little voice screamed with an apathy she knew nothing about.

As the song ended the fake crowd cheered. We were all grinning like fools, heaving and sweating, and had to be ushered off the stage so that the next “band” could play. The lights went out on us, and we moved toward the wings of the stage.

As Evie and walked off Brandon walked to the edge of the stage and yelled, “Thank you, Seattle!” He bowed and jogged to catch up with his sister and me.

“I’d heard that song before,” Evie told us as I bought the DVD.

“I could tell,” I told her. “You rocked it!” I tried to help get her mane back in the ponytail, but was so out of practice that Brandon had to take over for me.

We spent the rest of the day looking at famous outfits worn by past musicians and shopping in the souvenir store, which doubled as a giant record shop. The whole walk home Evie wouldn’t stop talking about the DVD.

“Can we watch it when we get back?” she asked for the millionth time. She bounced in front of me.

“Sure,” I shrugged. I figured it’d be fun. My phone rang, an obnoxious tone that told me Madeleine was calling. “Hey, Madeleine,” I answered. “What’s up?”

“What are you doing tonight?” That’s Madeleine for you, no preamble.

“Watching a movie with the kids.”

She made that sound women make when they see something cute. “What movie?”

“Well, it’s actually a recording…”
“Of what?”

“If you’d let me finish, I’d tell you!” I snapped at her, laughing. She scoffed through the receiver. “We went to the EMP today and did the “On Stage” thing.

“I’m coming over!”

“What?” I stared at the phone for a second. “Why?”

“Because I have to see this,” she gushed. I groaned, knowing there was no escaping this embarrassment. “I’ll pick up food on the way,” she continued. “Chinese?” I asked the kids if Chinese food was good with them. Evie bounced around even more. I marveled at her endless energy. Brandon asked if we could get egg rolls.

“Sure,” I told him. They ordered what they wanted, and I relayed the complex order to Madeleine. I could tell from her curt oks and uh-huh’s that she was transcribing everything I said in her crisp handwriting.


A half hour later we all sat crunched together on my new leather couch. Chinese takeout sat on the coffee table in front of us. Madeleine had the presence of mind to put everything on plates. I would have had us all eating out of the cartons. Evie was trying to sit still as her brother had asked, but she kept slipping around on the leather in her anticipation of the DVD.

As I pressed play, I had to admit I was pretty excited to see how we looked. On my big screen TV the fake crowd roared. The lights came up, revealing the three of us in turn. Brandon counted us in like a pro, and my television-self commenced jamming.

Madeleine laughed, spilling sweet and sour sauce all over my lap.

“Again!” I cried. I tried, in vain, to wipe it off. “What’s so funny?” I asked, more than a little pissed off.

“Your face,” she managed between chuckles.


“You just look so serious!” She laughed some more. “Like you’re Dave Grohl or something.

“Brandon’s Dave Grohl. Me and Evie are Kurt Cobain,” I told her, cross.


“Dave Grohl was the drummer for Nirvana,” Brandon piped up. “So I’m Dave Grohl.”

“Oh.” Madeleine kept quiet after that, realizing that we’d all taken this pretty seriously. But as I watched I realized that, while I’d felt like Kurt Cobain, I sure as shit didn’t look as cool as him. In fact, I looked kind of dorky. Relief swept though me as the song ended. The screen went black, our shadows murky blurs crossing the screen as we exited the stage. I thought it was over and stood to take the disc from the play when brandon’s voice came through the speaker, “Thank you, Seattle!”

Madeleine cheered and clapped, a grin on her pale face. Both Evie and Brandon blushed.

“I think Brandon needs a drum set,” Madeleine told the room. “You looked awesome up there!”

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