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The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP for short, in Seattle, Washington

Oregon, Texas, California, Washington

5 U.S. Cities to Explore like a Rock Star

By: Idoia Gkikas

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  • States:
    Oregon
    Texas
    California
    Washington

Things have changed a lot since the days of Elvis Presley and The Beach Boys, but Rock ’n’ Roll has influenced every genre of music since.

As the birthplace of Rock, the USA is rich in music history and continues to innovate in cities big and small. Check out these five destinations where rock stars – and fans – are made.

Portland, Oregon: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Melting Pot

Whatever your style of Rock, you’ll find it in Portland. This culture-embracing city has long been a hotbed of musical talent. Catch the next big thing at PDX Pop Now!, a free, all-ages music festival for rising talent, where past notables included The Shins, Sleater-Kinney and The Decemberists. McMenamins Crystal Ballroom has been a live-music landmark for more than a century, and the adjacent Crystal Hotel’s 51 rooms are themed after a band or song performed at the Crystal Ballroom. To mingle with the locals, catch a show at Mississippi Studios or Secret Society Lounge, which houses a recording studio downstairs.

All the Apparatus band giving a signature street performance in downtown Portland, Oregon

All the Apparatus band giving a signature street performance in downtown Portland, Oregon
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Austin, Texas: The Live Music Capital of the World

From every bar, restaurant, grocery store, museum – even inside the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport – Austin buzzes with the sounds of live music. Artists past and present have made their name here, from Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan to the Meat Puppets and Spoon. Austin’s music scene even has its own television series, “Austin City Limits,” the longest-running music show in TV history. Along with hosting numerous major music festivals, such as SXSW, Austin City Limits and Levitation Austin, the city’s Sixth Street district rocks with tunes seven days a week. There are hundreds of venues waiting to be explored and enjoyed.

On the lawn at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Texas

On the lawn at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Texas
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Los Angeles, California: Historic Music Venues

From historic recording studios to legendary performance halls, Los Angeles is a music industry powerhouse. Mega venues like the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theatre and the Wiltern bring in international stars, and historic spots like Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy Theatre, the Rainbow Bar & Grill and the Hollywood Roosevelt have hosted rock icons from The Doors to Guns N’ Roses. Explore four levels of music memorabilia at the GRAMMY Museum, match your handprints to famous rock stars at Guitar Center’s RockWalk and browse the stacks at Amoeba Music, the largest independent record store in the world. Have your camera handy for a photo of the Capitol Records Building near the famous Hollywood and Vine intersection. Built in 1956, this landmark is shaped like a stack of vinyl records. Keep your eyes open for celebrities as you explore this city.

Amoeba Music, the largest independent record store in the world, in Los Angeles, California

Amoeba Music, the largest independent record store in the world, in Los Angeles, California
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Seattle, Washington: Alternative Music Mecca

From Punk to Metal to Grunge, Seattle’s sound has always been gritty, underground and genre-bending. Just look at the Punk-defining “Seattle Syndrome” compilation of 1981; labels like Reciprocal Recording and Sub Pop that published Nirvana and Soundgarden; and modern Seattle-based bands, including Death Cab for Cutie, Mount Eerie and Sunny Day Real Estate. Plan ahead to reserve a seat on the Stalking Seattle Rock & Roll Sightseeing Tour, which covers Seattle music history from Jimi Hendrix to all of 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.

Headed to the Upstream Music Festival, a three-day summit in Seattle, Washington

Headed to the Upstream Music Festival, a three-day summit in Seattle, Washington
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San Diego, California: Rock in a Beach Paradise

Combine Rock, Ska, Reggae and Surf Punk and you’ll get a feel for the San Diego music scene made famous by bands like blink-182, Buck-O-Nine, Switchfoot and Slightly Stoopid, all San Diego-born bands. San Diego’s laid-back beach vibe and endless sun are a hit for outdoor music festivals, such as CRSSD, KAABOO Del Mar and Adams Avenue Street Fair. Downtown is rife with live music options including the Music Box, a three-story performance space that has quickly become a nightlife institution, as well as intimate favorites like The Casbah and the Soda Bar, renowned for hosting Indie Rock bands. Many locals will recommend the 30-minute drive to Solana Beach to catch a show at Belly Up, which opened in 1974 and is one of the area’s most beloved concert halls. Interested in music history? Don’t miss the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, 45 minutes north of San Diego. This attraction is packed with historic instruments, some of which you can actually play.

The popular KAABOO Del Mar music festival in San Diego, California

The popular KAABOO Del Mar music festival in San Diego, California
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