The Evergreen State College Grunge Music Scene

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The grunge music scene in the early 1990s was defined by its DIY ethic, its disdain for the mainstream music industry.

What is Grunge Music?

Grunge music is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the mid-1980s. Grunge music is characterized by its distorted guitars, angst-filled lyrics, and dark, moody atmosphere. The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington was a hotbed for grunge music in the early 1990s. Let’s take a closer look at the grunge music scene at Evergreen State College.


The origins of Grunge music can be traced back to the early 1980s, when a number of bands began to develop a sound that was influenced by punk rock and heavy metal. These bands were often unsigned and tended to be based in small independent record labels. The term “grunge” was first used in print in the Seattle fanzine Desperate Times in 1985, when editor Kent Beattie used it to describe the local music scene. By the end of the decade, grunge had become a full-fledged musical genre with a number of highly successful bands, such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.


Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock and a subculture that emerged during the mid-1980s in the Pacific Northwest U.S. state of Washington, particularly in Seattle and nearby towns. The early grunge movement revolved around Seattle’s independent record label Sub Pop and the region’s underground music scene. By the early 1990s its popularity had spread, with grunge bands appearing in California, then emerging in other parts of the United States and in Australia, building strong followings and signing major record deals.

Grunge music is characterized by heavy guitars, angst-filled lyrics and a DIY ethic. Grunge fashion is characterized by unkempt hair (often intentionally mussed), plaid shirts, jeans, comfortable shoes (such as Converse) and dark cardigans. Common themes include alienation, apathy, attempting to “sell out”. Grunge fashion was often inspired by: 1960s countercultural hippie fashions; 1970s punk fashions; the work wear of 1950s blue collar jobs such as logging and fishing; thrift store clothes; and the dress style of Northwestern college students.

The Grunge Music Scene at Evergreen State College

Evergreen State College was known for its grunge music scene in the early 1990s. The most famous grunge band to come out of Evergreen was Nirvana, which was fronted by Kurt Cobain. Nirvana’s success brought attention to the grunge scene at Evergreen and other grunge bands, such as Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, started to gain popularity.

The Bands

The grunge music scene at Evergreen State College consisted of a number of bands that were active in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These bands were influenced by the Seattle music scene, as well as by the college’s DIY ethic. The most famous of these bands was Nirvana, who went on to achieve commercial success with their album Nevermind. Other notable bands from the Evergreen scene include Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and TAD.

The Venues

The grunge music scene at Evergreen State College was vibrant and active in the early 1990s. The campus had several venues that hosted grunge bands, including the OC (Off Campus) Dining Hall, the Student Union Building (SUB), and Red Square. These venues were popular with both students and locals.

The OC was home to the renowned “Grunge Night” concerts, which featured both local and touring bands. The SUB was also a popular venue for grunge bands, hosting both local and national acts. Red Square was a popular gathering place for musicians and music fans alike, and often hosted impromptu performances by local bands.

In addition to these formal venues, many grunge bands also played at house parties and other informal gatherings. These shows were often BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) affairs, and were typically held in off-campus apartments or houses.

The Fans

The grunge music scene at Evergreen State College was unlike anything that had come before. The fans were passionate and devoted, and they loved nothing more than attending live shows and buying the latest records.

The music was loud and angry, and the lyrics were often about topics like depression, drug addiction, and suicide. The fans related to this type of music because they were often dealing with similar problems in their own lives.

The grunge music scene was a safe place for these fans to express themselves, and it quickly became an important part of their lives.

The Legacy of the Evergreen State College Grunge Music Scene

The grunge music scene of the early 1990s was a major cultural phenomenon. It was defined by a DIY ethic, an emphasis on authenticity, and a rejection of the commercialism of mainstream pop music. The scene was centered in Seattle, Washington, and the music that came out of it was a products of the city’s unique ecology.

The Music

The grunge music scene in the early 1990s was a time of great transition for the American music industry. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains were the most commercially successful grunge bands, but there were many other great grunge bands that did not achieve the same level of success. The grunge music scene was a product of the Seattle music scene, which was influenced by punk rock and heavy metal. Grunge bands typically had a raw and aggressive sound that was distinguished from other types of rock music.

Although grunge music was popularized by a handful of commercially successful bands, the genre would not have existed without the work of independent labels and zines that helped to promote grunge music in the early 1990s. The most important of these was Sub Pop, which was founded in 1986 by Bruce Pavitt and Jon Poneman. Sub Pop released albums by Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and many other great grunge bands. The label also popularized the Seattle sound with its famous compilation album Sub Pop 100, which featured songs by Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Tad, and other great Seattle bands.

In addition to Sub Pop, there were many other important labels and zines that promoted grunge music in the early 1990s. These included C/Z Records (founded by Chris Hanzsek and Tina Casale), which released albums by Mudhoney and Tad; Green Monkey Records (founded by Jack Endino), which released albums by Soundgarden and Skin Yard; and The Rocket (founded by Charles R.< Peterson), which was one of the most important Seattle-based music zines of the era.

The success of Nirvana's album Nevermind in 1991 brought mainstream attention to the Seattle music scene and ushered in a new era for American popular culture. Grunge fashion became popular among young people across the country, and Seattle became known as the "grunge capital" of America. However, the grunge scene was not without its critics; some people accused grunge musicians of being sellouts who had betrayed their punk rock roots. Nevertheless, there is no denying that the legacy of the Seattle grunge scene is still strongly felt today.

The People

The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington was a hotbed of activity for the grunge music scene in the early 1990s. The college was known for its liberal arts program and its DIY (do it yourself) ethos. Many of the students who attended Evergreen were involved in the music scene, either as musicians or as fans.

The most famous act to come out of the Evergreen State College grunge scene was Nirvana, who released their debut album Bleach in 1989. Bleach was recorded in a basement on campus and sold only 30,000 copies, but it caught the attention of major labels. In 1991, Nirvana released their second album Nevermind, which went on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide and catapulted them to superstardom.

Other notable grunge bands that emerged from the Evergreen State College scene include Mudhoney, 7 Year Bitch, and Beat Happening. These bands were influential in shaping the sound of grunge music and helping to make it popular with alternative music fans.

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