SEATTLE - It's flashback time in the land of Jimi Hendrix on the opening of what is believed to be the first serious exhibit of a musical and social phenomenon that, for better or worse, largely defined the '70s.
Disco: A Decade of Saturday Nights runs through May 26 at Experience Music Project, a jury-rigged rock 'n' roll museum in the thin shadow of the Space Needle. The exhibit seeks to lend disco the dignity it failed to attain during its heyday.
"Disco at its inception was an underground phenomenon, and it became more mainstream than any pop style before or since," said San Francisco music critic Barry Walter, an adviser to the exhibit.
The exhibit attempts to offer an intelligent, rooted history of a music form widely dismissed by critics as anti-intellectual drivel.
It focuses on social connections as it traces disco from its prenatal stages in '60s "discotheques," with their vague sense of internationalism, into the gay subculture of New York City after the Stonewall Riot in 1969. After that, disco became a global sensation even as it seemed to lose, like its '70s cousin punk, its initial purpose.
The exhibit touches on all the key aspects of disco, from its early exclusiveness to its apex as a mass-marketing phenomenon. Songs and oral histories on headsets dovetail with displays of disco diva dresses, short bios of influential DJs and even the inevitable disco backlash.
Scott Martelle writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.