What is this? Seattle’s self-proclaimed “home away from home for art lovers and boundary pushers”. Arriving to Psychotic Reaction, by the Count Five, on the sound system and to be confronted by an original Andy Warhol Campbell’s soup can serigraph and a cabinet full of local record label Sub Pop goodies in the reception area sets the scene. A copy of the book Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe 1989 on a table in the lobby suggests Kurt Cobain and his ilk will be constant companions.
So, come as you are? Ha ha, yes. A hotel dedicated to grunge could not very well have a strict dress code, now, could it?
Is there any more art on site? Yes, but you’ll need a room key to see it. There are 253 guest rooms in the Max and that means 253 doors, each of which is covered by a photograph. The 10 floors are each devoted to a single local photographer, the fifth having been given over to Charles Peterson and his black-and-white grunge-era shots. Step out of the lift on the fifth and the first people you see are the late Cobain and Courtney Love, rooms 514 and 515, respectively, reuniting the husband and wife.
Is there a restaurant? Connected to the hotel lobby, although a separate concern, is the Miller’s Guild restaurant, also the source of room-service fare. It serves a range of Benedicts for breakfast and club sandwiches and burgers for lunch, but more upmarket delicacies come out of its open, wood-fired grill in the evening, the hand-written menu perhaps listing Washington coast octopus or local filet mignon. If that doesn’t appeal – and the Miller’s isn’t cheap – the whole city is on the Max’s doorstep.
So how convenient is this place, exactly? Seattle Center (home of the Space Needle and a number of museums), the retail nirvana of Pike Place Market and the Waterfront Park (whose Ferris wheel, unlike that in Hong Kong, is still turning) are all within a 15-minute stroll. Stretch your legs a little further to get to Chinatown, Pioneer Square (the one place to be on guard after dark, according to the receptionist) and Capitol Hill, where “the real people live”, according to Miller’s Guild server Bob.
Anything else worth knowing? This is craft-beer country and every evening, between 5.30 and 6.30, there is complimentary tasting in the lobby – and you’ll find no Carlsberg in the in-room honour bar, instead brews by local producers Fremont, Two Beers and Hale’s Ales. Ask reception and they’ll send up a turntable and Sub Pop records, my in-room literature promised, so I did but, as with many such gimmicks, there was a catch; only guests on the fifth floor are worthy. Those on other floors must turn to newfangled means if they wish to enjoy Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff or God’s Balls, by Tad – and all can let housekeeping know they are not be disturbed while rocking out with a door hanger that says, simply, “Nevermind”.
Any drawbacks? Even without grunge blasting out of every other guest room, this is a noisy hotel, being on a fairly busy street, which explains the earbuds provided in each room. Some reviewers on TripAdvisor complain of the tiny lifts, but the management has seen that as an opportunity for a bit of lightheartedness. “Group hug?” is stencilled onto the back wall of one, “Make friends, it’s tight” in the other.
What’s the bottom line? Advertised rates begin from US$123 a night.