This week, our music critics have picked everything from the 3rd Annual Dolly Parton Birthday Tribute Show to the Shivas to Rick Steves’ Europe: A Symphonic Journey. Follow the links below for ticket links and music clips for all of their picks, and find even more shows on our complete music calendar.
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Indigo Mist—featuring trumpeter Cuong Vu, pianist Richard Karpen, drummer Ted Poor, and electronics manipulator Juan Pampin, all UW faculty members—released a fascinating album in 2014, That the Days Go by and Never Come Again, that revels in bold improvisations and inventive covers of standards. On this night, they’ll bust out a program of all-new, original music. DAVE SEGAL
Beauty Queen, Racoma, Coach Phillips
Beauty Queen will play nostalgic bedroom pop that will make you want to go back to high school just so you can skip class. Local indie-rockers Racoma and Coach Phillips will provide additional support.
I guess I was a little high the first time I came across IDER, so, for whatever reason, I thought they were sisters. They’re not—they met in college—but the chemistry Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville exude together in performances, and in the lithe harmonies dispersed among each thumping electro-pop track the duo drops shows off an almost genetic connection of mind and matter. IDER manages to be both emotionally resonant and danceable, a hard combo to find, and makes me want to make dark club music with my own sister. KIM SELLING
Armed with three Grammy nominations, Compton singer-rapper Roddy Ricch exploded onto the national stage after making a name for himself in South Los Angeles. A friend and collaborator of the late rapper and LA icon Nipsey Hussle, his voice appears in Hussle’s “Racks in the Middle,” which is nominated for both best rap song and rap performance. The third nod from the Grammys comes due to his contribution to prolific producer Mustard’s “Ballin’,” a track about stunting and the come-up. The 20-year-old rapper has a sound and vibe that suits trap beats as well as R&B riffs. You won’t want to miss this. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Nada Surf, Apex Manor
New York alt-rock band Nada Surf remind me of being in high school in the 1990s. There is something so era-specific about their sound to my ears, like Pavement and Breeders, that takes me right back to those intense, angsty years. Nada Surf had their come-up in that particular era, and while they never achieved the fame of peers like Weezer, they have remained relevant—releasing records and touring behind them without a break or hiatus since their formation more than three decades ago. (If you’ve heard anything by Nada Surf, it’s 1996 alt rock radio jam “Popular,” in which frontman Matthew Caws talk-rants through the verses and drones out the chorus, though his vocal can be more tuneful, too.) Ironic considering the title of their forthcoming LP, Never Not Together (out February 7 on Barsuk Records). They’ll be landing in Seattle with their power-pop-infused sounds and will be joined by LA rock quartet Apex Manor, who also have a vaguely ’90s-driving flavor. LEILANI POLK
Keola Beamer and Jeff Peterson with Moanalani Beamer
Legendary Hawaiian musician Keola Beamer came to prominence in the ’70s as a banner-waver for the modern age of island music traditions. They’ll play tracks from the last four decades of their illustrious career with assistance from Jeff Peterson and Moanalani Beamer.
An Evening with Chris Botti
Amidst career high points like playing alongside Sting and Paul Simon, Grammy Award winner and pop-jazz performer Chris Botti will head back to Seattle with his trumpet and backing band for ballads and jazz and Americana songbook standards.
Grammy- and Emmy-winning violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, who has played a concert at the White House to honor Queen Elizabeth II and who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, will perform an evening set.
Piano Starts Here: The Music of Ellington/Mingus/Byard
The Piano Starts Here series showcases the work of musical icons who contributed to the knowledge and appreciation of the instrument. This iteration will celebrate the works of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Jaki Byard.
Dismal Fest 4
Wallow in the mid-winter mire at Dismal Fest, a night of sludgy metal, dark electronica, and experimental noise music from Power Skeleton, Mechanical Plague, Herpes Hideaway, Pathogens, Scholl, and ACOMP with Plim Sickens.
Archie, Like Lions, P. Kruise
It thrills me to say that Archie, no longer known as PSA (Pop Star Archie) has—to use an industry phrase—blown the fuck up. This girl has been bobbing and weaving all over the Seattle music scene this year, dropping hauntingly beautiful tracks left and right. Her latest EP, 613, dropped in late November, and it contains some of my favorite songs to come out of 2019, most notably “Bad Bitch,” featuring Stranger favorite DoNormaal. It’s a community read, letting everyone out there know that Archie and Dodo have been on it for years and aren’t stopping anytime soon. You’d best listen. KIM SELLING
Miniature Tigers are charming as fuck, kinda witty, and sometimes very, very serious, even if it’s not reflected in their music—indie rock that has an ethereal quality while still being pretty catchy, upbeat, and fun. See the dreamy-sweet “Like or Like Like” (opening verse: I watched you through your window / I was wearing that dumb sweatshirt / I looked like a goon, I was dressed for winter / Even though it was the middle of June”). The melody-drenched Lennon/Harrison-evoking “Vampires in Daylight” feels breezy and trippy and light, but is the title track off a new album that apparently chronicles a difficult breakup and the depression singer/guitarist Charlie Brand suffered from afterward. The Brooklyn quartet land in town on their tour behind Vampires in Daylight. LEILANI POLK
WEDNESDAY & SATURDAY-SUNDAY
This Seattle Opera production brings together the genius of two great Russians: Alexander Pushkin, who wrote the novel in verse, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker), who penned the score. It’s a simple but moving and melancholy story of a young woman who falls in love with a cold-hearted nobleman, an encounter that tragically changes the course of their lives.
Skularoid: Fast Nasties, Steeltoe Metronome, Bug Hunter
Get a three-for-one deal with progressive blues band Fast Nasties, folk-punks Steeltoe Metronome, and indie-rock band Bug Hunter.
The Morsel Trio
Seattle’s Morsel Trio, composed of young musicians Emily Acri on violin, Chris Young on cello, and Steven Damouni on piano, will perform pieces by Charles Ives and George Crumb, in addition to a new piece by Yiğit Kolat and an arrangement by Luke Fitzpatrick.
Guayaba, ZAH, Mecha
Local experimental talents Guayaba and ZAH will be performing material off their new albums, with a support set from Mecha.
Earthgang, Mick Jenkins, Wynne, Jurdan Bryant
EarthGang have that ATL hip-hop sound I love, keeping the spirit of Outkast (fun and freaky dirty South) alive without sounding much like that particular duo. EarthGang are a duo, too—rappers Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot. They’ve been buzzing since self-releasing their debut in 2013, their quirky, psychedelic rap eventually catching the ears of J. Cole; EarthGang signed to his Dreamville Records last year. Their major label first, Mirrorland, is fucking banging. Venus told Pitchfork that the album is inspired by 1978 Wizard of Oz redux The Wiz: “It’s really colorful. It’s really dangerous. It’s really trippy. It’s literally Freaknik Atlanta in the summertime—folks riding around in cars with big rims with paint on their faces.” Venus has the gnarly, demented, Caribbean-flecked vocal quality, while Doctur Dot is a tad more straightforward eccentric, slicker, very slightly quicker—though both are lyrically agile, clever, witty as fuck, with the ability to be both odd and catchy. They’re edging toward stardom. Here’s hoping their quirky charm is intact when they arrive. LEILANI POLK
YBN Cordae, 24KGoldn
Rapper Cordae Dunston, aka YBN Cordae, had a big year in 2019. A member of the world-spanning hip-hop collective Young Boss Niggas, he was named as part of XXL’s 2019 Freshman Class, and his debut album, The Lost Boy, received Grammy nominations for best rap album and best rap song. The accolades reflect his good work, which melds retro and trap beats into a fresh-sounding combo. I suggest you listen to his J.Cole-produced “RNP” with Los Angeles rapper Anderson .Paak—it’s a careening, funky number that’s all swagger and a whole lot of fun. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Zion I, OG Mambo Fresh, Haiku
Oakland indie hip-hop duo Zion I, whose 2016 release Labyrinth was called “a timely new album of politically engaged hip-hop” by PopMatters, will come to Seattle with support from OG Mambo Fresh and Haiku.
You know the Staple Singers from their R&B, soul, funk, and gospel-fused hits (“Respect Yourself,” “I’ll Take You There”), so you’re already familiar with the youngest sibling of the family vocal group, Mavis Staples. She’s got that warm, deep, enveloping vocal quality that feels like a hug. Her sound has gotten some modern polish over the last four albums, three with Wilco primary Jeff Tweedy at the helm, another tapping the talents of indie folk singer-songwriter M. Ward. Her 14th and latest soulful outing, We Get By, finds her hitting the studio with Ben Harper, who wrote and produced the 11-track LP, and lends his husky tenor to the title track. LEILANI POLK
Green Jellÿ, Old Dirty Buzzard, Headless Pez, Chase ‘N’ Skwerlls Sideshow
Join comic metal group Green Jellÿ—who changed their name from Green Jellö due to legal pressure from Kraft Foods—for a night of pure shenanigans. Headless Pez, Old Dirty Buzzard, and Chase ‘n’ Skwerll’s Sideshow will provide support.
Hot Water Music: Performing “Caution” In Full
For their 25th anniversary, punk-rock/post-hardcore Floridians Hot Water Music will perform their albums Caution (Thurs) and No Division (Fri) in their entirety.
Rick Steves’ Europe: A Symphonic Journey
Rick Steves is my favorite travel-writer-turned-TV-host. He’s just so damn cheerful and enthusiastic on his show, Rick Steves’ Europe, without coming off as cheesy. Okay, maybe he does come off as cheesy, but in the most endearing way possible, as he encourages us to bypass tourist hot spots in favor of lesser-known gems, and to become immersed in local culture. He’s kind of like a less crusty, less wry, less food-oriented Anthony Bourdain—and his show came first! This collab with Seattle Symphony finds him playing musical tour guide, dipping into his far-reaching knowledge of European history and culture to set the context for selections in a program of 19th-century patriotic anthems by Romantic-era composers—Grieg, Smetana, Strauss, Elgar, Wagner and Verdi, with a Beethoven “Ode to Joy” finale. All of it is accompanied by a montage of video images from each country. LEILANI POLK.
Cali outfit Orgone churns out 1960s and ’70s–imbued funk and soul tunes heavily dosed with elements of rock, Afrobeat, and Latin music. It’s all powered by the sweetly tuneful, smooth yet fiery belts and persuasive purrs of frontwoman Adryon de León, whose tonal quality reminds me of the Pointer Sisters or Donna Summer or even mid-era Diana Ross. Disco and nu-disco seem to be the primary styles on the slab in Reasons, Orgone’s 2019 outing. See “We Can Make It” and “Hands” for some fine retro persuasions, though definite album standouts are “Ride My Swing,” which drives and hits with a sneer-and-shake-it groove before launching into an easy shimmying conclusion, and the stretched-out wah-wah and brass-splashed set closer “Suma Juice.” LEILANI POLK
Ska Mission Presents: The Ska Parade 30th Anniversary Tour
Tazy Phyllipz’s landmark radio show Ska Parade will celebrate its 30th anniversary, as well as the release of Pick It Up!, a documentary about the rise of ska in the ’90s helmed by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, No Doubt, and Sublime. The lineup includes Mexico’s Los Kung Fu Monkeys, San Francisco’s MONKEY, Texas’ the Holophonics, Seattle’s Simple Minded Symphony, and others.
Horst Christian Simco, a Texan hip-hop artist and walking meme who goes by the considerably zippier moniker Riff Raff, will bring his absurd brand of trap rap to Seattle on his Cranberry Vampire tour.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters, JD Simo
Bold and brassy rock band Big Head Todd and the Monsters have been gigging across the country for the last three decades now, and will show off their stamina with a night of their latest tracks.
Fog Lake, Foxes in Fiction
Canadian songwriter Aaron Powell makes lo-fi indie-rock songs under the moniker Fog Lake. Catch him headlining in Eastlake after an opening set from New York genre mutual Foxes in Fiction.
Francie Moon, Baywitch, Tiny Room
Before getting your face pleasantly melted off by New Jersey psych-rock headliners Francie Moon, enjoy opening sets from local beachy goths Baywitch and heavy noise outfit Tiny Room at this Halfshell Records showcase.
Grace Love, Cadence Whittle
Tonight is the release party for Grace Love’s new album, Sing Into the Dark! I’m excited, as this set of tracks feels like her expansion has finally stretched to suit where she’d wanted her songwriting and voice to settle. Well, at least for now. She’s been working toward this groove for at least the last year—her music is mostly stripped down to just her soulful, rich vocal, often accompanied only by acoustic guitar or a minimal electro backing track. Could a collection of reels be next?!? Also playing tonight is contemporary folkie Cadence Whittle. MIKE NIPPER
Global Rhythms: Cheikh Lô and Thione Diop
Blending Mande, Wolof, and Congolese styles with Cuban rhythms, Senegalese singer Cheikh Lô will greatly improve your Friday night with support from legendary percussionist Thione Diop.
Cold War Kids, Overcoats
Look, I dig Cold War Kids, okay? They’re that indie alt rock band I often don’t immediately recognize upon first listen but whose radio hits always make me stop and bust out the Shazam. “First”? “Love Is Mystical”? “Complainer? (This is Cold War Kids? I’ve thought every single time that tune off 2019’s New Age Norms 1 plays.) “Hang Me Up to Dry”? (Still a fucking jam and my favorite by them.) “We Used to Vacation”? (There has never been a catchier track about quitting drinking than this one.) I’ve described frontman Nathan Willett as having a “sexy operatic urgency to his vocals, like he could just scream out at any moment, and with perfect pitch, and it would not only sound good, but you’d have to stop and pay attention.” I stand by that. LEILANI POLK
FRIDAY & SUNDAY
Recording for respected labels such as K and Burger, Portland’s the Shivas write easy-rolling, reverb-laden rock tunes that adhere to traditional psych- and garage-rock moves with the devotion of an Ugly Things magazine writer. True, there’s no innovation going on in a Shivas song, but the compositional panache is so strong and the instrumentation so tantalizing that the music’s familiarity leads to “yeahs” not yawns. Shiva is the Hindu deity of destruction, but the Shivas are more apt to pacify you than prod you into a violent rampage. DAVE SEGAL
Seattle Chamber Music Society Winter Festival
Hear pieces from a variety of composers at the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s annual six-day winter program. This year’s theme is centered on a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday. The first weekend of the festival will feature half of Beethoven’s string quartets, performed by the Ehnes Quartet, with each of the first three concerts featuring one work from the three eras of his life and career as a composer.
3rd Annual Dolly Parton Birthday Tribute Show
I guess I’m biased in writing this because Dolly Parton is my mom, so I love her regardless of what she does, but y’all should head out to Conor Byrne for this show and make it into a real DollyParlooza. Some local musicians are taking over her birthday for a night of covers and tribute acts with what had better be a metric fuck-ton of rhinestones, Aqua Net, and fringed candy-pink nubuck. In case you were somehow unaware, Parton is a true national treasure, a sparkling gem, a legit role model for working womxn, and an enduring voice for classic Americana and down-home pop, who will, I hope, continue to strum a lap harp on her lilac fountain cloud formation forever and ever and won’t ever die because I honestly wouldn’t be able to take that shit. KIM SELLING
The Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain String Band
Somewhere between maintaining tradition and plumbing modernity, the Infamous Stringdusters strike a bluegrass balance influenced by the spirits of their forebears, like Bill Monroe, John Hartford, Earl Scruggs, David Bromberg, and other originators.
Assemblage: Juice Club x Disco Nap x Double Sunrise Club
The irreverent natural wine pop-up Juice Club, “party supplies and design services” Disco Nap, and disco DJs Double Sunrise Club will come together for a trifecta of party vibes.
Research: dBridge, 214, livwutang
England’s dBridge (aka Darren White) has spent the last quarter century defining the parameters of drum & bass with the groups Future Force Inc. and Bad Company, and as a solo artist. He’s a master at creating unsettling atmospheres and generating dazzling rhythmic complexity in his DJ sets and studio recordings—and he’s still keeping it dark and edgy after all these years. 214 (aka Chris Roman) is perhaps the region’s most interesting producer of electro, the funky, robotic genre that arose in the 1980s from the minds of artists such as Kraftwerk, Arthur Baker/Afrika Bambaataa, and Yellow Magic Orchestra, and which continues to mutate to this day. DAVE SEGAL
Up-and-coming pop-electronica hybridist JAUZ keeps climbing the ranks of EDM festival-crowders like Zedd and Skrillex. Join him on the Seattle stop of his Dangerous Waters Tour.
Sultry-voiced Minneapolis-based rapper, producer, singer-songwriter, wordsmith, and member of the Doomtree label/collective Dessa (real name Margret Wander) has been pushing her classy, smart brand of alt hip-hop since dropping her False Hopes EP in 2005. She never does things straightforward (indicative of her Doomtree membership, although her output is probably the most accessible of them all), and her last collab was a 2019 spring presentation of her music accompanied by the Minnesota Orchestra, and released as a live double album, Sound the Bells: Recorded Live at Orchestra Hall, later that fall. On this Seattle date, she’ll be supporting that album backed by a live band (MONAKR) and a string quartet. LEILANI POLK
Captured! By Robots, Medicine Bows
Equally robot and man, Captured! By Robots make “brutal pummeling music.” They’ll be joined by Seattle noisy punks Medicine Bows.
The King Khan & BBQ Show
The Berlin-based King Khan & BBQ Show—King Khan and Mark Sultan—deliver unabashed fun, retro rock that reeks of cheap bear, surging hormones, and sloppy sex. This brand of hedonistic garage rock was minted in the mid 1960s and has never really gone out of style. The King Khan & BBQ Show happen to be one of this century’s most ardent revivalists of it. As long as people like to get rowdy and throw responsibility out the window, bands like this will be there to soundtrack the chaos. For a definitive taste of the group’s aesthetic, check out “Animal Party” off 2009’s Invisible Girl album. DAVE SEGAL
Take in Brooklyn multi-instrumentalist King Princess’ smooth vocals and pop beats as she performs tracks that explore queer independence and the complexities of youth.
Blending cabaret-style pop with classical influences à la Rufus Wainwright, Montreal-based singer-songwriter Patrick Watson will perform songs off his latest album, Wave, at this Seattle stop.
Tinsley, Jake Crocker, ALKI
The synthy sounds of Seattle-based singer-songwriter Tinsley’s music are 1980s nostalgia as seen through a uniquely 2010s lens. It’s poppy, too. And somehow very glittery. Though her tracks sometimes careen into pure sugar, the strength of the production along with her voice steer her sound in a good direction, perfect for bopping around your room to. The show will also serve as a release party for Tinsley’s self-titled five-song debut EP, which comes out that same day. She’ll be joined by Tinsley producer and collaborator Jake Crocker, as well as Seattle band ALKI. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Las Cafeteras, The Cumbieros
Las Cafeteras live performances are kinetic—there’s a wooden platform for someone to dance Zapateado (a rhythmic kind of tap dance) on, a box-shaped percussion instrument called a cajón that has to be straddled to be played, and a donkey jawbone that’s used as a musical instrument. Growing up in Los Angeles, the sextet was inspired by Mexican music, specifically Afro-Mexican music from Southern Veracruz in Mexico. Their sound is folky, engaging, and makes you want to join in. JASMYNE KEIMIG
MLK Unity Party
Join KEXP’s OC Notes (host of the station’s Sunday Soul show) for this 20th annual MLK Day party featuring additional live sets from DJs Riz, Kid Hops, Alex, Sharlese, and Brit. If you can’t make it in person, the event will be broadcast live.
GZA, Bruce Leroy, Def Dee & La, DJ B.Two.Times
It would be interesting to do IQ tests on Wu-Tang Clan fans whose favorite MC is GZA (aka The Genius). As his name suggests, GZA verbalized at a higher level than anyone else in the crew (which is saying a lot), and outside of that group, he cut the classic Liquid Swords in 1995, his ultimate merging of haunting, funky production, lyrical incisiveness, and voluminous vocabulary. Follow-ups Beneath the Surface and Pro Tools may not contain the same firepower as Liquid Swords, but they still rank among the best Wu-related solo joints. This show will revisit Liquid Swords‘ vivid cinematic intrigue in honor of its 25th anniversary. DAVE SEGAL
Chadwick Stokes & The Pintos, Guests
Massachusetts-born songwriter and longtime human rights activist Chadwick Stokes will visit Seattle with his new-ish band, the Pintos. Expect banjos.
Moon Palace, Cartalk, Timothy Robert Graham
Seattle quintet Moon Palace will bring their hypnotic, nature-focused psychedelia to Ballard with support from LA alt-country outfit Cartalk and Seattle singer-songwriter Timothy Robert Graham.