David Byrne
  • Josh Bis
  • David Byrne at the Fifth Avenue Theatre

My CityArts Fest began sipping cocktails inelegantly through glowing (HeinekenGreen, of course) straws in the lobby of Benaroya Hall while Ravenna Woods played their first of a dozen or three shows of the week for the festival's opening night party, but the fourth annual in-city music and arts festival didn't really feel like it began until I found myself filing into a fancy theater to see a rock show.

Placing bands in settings that make you wonder why they don't host bands more often feels like a hallmark of what makes the festival special (e.g., Belle & Sebastian or Ryan Adams in Benaroya, Cat Power at the Fifth Avenue); so I was really excited to see the pairing of David Byrne and St. Vincent from the comfort (and with the exceptional sightlines) of the gilded Chinese-inspired showroom. With the help of an eight piece sometimes-marching band, the pair essentially took turns rotating through their individual catalogs as well as performing together to bring to life music from Love this Giant, their written-by-email collaboration. Perhaps because of the setting, the staging felt a bit like a piece of musical theater without a plot: the band sometimes marching in circles around Byrne, menacingly advancing on Clark, or everyone dancing robotically or collapsing on the floor only to rise again when needed. Betraying my own personal fandom (and a headache enhanced by syncopated brass), I'd say the show felt most exciting when Annie Clark was in the spotlight, but acknowledge that the most dancing in the aisles occurred for Byrne classics. In particular, "Burning Down the House," which introduced Annie Clark to Talking Heads (by way of Revenge of the Nerds) brought down the house during the first encore as did second (and final) encore closer "Road to Nowhere."

highway to the laser zone
  • Reignwolf

Until CityArts, I never had a compelling occasion to experience Pacific Science Center's famed Laser Dome, but couldn't resist the chance to see Jordan "Reignwolf" Cook shredding along to a trippy lightshow. Even though Cook hails from the Saskatoon, the sold-out crowd's intense devotion makes his seemingly stratospheric rise feel like a homegrown phenomenon. In contrast (to my memory of previous shows), this one was, strictly-speaking, less of a one-man show with regular support from a drummer and bass player. However, even with a little help from his friends, Cook remained the main attraction of the near two hour shredding and growling marathon. In fact, with so many sparks flying on the makeshift stage (and sometimes encircled by an adoring audience) it was easy to forget to look up at the often antiquated special effects.

quote unquote
  • "the Rolling Stones"

Seeing "the Rolling Stones" at the Barboza made me wonder if I should take over Anna Minard's "Never Heard of 'Em" column when she graduates from boot camp. Obviously, I was aware that "the Rolling Stones" are a super(ish) group that play songs by The Rolling Stones, but out of my own baffling ignorance I didn't actually recognize a Rolling Stones tune until the third song. The eight piece nonstop onstage party and roadhouse atmosphere crowding the front of the room didn't leave me much room to ponder the existential quandary of how it is that I came to know only approximately five songs from my dad's most favorite band. Instead, I just got caught up in the microcelebrity-studded audience's enthusiasm for enjoying an American-accented British re-Invasion.

bright star
  • Two Door Cinema Club

For high pitched screams, though, were found at the Showbox SoDo for a Northern Irish invasion by Two Door Cinema Club. When I arrived, kids packed to the front shouting along with Beastie Boys classics were being sprayed down by bouncers with modified water bottles. As the band arrived to a choir of angels and a lightshow that rivaled or surpassed the Laserdome, the shrieks of delight reached ear-splitting levels and a sea of open palms ascending toward the spotlights. From there, the electro-infused trio (plus touring drummer) provided a near constant assault of ultra-danceable rock, all spiky guitars, darkly cherubic vocals, and spazzy synths propelling the all-ages floor into an occasionally crowdsurfing frenzy. I watched most of the show from the bar, reflecting on the sad paradox of how the club's older sibling manages to have so many great vantage points for watching a show while this one has so few (aside, presumably from its VIP island). Though I enjoyed the hooky earworms from a distance, I confess that I bolted out at the encore break to beat the rush for civilization-bound taxis.

More photos after the jump. Tell us about your CityArts Fest in ye olde comments.

Wednesday, Fifth Avenue Theatre: Annie "St. Vincent" Clark and David "Talking Heads" Byrne

David Byrne + St. Vincent
  • David Byrne + St. Vincent

Annie Clark upstages a tuba
  • St. Vincent

David Byrne, St. Vincent, & Friends
  • David Byrne, St. Vincent, & Friends

Friday, Laser Dome: Reignwolf

among the wolfpack
  • Reignwolf

dark shadows
  • Reignwolf

jordan cook, a band created for/by/on the internet photographers
  • Reignwolf

  • Lasers!

Saturday, Barboza: "the Rolling Stones"

blood bros
  • "the Rolling Stones"

hot hot sax
  • "the Rolling Stones"

can u feel the love 2nite
  • "the Rolling Stones"

Saturday, Showbox SoDo: Two Door Cinema Club

spotlight in yr pocket
  • Two Door Cinema Club

all systems, go
  • Two Door Cinema Club

  • Two Door Cinema Club

reaching for the lasers
  • Two Door Cinema Club #1 Fanclub

all agers
  • Two Door Cinema Club

Even more photos in this little City Arts 2012 photoset.