Genius Awards

Organization: Ones to Watch

"AWESOME"

If anyone is going to refill the Good Ship Art with rocket fuel, it's going to be weirdoes like "Awesome." Sort of a band, sort of a comedy group, sort of an art collective, and always difficult to describe, the seven-piece band is smart, weird, and agile. They play songs about drowning sailors and Japanese ghost-robots, do beautifully gimmicky covers of The Final Countdown and the Barney Miller theme, and are absolutely hilarious. (Worth noting: I've known some of the people in the band for years—I'm writing this panegyric, but I didn't nominate them for it.) Disaffected theater nerds who play guitar, violin, mandolin, trumpet, bass, drums, accordion, saxophone, banjo, melodica, theramin, keys, and whatever else is lying around, "Awesome" can't cut loose from their theater and comedy roots. Their concerts always build into a seven-way crossfire of jokes and bizarre tableaux. They're working on a show called No Signal for On the Boards, and currently remounting Delaware, the dreamy live concept album/theatrical music video at Re-bar (another disclosure: I have a small role in the show). Delaware may lack some things (plot and character development, for example) but, like the band, it's odd, pretty, and entertaining. BRENDAN KILEY

DECIBEL

Decibel has taken the initiative to promote the Northwest as a powerful hub for electronic music, an art form that's been largely ignored and misunderstood—treated as the music scene's weird-geek stepchild. Drawing on the region's rich pool of talented producers and DJs, as well as booking important international acts, Decibel director Sean Horton has elevated Seattle to a must-visit spot on the global electronic touring circuit with his bold curatorship (drawing in acts including Derrick May, Michael Mayer, Autechre, Richie Hawtin, and Monolake). Along with fellow directors Kristina Childers, Jerry Abstract, and Paul Edwards, Horton organizes the Decibel Festival, the annual culmination of the collective's efforts. Decibel Festival enjoyed a successful second edition in September, with sold-out concerts, wildly enthusiastic crowds, dazzling visual displays, panel discussions on digital-media issues, and efficacious audio-gear clinics. In its ability to entertain and inform, Decibel Festival has been compared to such revered music festivals as Montreal's MUTEK and Barcelona's Sonar. Buoyed by the success of 2005's fest, Decibel hopes to capitalize on this overwhelming positive response by organizing an even more ambitious festival in 2006. DAVE SEGAL

INFERNAL NOISE BRIGADE

The Infernal Noise Brigade—part band, part performance art group—was started in 1999 to protest WTO, but six years and several incarnations later, they continue to make noise, take bars by surprise, piss people off, and be beautiful. They are two dozen strong. They make every decision as a group. There are horns, drums, cymbals, flags, megaphones, and homemade sound machines (one guy wears an apparatus that holds speakers over his head, rigged to an iPod). They wear uniforms, headlamps, boots, and occasionally animal costumes. Their political stance is somewhat nonspecific, but it's grounded in an idea of freedom—actual autonomy, unbound by corporate and political interests—that Bush would be appalled by. They are disruptive, the point of their disruptions being disruption itself. This past summer the group toured Europe, playing in music venues, at demonstrations, on decommissioned East German fishing vessels, and in impromptu street performances. Those baffled Europeans lost their shit. On the evening of the Genius Awards, the INB is playing in an abandoned train tunnel near Stevens Pass. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE

WASHINGTON ENSEMBLE THEATRE

WET leads the pack in Seattle theater for invention, risk, and sheer balls. The ensemble, which evolved out of an MFA class at the University of Washington, has assembled some of the finest young talent in the city, with stellar actors, directors, and design crew (see Jennifer Zeyl, page 35). Sometimes the ensemble's efforts suck (Laura's Bush was widely disliked), but for every ambitious disaster, they produce two bold successes, oftentimes world premieres. Finer Noble Gases was an anthropology of drug-induced anomie; Next Tuesday was a wordless study in rhythm and slapstick; and I still haven't fully digested Crave, the poetic, frightening, and passionate (but somehow unpretentious) piece of literary performance art involving 360 gallons of water. The company embraces the experimental and weird but wants its audience to have fun. If theater is going to survive, it has to rediscover, as WET has, the art of being challenging and entertaining at the same time. BRENDAN KILEY

 

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