Valerie June: Inherently worthy of your devotion. Shell be performing on Sunday at Upstream
Valerie June: Inherently worthy of your devotion. She'll be performing on Sunday at Upstream JACOB BLICKENSTAFF

To go, or not to go, that was last year's question, and it's likely the same question we're all facing again this year for the second annual edition of Upstream Music Fest + Summit, the gargantuan downtown Seattle music fest funded by Paul Allen and co. An event of this magnitude (200-plus acts, over 15 participating venues) can feel a bit imposing and intimidating, especially if you aren't familiar with the majority of the artists on the three-day bill beyond Flaming Lips and Little Dragon. If you are on the fence and need an extra push (or you're definitely going and are seeking some recs on performers you should see), we've put together a shortlist of our 19 favorites.

Nancy Wilson of Heart with the Seattle Symphony, October 30
The legendary guitar virtuoso takes the stage at Benaroya Hall for one night only - get your tickets here!

The full Upstream schedule is here, as compiled by the Stranger's Things To Do staff (and featuring stars earmarking some other great acts). Our most recommended acts are below, in order of appearance at the fest. There's a playlist and some videos, too. Enjoy.

Charlotte Day Wilson has a voice that haunts me. Heavy rain, sun-dappled branches, slow tide—I hear her hooded tones in just about every languid natural space with which I come into contact. Her vibe is 50 percent country chapel ghost, 50 percent white Sade, and I am 100 percent all about it. KIM SELLING

SO PITTED (8–8:45 pm, Embassy Suites)
So Pitted’s attitude-fueled riffs and vocals are as gritty as they come. Their music encapsulates an energy, intensity, and rage that, in all honesty, feels like you are on the receiving end of a very painful sucker-punch… but one that was needed in order to experience a wake-up call of grand proportions. So Pitted holds nothing back, especially in 2016 release neo, which will hold your attention in the void that only they can create. From “get out of my room” to “rot in hell” to “no nuke country,” So Pitted knows what they are about, and how they want to say it. Just try to keep up. SOPHIA STEPHENS

COLLEEN GREEN (9:15–10 pm, Embassy Suites)
Between gritty anthems dedicated to the mess and glory of growing up and delightfully girlish sentimentality, there is a living human girl: Colleen Green. Her resourcefulness with a guitar and a drum machine drives songs about heartbreak, the bullshit guys pull, and, occasionally, just wanting to have a fucking break from it all. Throughout 2015’s I Want To Grow Up, a soundscape of tracks ranging from the furious to the dream-like offers something for everyone, but especially sticks with any girl out who has ever cried into her denim jacket before putting on a swipe of red-hot lipstick and going to the show anyway. SOPHIA STEPHENS

MIGUEL (9:30–11 pm, Amazon Stage)
Wildheart, Miguel's 2016 full-length, might be my favorite R&B album of the past five years—it's raw, hard, almost a rock record, and really, really sexy. In fact, Miguel is a sexy motherfucker, or at least, his vocals are—a silky falsetto caress, a seductive low-toned whisper-murmur, a velvety high-reaching plea... I could listen to him recite the alphabet, on repeat. LEILANI POLK

MIRAH (9:30-10:30 pm, Axis 2)
I haven’t listened to this K Record star since she was falling in love with everyone in 2001’s Advisory Committee. But on her newer records, Changing Light and Sundial, she’s fallen out of love and is now writing very good breakup songs full of the sudden expansions, glowy-smokey vox, and intimate songwriting you expect from a former standby of the Olympia scene. RICH SMITH

KYLE CRAFT (10:30–11:15 pm, Embassy Suites)
To quote The Stranger’s Sean Nelson, "How is it even possible to be as unbelievably catchy and ebullient as Kyle Craft?” Portland-based Kyle Craft’s glam/Southern rock will make you want to shout and howl, and “Pentecost” is a song you can—and should—howl to on repeat. It’s important to note that Craft has very pretty hair. I’d like to propose that his hair may be the source of his power. CHASE BURNS

EQUIKNOXX (11 pm-midnight, Comedy Underground)
A Jamaican dancehall collective who release records on English hauntological subversives Demdike Stare’s label, Equiknoxx are as strange as you’d think that scenario would indicate. Their spare, complex rhythms bump, ping, and splat amid a menagerie of odd tonalities and sound effects, overturning almost everything you know about music coming from Kingston. DAVE SEGAL

THE HELIO SEQUENCE (Fri., June 1, 11:45 pm-12:45 am)
The Helio Sequence strikes a balance between hard-hitting rock, synth dreaminess, and venue-filling anthems that stay with you long after the last note dissipates. Over the course of 13 years and four studio albums, vocalist/guitarist Brandon Summers and keyboardist/drummer Benjamin Weigel have built up a discography that captures the ups and downs of the human experience. According to Spotify, Summer took inspiration from Bob Dylan when he lost his voice after the release of their first studio album, and the result is a vocal style that is rousing, but also authentically sentimental in songs like “Broken Afternoon.” SOPHIA STEPHENS

TACOCAT (5–5:45 pm, Amazon Stage)
Tacocat member Emily Noakes used to be our music editor but that’s not why you should see Tacocat (although everyone who has ever worked at The Stranger is a genius, obviously). You should see Tacocat because "I Love Seattle" is a goddamn bop and I hope it’s playing when the Big One inevitably consumes me and you and this whole fucking town. CHASE BURNS

ZOLA JESUS (6–6:45 pm, KEXP Stage)
You don’t have to be a blazed-up teen goth like me to get into Zola Jesus. Her winding structure, mythic lyricism, and amber-coated vocals pull from pop, folk, metal, and electronica, and she’s evolved in recent albums to show the many shades of her warped banshee party music. KIM SELLING

TERROR/CACTUS (7–7:45 pm, 13 Coins)
Terror/Cactus should be in charge of all summer patio party soundtracks for the rest of their career. Their personal brand of “sci-fi electro cumbia” is extremely fun, energizing, and incredibly complex, utilizing centuries worth of pre- and post-colonial and diasporic sounds in lush and layered concoctions. KIM SELLING

NOEL BRASS JR. (Buttnick Building, 7:45-8:30 pm)
The versatile keyboardist for psychedelic soul-jazz explorers Afrocop and suave disco-funk ensemble Select Level, Noel Brass Jr. ventures into more intimate, ambient, and spiritual moods on his 2017 debut solo LP, Broken Cloud Orchestra. Like some blessed hybrid of Herbie Hancock and Harold Budd, Brass creates compositions that manifest a love supreme in crystalline, gospeldelic tones. DAVE SEGAL

Support The Stranger

Y LA BAMBA (9:15–10 pm, Elysian Fields)
Portland’s Y La Bamba works in a lot of moods. One mood sounds like Leslie Feist and Angel Olsen singing heart-melting, Spanish-language folk songs. Another mood is straight-forward indie rock and roll motherfuckers. And yet another mood is the big pop song where everyone sings at once and has a great time. All of it rules. If you come to a crossroads in your Upstream scheduling and you must decide to see Y La Bamba and any other band, choose Y La Bamba. RICH SMITH

PIERRE KWENDERS (10:45–11:45 pm, 13 Coins)
The Congolese-Canadian musician sings and raps in four different languages while incorporating the beats of central Africa within the structures of western pop and funk. The best songs have that wild Papa Wemba guitar lead that does its own thing way above the hypnotic rhythms and low vocals, and all the jams coax even the stiffest among us to dance. RICH SMITH

VISIBLE CLOAKS (Buttnick Building, 11:30 pm-12:30 am)
Visible Cloaks traffic in too-beautiful-for-this-world exotica that flutters somewhere between Haruomi Hosono circa Cochin Moon and Brian Eno circa The Shutov Assembly. The Portland duo—Spencer Doran and Ryan Carlile—generate impossibly delicate and intricate sonic mobiles that glint with fresh, arresting timbres every few seconds. They create off-center music that helps you to get centered. DAVE SEGAL

SKERIK BAND Anything that saxophone-juggling and -distorting master Skerik does is pretty much golden. Read this review by Dave if you don't believe me. He's a Seattle native I've often likened to John Zorn, as he has a similar way of using his jazz chops to be wildly experimental, although Skerik is definitely more of a rocker, and everything he does is ridiculously captivating, and likely not like any sax playing you've ever seen. There's even a bonafide term created just for his style of sax effects: "Saxaphonics." I've seen him perform on several occasions, and he is definitely a sight to behold. (11:45 pm–12:45 am, Zocalo) LEILANI POLK

THE TRUE LOVES (6–6:45 pm, KEXP Stage)
These guys bring the brass-blasted funk, the vintage-vibing grooves, and the get-your-dance-on attitudes. Every time I hear the Seattle soul ensemble on KEXP, I break out into a grin, turn up the volume, and get my car shimmy on. LEILANI POLK

VALERIE JUNE (7–8 pm, Amazon Stage)
Memphis multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter Valerie June has a voice that’s tenderly sweet and bright like liquid gold yet somehow imbued with a wise, old-soul quality. Her music is warm, effortless, and ethereal, a blend of mountain-hewn soul, rural-blues, classic country, bluegrass, and gospel-soaked folk. LEILANI POLK

KARI FAUX (10:30–11:15 pm, 13 Coins)
Issa Rae loves Kari Faux so much that she and her team have put the Little Rock-based rapper on the soundtrack to her HBO show Insecure for both of its seasons. Rae’s endorsement means much more than mine, so trust her judgment and go see Faux and her futuristic fire. CHASE BURNS

Here's a playlist, too, with some more jamz by all of these artists...

Winter Starts Now is coming to the Seattle area November 2 - 24!
Warren Miller’s 72nd film travels from California to Colorado, to Maine, and up the coast of Alaska. Get tickets at