Poet Maged Zaher, musicians Jessika Kenney and Eyvind Kang, choreographer Zoe Scofield, and cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke.
  • Josh Bis
  • Poet Maged Zaher, musicians Jessika Kenney and Eyvind Kang, choreographer Zoe Scofield, and cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke.

Music finalist Jherek Bischoff spray-painted his boots shiny, shiny gold just for the occasion. He sang and played ukelele, backed by Seattle Rock Orchestra.
  • Josh Bis
  • Music finalist Jherek Bischoff spray-painted his boots shiny, shiny gold just for the occasion. He sang and played ukelele, backed by Seattle Rock Orchestra.

Katie Kate was elegance incarnate: a floor-length black gown, a gilded egg of a handbag, and a ravens-worth of feathers atop her golden head.
  • Josh Bis
  • Music finalist Katie Kate was elegance incarnate: a floor-length black gown, a raven's-worth of feathers atop her golden head. She sang like a siren, played the flute, and rapped with incantatory ferocity.

Was it the best Genius Awards ever? Why yes—yes, it was. Here are a few of the grazillion reasons why.

• The newly renovated Moore Theatre looks more gorgeous than ever, and its marble lobby was hands down the best-ever refuge from the torrential downpour happening outside. There was Bulleit bourbon to warm the insides. There were completely delicious snacks from Long Provincial (including their best-ever beef la lot, aka "meat Almond Roca"). Genius finalist in the music category Katie Kate was elegance incarnate: a floor-length black gown, a gilded egg of a handbag, and a raven's-worth of feathers atop her golden head. Music finalist Jherek Bischoff had spray-painted his boots shiny, shiny gold just for the occasion. Mark Mitchell, a genius of the sartorial (dead or alive), admired the knock-out strappy dress of Robin Held—Genius of the Frye, now heroine of Reel Grrls. (Mark Mitchell smelled so good—Terre d'Hermès, he said, and he's almost out, if anyone wants to buy him a bottle.) There were disco-ball earrings, flowers in lapels (on Joey Veltkamp, notably), and ruffled peach tuxedo shirts (okay, maybe only one, on Ben Beres, on the eve of SuttonBeresCuller's departure for the MacDowell Colony). Dapper Stranger Genius Ryan Mitchell conspired with also-dapper, also-Stranger-Genius Jeffry Mitchell (who was absolutely ebullient about the arts in Seattle, about gay marriage—about a world revolution of love, from the sound of it). Genius Sarah Rudinoff rocked a strapless black pantsuit and some arm-candy supreme in the form of her sister Liz (who will also kick your ass in Scrabble, just so you know). Stranger music editor Emily Nokes was a lemon-chiffon-pie-colored dream. Yes, Seattle DOES know how to make up for Goldy's braided belt/pleated pant combo (as Paul Constant put it, "Braided belts on men are the devil. Braided belts with pleated pants are the devil with strep throat").

• Downstairs, as the party got started, Randy Engstrom's DJ set started strong too, in Dave Segal's estimable estimation. (Segal was still a little upset to be missing the Decible Festival set of Pharmakon, which, since it sounds like a convention where everyone dresses in costume and takes over a pharmacy, is understandable.) Upstairs, to make the joyous din in the lobby impossibly more joyous, a brass band burst in and led everyone into the theater.

• To kick off the awards ceremony, Stranger editor in chief Christopher Frizzelle (in a goddamn TUXEDO—daaaaannnng!) and Stranger publisher Tim Keck did vodka shots. Almost everyone who subsequently took the stage took advantage of the offer to help themselves to a shot, and thus infinity times more shots were done on stage than have ever been done on stage at any other awards show in the history of time. (Tim Keck also noted that the seats in the auditorium were not the final renovation version, so that "People should feel free to shit their pants" with excitement.) Always-incredibly-poised Stranger general manager Laurie Saito brought out the envelopes containing the names of the winners, and the giving-away of $5,000 each to the 2013 Stranger Geniuses began.

• By way of introduction to the 2013 Genius Award in Film, Stranger film editor David Schmader spoke of Seattle's current golden age of cinema, accompanied by last year's film Genius Megan Griffiths, who thanked Scarecrow Video for correctly filing her film Eden as Eden, not as The Abduction of Eden (have you seen Eden yet? You must, immediately). Clips were shown from the works of the 2013 film finalists, including a few moments of Scott Blake's haunting Surveyor and a hilarious scene of the moving of a rock by Zach Weintraub. And the 2013 Genius Award for Film went to... cinematographer extraordinaire Benjamin Kasulke! Watch his acceptance speech here. He thanked choreographer Dayna Hanson (for taking a chance on him when he was an unknown), Lynn Shelton (whose debut feature, We Go Way Back, earned him the Kodak Vision Award for cinematography at the Slamdance festival in 2006), and Megan Griffiths (whose The Off Hours got him nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in 2011), among others. It was genius women who made this Genius of a man. As for his beautifully bigger-than-ever hair, it appeared to have made itself in, possibly, a wind tunnel.

• In the first of three 2013 Genius music finalist performances with the great Seattle Rock Orchestra (best idea ever), Jherek Bischoff started by taking a vodka shot and asking for audience participation, goading the hesitant crowd, "Don't tell me the orchestra is more drunk than you!" He played ukulele and sang, and danced while doing so. His music has often been called cinematic, and this performance on the big stage of the gorgeously retro Moore with the full orchestra behind him was like a few glowing moments from the best movie classic that's never been made.

Stranger visual arts editor Jen Graves (rocking a necktie) and Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker (representing the previous-Genius-award-winning Frye Art Museum) introduced the finalists for the 2013 Visual Art Genius Award, sponsored by the Frye. Slides were shown and praise was given (all entirely due, and more so) to Matthew Offenbacher's contagious "enthusiasmism" and Sherry Markovitz's ghostly paintings and spangled sculptures. And the Genius award went to... revolutionary video artist and photographer Rodrigo Valenzuela. Watch his acceptance speech here. He drank his vodka shot straight from the bottle, thanked the women in art in Seattle (a theme emerging?), and charmingly said hello to his family in Chile. (Later, in the men's room, a guy asked Valenzuela if he could borrow $5,000.)

Rodrigo Valenzuela gets outfitted in his sash (by Stranger fashion columnist Marti Jonjak and local designer Jordan Christianson).
  • Josh Bis
  • Rodrigo Valenzuela gets outfitted in his sash (by Stranger fashion columnist Marti Jonjak and local designer Jordan Christianson).

• Seattle Rock Orchestra played "Dear Prudence," and Velocity artist Kate Wallich danced mesmerizingly, and it was beautiful.

• By way of introducing the 2013 Genius Award in Performance, Stranger performance editor Brendan Kiley—accompanied by Tonya Lockyer, representing previous-Genius-award-winning Velocity Dance Center—said that "Sometimes it seems like Merce Cunningham, Janet Jackson, Balanchine, and Carl Jung had an orgy and had a whole litter of babies and they're all over this town." Dance was the focus, and clips of the unquestionably genius-level work of finalists Pat Graney and Amy O'Neal were shown. And the winners were... the uncompromisingly brilliant Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey. Watch their acceptance speech here. Kiley has called their work fearless, technically exact, and emotionally searing. Scofield and Shuey sweetly thanked each other, and Scofield thanked all of you, saying they couldn't do what they do if they weren't in Seattle.

• Then it was music finalist Katie Kate's turn to shine with Seattle Rock Orchestra. She sang what Dave Segal described as "an arty torch song" like a siren, played the flute with fingers like effects pedals, and rapped with incantatory ferocity. Someone in the audience, discovering her awesomeness for the first time at that very moment, said, "She is fucking BAD ASS." The excellent giant Muppet that is Trent Moorman drummed (and was said to be uncharacteristically nervous beforehand—cute!).

Stranger books editor Paul Constant and 2012 Genius in Literature Ellen Forney introduced the 2013 Literature Genius Award, sponsored by Amazon. Constant said everyone looked great tonight (true) and noted that "Seattle is Book City, USA" (causing a librarian in the audience to excitedly whisper-shout, "HE IS SO RIGHT!"). Praise was heaped upon deeply deserving finalists the APRIL Festival (SO GOOD, do not miss a thing that they do!) and Neal Stephenson (the big-time sci-fi guy with the great bald pate). And the Genius Award went to... Maged Zaher, the poet laureate of the comic crisis that is contemporary life. He accepted with a poem of which only titillating bits and pieces could be heard (did he say "orgasm"?). Watch it here.

Maged Zaher.
  • Josh Bis
  • Maged Zaher.

• Then Kim Roy, conductor of Seattle Rock Orchestra (upon whom everyone in the room was developing a crush), asked people to be quiet for SRO's collaboration with music finalists Eyvind Kang and Jessica Kenney, because it would be played without amplification. "This piece is very different, so I invite you to take a moment to reflect, drunk as you may be," Roy said. Kang and Kenney walked up and down the aisles of the darkened theater, creating a tone-poem that put everyone in a gorgeous trance. Dave Segal observed, "serious Morton Feldman/Joan La Barbara vibes from Kang & Kenney" (google it—I sure had to—it's "an avant-garde love fest").

Jessika Kenney singing while walking up and down the aisles in the darkened house. Thats Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on the aisle.
  • Josh Bis
  • Jessika Kenney singing while walking up and down the aisles in the darkened house. That's Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on the aisle.

Eyvind Kang playing without amplification.
  • Josh Bis
  • Eyvind Kang playing without amplification.

• Annnnndddd the final award of the evening was presented by 2012 Genius in Music Lori Goldston and Stranger music editor Emily Nokes. As the bounteous genius of all three music finalists had been more than amply demonstrated over the course of the insanely great evening, this one was anyone's guess. And the Genius Award went to... Eyvind Kang and Jessica Kenney, who are indeed themselves an avant-garde love fest. Kang humbly said he was unprepared: "I didn't get this far in my planning, because I didn't think we'd stand a chance against Jherek and Katie." Kenney said, "We're part of a music family," and everyone in the room felt included in this embrace. Watch their acceptance speech here.

• Oh, and all the winners got satin sashes with begging-to-be-touched velvety letters spelling "FUCKING GENIUS." And Seattle Rock Orchestra played Madonna, and everyone crowded onto the stage and danced like crazy in their drunken finery, and it was the best thing ever. We only wish we had extra livers and a ton more money, so that we could've drank even more and given every finalist a big fat $5,000 check.

Seattle, you looked so good on Saturday night—you make a person so, so happy to be here. Best. Ever.

Kate Wallich choreographed and performed an original piece set to Dear Prudence.
  • Josh Bis
  • Kate Wallich choreographed and performed an original piece set to "Dear Prudence."

Katie Kate played the flute with fingers like effects pedals.
  • Josh Bis
  • Katie Kate played the flute with fingers like effects pedals.

Mayor Mike McGinn, sitting with his wife, got applause for his record-setting investments in the arts.
  • Josh Bis
  • Mayor Mike McGinn, sitting with his wife, got applause for his record-setting investments in the arts.

Paul Constant said, Seattle is Book City, USA. He presented the literature award with last years winner, Ellen Forney.
  • Josh Bis
  • Paul Constant said, "Seattle is Book City, USA." He presented the literature award with last year's winner, Ellen Forney.

Seattle Rock Orchestra conductor Kim Roy: This piece is very different, so I invite you to take a moment to reflect, drunk as you may be.
  • Josh Bis
  • Seattle Rock Orchestra conductor Kim Roy: "This piece is very different, so I invite you to take a moment to reflect, drunk as you may be."

Support The Stranger

Jherek Bischoff.
  • Josh Bis
  • Jherek Bischoff.

Jen Graves in front of a painting by Matthew Offenbacher.
  • Josh Bis
  • Jen Graves in front of a painting by Matthew Offenbacher.

Juniper Shuey and Zoe Scofield.
  • Josh Bis
  • Juniper Shuey and Zoe Scofield.

Benjamin Kasulke and Stranger publisher Tim Keck in the green room.
  • Josh Bis
  • Benjamin Kasulke and Stranger publisher Tim Keck in the green room.

A kid from Kent and a kid from Butte.
  • Josh Bis
  • A kid from Kent and a kid from Butte.

DJ Mike Nipper and staff photographer Kelly O.
  • Josh Bis
  • DJ Mike Nipper and staff photographer Kelly O.

2012 Genius Award finalist Amanda Manitach in the basement bar with about-to-be-crowned 2013 winner Rodrigo Valenzuela.
  • Josh Bis
  • 2012 Genius Award finalist Amanda Manitach in the basement bar with about-to-be-crowned 2013 winner Rodrigo Valenzuela.

Brendan Kiley, performance editor of The Stranger, and Tonya Lockyer, artistic/executive director of Velocity.
  • Josh Bis
  • Brendan Kiley, performance editor of The Stranger, and Tonya Lockyer, artistic/executive director of Velocity.

2012 Geniuses Sarah Bergmann and Ellen Forney got magnums of Genius Juice with their faces on them.
  • Josh Bis
  • 2012 Geniuses Sarah Bergmann and Ellen Forney got magnums of Genius Juice with their faces on them.

Stranger editor in chief Christopher Frizzelle and poet Rich Smith, who read at the Frye literature showcase on behalf of APRIL Festival.
  • Josh Bis
  • Stranger editor in chief Christopher Frizzelle and poet Rich Smith, who read at the Frye literature showcase on behalf of APRIL Festival.

The amazing and swoon-worthy Seattle Rock Orchestra.
  • Josh Bis
  • The amazing and swoon-worthy Seattle Rock Orchestra. Artistic director Scott Teske is second front the right in the front row.

Seattle Rock Orchestras vocalists.
  • Josh Bis
  • Seattle Rock Orchestra's vocalists Annie Jantzer and Tamara Power-Drutis.

After the awards, partiers crowded onto the stage and danced like crazy in their drunken finery.
  • Josh Bis
  • Partiers crowded onto the stage and danced like crazy in their drunken finery.

The Genius Awards would not be possible without our presenting sponsors Snoqualmie Tribe Fund and Alaska Airlines VISA Signature Card. Thanks also to A Kid from Kent for his unwavering support of the Genius Awards and for inventing Genius Juice, proceeds of which fund future awards.

This post has been updated since its original publication.