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Smoke DZA, Bodega Bamz, Jayy Grams, the Yutes, Tre Wunder
Harlem rapper Smoke DZA is only 34, but he’s positioned himself as an elder statesman in the independent rap scene. On April’s Not for Sale, DZA is preoccupied with the current state of the rap game and the music industry, but he doesn’t sound bitter or jaded. Instead, he’s optimistic and clearheaded, showcasing a workmanlike, J. Cole-ian flow that stays grounded in his neighborhood and his ambitions. And though his mind-set is classicist, the music thankfully isn’t—DZA has a taste for stylish, hi-fi beats, a far cry from the tired boom-bap revivalism that can crop up when rappers want to prove they’re old-school. ANDREW GOSPE
Okkervil River, Benjamin Lazar Davis
Okkervil River’s third album, Black Sheep Boy, may not cut as deep as Big Star’s Third with its exposed-nerve laments about love, death, and love as death—but it comes close. Front man Will Sheff holds nothing back on the Austin sextet’s masterpiece, though what impresses some may merely exhaust others (one critic dubbed them “Overkill River”). It’s an understandable reaction, but for those drawn to Sheff’s destabilizing lyrics—“sometimes the blood from real cuts feels real nice”—and campfire-meets-concert-hall aesthetic, this show promises to be as revelatory as the new, extended version of the record with bonus tracks and covers of influences from Leadbelly to the Louvin Brothers. KATHY FENNESSY
Sleep, Bell Witch
Sleep are like the Grateful Dead of stoner metal—steadily accruing new fans and maintaining the old ones who follow them no matter what circumstances transpire. (A 55-year-old ex of mine from more than 20 years ago implores me to see Sleep whenever they come to town. That’s loyalty.) Masters of forbidding heaviness and epic, mantric repetition, guitarist Matt Pike, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, and drummer Jason Roeder return this year with The Sciences, a new album that finds the band in relatively concise mode, rocking with a relative fleetness while still keeping the guitar/bass tones down-tuned and girthy as hell. From all appearances, it seems like Sleep still have the power to shake the Showbox’s foundations with methodical impunity. DAVE SEGAL
Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers
Maybe no classic rock act so deserves a modern reassessment as Steely Dan. The ostensibly square yacht rock band—composed of Donald Fagen, the late Walter Becker, and an army of intensely talented studio musicians—blended soft rock with advanced jazz theory. Never nerdy enough to be called progressive, never swaggering enough to make cock rock, Steely Dan were the sophisticated wallflowers of the 1970s, a dark mirror to the jocular Eagles. Underneath their über-geeky exterior lurked a dark, sarcastic, and cutting lyrical intellect. The sharp irony of, say, Father John Misty or even David Byrne has no precedent without Fagen singing “Deacon Blues.” The Doobie Brothers are playing, too. They sound similar but are less interesting. JOSEPH SCHAFER
Neo-R&B pop star JoJo is back on the town with her Mad Love tour in support of her latest album of the same name.
Tink, Salma Slims
Chicago rapper Tink will hit ’90s R&B nostalgia nerves after an opening set from Atlanta's Salma Slims.
Over the past 40 years, Social Distortion vocalist Mike Ness has become a sort of blue-collar hero, with his signature heart-on-sleeve, honest lyrics and rockabilly swagger acting as a style guide to many in Orange County's punk-rock circles. Instead of being known as the fastest or craziest in the scene, Ness crafted the band to be the catchiest, with his soulful howl being their calling card. Though they have only a few radio hits among their seven albums, the band has achieved an almost Morrissey-like cult status with fans who make Social D concerts seem like unofficial Grease-cosplay events. KEVIN DIERS
No performance on Wednesday
Behold...The Arctopus, Xoth, Spacebag
Guitarist Colin Marston may be the busiest American in heavy metal. A coveted producer, the Brooklynite also contributes to technical mind-benders Krallice, progressive death metal pioneers Gorguts, instrumental wonders Dysrhythmia, as well as maintaining a solo career. Which is why it’s a wonder that he's touring with the outfit that first brought him greater attention: Behold…The Arctopus. The avant-garde outfit blends grindcore and modern classical music into a seamless whole. Marston often plays a 12-string Warr guitar in the band, bringing echoes of King Crimson’s Chapman Stick pedigree to the ear-bleeding proceedings. Those in need of further fret wizardry should keep an eye out: Marston will be back with Krallice this summer. JOSEPH SCHAFER
James Taylor & His All-Star Band
Folksy Americana pop anthem leader James Taylor will bring his easy living sensibilities to Seattle with his All-Star Band in tow.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Amyl and the Sniffers
The Australian psych savants always deliver when you need a night of tingly acid rock crawling on your skin and throughout your nervous system. In the same garage-y genus as Ty Segall and Oh Sees, prolific rippers King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have dropped 14 studio albums in six years. With a seven-piece polyphonic presence, their orgiastic shows are lush with 1970s levitation and act as an elevator to the 13th floor of your endorphins. Also hailing from the Courtney Barnett land down under, Amyl and the Sniffers will spike your adrenaline as they toss you around with their briny pub punk. ZACH FRIMMEL
Hackensaw Boys, Birch Pereira, the Gin Joints
If you google Hackensaw Boys, one of the first pics to come up is a live shot featuring the Virginia string ensemble playing at New World Brewery, a now-defunct music venue and bar in Ybor City, Florida, where I saw them stomp and sing the place into a frenzy. On another occasion, they delivered their exuberant bluegrass beneath a pale-blue spring sky, their multi-part harmonies spiraling up into the breezy air. (They came through my old home place pretty regularly.) These guys have chops, they have charm, and they know how to put on a show, with the current lineup featuring percussion, guitar, banjo, and fiddle players. LEILANI POLK
Nightmares on Wax, Catching Flies, Natasha Kmeto
Nightmares on Wax is the electronic-music project/nom de plume of British DJ, producer, and turntablist George Evelyn, who’s been experimenting with down-tempo, groove-oriented sounds for nearly three decades. This year’s Shape the Future expands on the vocal and instrumental collabs introduced in 2013 LP Feelin’ Good. Songs like “Typical” pit the aggrieved pleas of Australian soul singer Jordan Rakei against R&B of a new-fashioned Motown vintage; the lamenting serenades from London-based artist, rhymes by Winnipeg rapper Allan Kingdom, and haunting gospel-hued vocals of “Citizen Kane” are set against a fusion of hiphop and light acid-house beats; and “Tomorrow” reeks of vintage dub style, with LSK’s falsetto calls evoking the late Junior Murvin while the production qualities have an Upsetters-like appeal. NOW performs a set of “favorites and future classics” on his current tour, and he’ll be joined by a drummer and a cast of rotating guest vocalists. LEILANI POLK
Operation District Resurrection: Koga Shabazz, Max Moodie, Ralph Redmond, Limbo Country Club
Five young people of color from the Central District who are each pursuing their shared passion in music have secured a large venue for a show that came about after a roundtable discussion brought up an intriguing idea: What if they could actually resurrect the Central District of old? And how would it look in the modern age? I hadn’t heard back by the time of this writing, so I can’t give you their specific answers, but I can tell you that the three rappers and two-man group all practice hiphop with varying degrees of swag. The bill is headed up by Koga Shabazz, whose voice has a low-toned rasp, while his intellectual and observational rhymes delivery is deliberate and slinky. LEILANI POLK
Stay Happy Central: Guayaba, 52 Kings, Reverend Dollars, Gifted Youngstaz
Local alt hiphop and psych-soul favorite Guayaba will perform with support from fellow stars 52 Kings, Gifted Youngstaz, and Reverend Dollars. In between sets, peruse a collection of work under $50 from 20 local artists.
The Skull, Earthride, Hyborian
If you’re a fan of classic doom-metal, you might recognize the three founding members of the Skull—Jeff Olson, Eric Wagner, and Ron Holzner—from their time in one of the genre’s most legendary bands, Trouble. It wouldn’t be far off to claim that the Skull are essentially the continuation of Trouble, as their formation came after a reunion show in 2012 and their band name is the title of Trouble’s second album, released in 1985. It will be a night of huge riffs, as Earthride and Hyborian open up what will surely be an ear-crushing showcase. KEVIN DIERS
Snuff Redux, DoNormaal, Great Spiders, Salt Lick
Garage rock will never go out of style. Overexposure may dull our excitement at times, but then a Beach Fossils, or a Cloud Nothings, or a Snuff Redux comes along, and that fuzzy younger-you feeling comes rushing back. Now a few years and a couple EPs deep, local gang Snuff Redux do the lo-fi, gnarled punk thing, but also pull you in close for some wispy, beach-Polaroids-and-reverby-guitar numbers, highlighted by singer Skyler Ford’s impassioned, drunk-on-the-moment wanderings. Their last offering, “No Reasons Good,” a December single recorded while on tour in 2016, is a jangly, popish tune during which Ford laments, “It’s just energy, it’s the enemy, it’s the end of days, it’s the end of me,” which describes this past winter perfectly. TODD HAMM
Wax Idols, Screature, Dead Spells
Wax Idols' last album, American Tragic, was an impeccable piece of goth-rock classicism. Lead singer and songwriter Hether Fortune could have followed it up with a faceless slice of Siouxsie Sioux cosplay and kept Wax Idols at cruising altitude. What she did instead was brave. Three years in the making, their new release, Happy Ending, is a technicolor reimagining of death-rock's past filtered through the virtuosic art-pop lens of, say, Crowded House. Fortune and company always deliver the goods live, and their long-gestating new suite of songs sounds like they ought to be performed in an arena. Thankfully, they're playing in the intimate confines of Barboza. You may want to buy tickets early, as this one could sell out. JOSEPH SCHAFER
Ann & Liz Callaway: Sibling Revelry
Broadway actress and singer Liz Callaway has worked in theater and film for the past 30 years, bringing a firm, light tone and sweet expressiveness to her roles in the debuts of Merrily We Roll Along, Miss Saigon, The Three Musketeers, and others, as well as to film soundtracks such as Anastasia and Aladdin and the King of Thieves. She's also had a successful off-Broadway career and performs with symphonies and bands around the world. Catch her with her equally talented sister Ann Hampton Callaway, also a decorated vocalist, in their family show.
LA’s Lord Huron have issued two albums of luminous folk pop that feels breezily effortless and expansive, their sweeping anthemic drive imbued with a Springsteenian/War on Drugs-like indie-rock appeal. Instrumentals are marked by cascading, Afrobeat-influenced guitar melodies and lush percussive textures, with an infusion of languid, salt-stained Cali sound qualities on 2015’s Strange Trails, while frontman Ben Schneider’s ethereal lead vocals soar over or intertwine with those of his bandmates to ascend in exquisite multi-voice chorales or stirring calls and cooing harmonies. LEILANI POLK
O+E: Love's Journey to Hell and Back
For the sake of keeping up with the kids and bringing opera to the people, every year Seattle Opera does an English-language chamber piece that's normally cooler and more modern than the stuff they run on the main stage, and every year it's good. This time they're producing an all-women version of Christoph Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice, a retelling of the famous Greek myth about trust and faithfulness that birthed the great tradition of lyric poetry in the West. In Gluck's version, O hallucinates at her dying wife E's bedside as A (Amore) intervenes to save the wounded woman's life. Stage director Kelly Kitchens, who is no stranger to all-women productions in Seattle, says in press materials that she chose a Sapphic interpretation of Orpheus and Eurydice "because love is universal and this story belongs to all of us." RICH SMITH
No performance on Friday
An Evening with Jeffrey Osborne
Beginning with Love Men Ltd. (also known as L.T.D.) and cruising into his own widely acclaimed solo career, Jeffrey Osborne has spent decades weaving funk, soul, R&B, and pop into his own unique sound, the success of which has netted him five gold and platinum albums. In 2015, Larry Mizell Jr. wrote that "Osborne is one of those singers—much like Beverly—who may be somewhat obscure to mainstream America (or maybe just folks born after the 1970s) but whose voice would be recognized in milliseconds in most black households... The big old baritone voices, like those of Osborne, Teddy Pendergrass, or Barry White are nowhere to be found, either—contemporary male singers tend to exist in a perpetual man-child mode, where falsetto is king. Some would chalk it up to a literal conspiracy to infantilize and emasculate black men in America—just like "Bill Cosby is being railroaded to destroy images of black fatherhood." I don't know about all that, but I do know that the narrowing commercial viability of the whole range of expression in black music shows no signs of letting up."
Sarah Davachi, Lori Goldston
Every record and live performance I've heard by Canadian composer Sarah Davachi has ushered me out of mundane/insane reality into a more peaceful domain of sacred sonic envelopment. I have little reason to believe that she won't work similar magic tonight at Seattle's most salubrious venue for minimalist-drone zone-outs, Chapel Performance Space. Currently, Davachi is the closest thing we have to a hybrid of Éliane Radigue and Terry Riley, so assume the lotus position and start worshipping with your ears. Stranger Genius Lori Goldston should set the scene well with her inventive, enigmatic cello improvisations. DAVE SEGAL
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Nashville folk-rock songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan, whose songs have been described as "equal parts dreamy and droll" by NPR, will bring his full band to Woodinville.
Bread & Butter, Spirit Award, Deep Creep
Attention: All heads on deck! Tonight shall be y’all’s time for gettin’ down to the killer-est of rock actions! All right! First, Spirit Award have been tasked with dialing in some early-1990s danceable, Britpop/indie sounds. Yeah, I know, y’all are already sweaty. And then it's Deep Creep’s turn to express expressions of beauty and love through their slightly aggro, well-written indie-rock hymns. Lastly, last only ’cause they’re headliners, Bread & Butter will be laying down the hella sweet, and honestly quite buttery, melodic power-pop jams. So, there it is—local only, no outta-town baloney! MIKE NIPPER
If you like what you heard on Israeli funk-pop-electro trumpeter Dennis Lloyd's latest single, Nevermind, check him out as he passes through Seattle on his MTFKR Tour.
Reverend Dollars, Dos Leches, Chong the Nomad (DJ Set)
Seattle composer/DJ Chong the Nomad, who's known for her lo-fi dance beats, will headline with all-star support from Reverend Dollars and Dos Leches.
Calexico, Julia Jacklin
Calexico rarely get overtly political, but the band’s very existence is a statement of sorts. The Tucson group is both musically and ethnically diverse (though their two founders are white), melding indie-rock, folk, and country with Spanish-language genres like mariachi, cumbia, and Tejano music. Sonically and thematically, the band embodies multiple perspectives on life in the American Southwest. Latest release The Thread That Keeps Us is another in a long line of consistently solid Calexico records, but given the modern political climate, it’s understandable to think it’s the band’s most vital. ANDREW GOSPE
Back when I was still cool, I got to experience a Dr. Dog set on a festival main stage, standing on the sideline as their howling harmonies washed over an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand fans. These guys have showmanship down, and it involves much vigorous playing of instruments and everyone jumping around and flinging themselves all over the stage. Soundwise, Dr. Dog have a handle on 1960s-vintage psych-rock, folk-Americana, and indie-pop with perfectly grooving low-end and spot-on vocal harmonies in music that varies between upbeat odes, heart-tugging balladry, and anthemic rock-outs—much of it moving at a good pace (when it’s not bouncing and ambling along). And those vocals! So sweet and earnest, so blissfully melodic and goose-bump-inducing! This tour backs dark and trippy 10th LP Critical Equation. LEILANI POLK
The Sea and Cake, L.A. Takedown
Chicago’s the Sea and Cake have a sound that can indisputably be called “friendly.” Endlessly easy on the ears, their pollen-in-the-air bliss is filtered through wisps of lost-summer nostalgia, their jubilant glow softened by somber reflection. Now a trio, following the departure of bassist Eric Claridge, the band’s 11th album, Any Day, is a fairly stripped-down affair, light on the electronic elements that tinged some of their heyday work, yet still leaning on the jazzy shuffling of drummer John McEntire and the gently sung verses of vocalist Sam Prekop. TODD HAMM
Soul Selections: Gifted Gab, Huey & The InFLOWentials, DamnSheJamaican
Rejoice: Seattle psychedelic soul/funk queen SassyBlack will curate a concert series with local MC Gifted Gab, Huey & The InFLOWentials, and DamnSheJamaican.
I saw Nellie McKay at Jazz Alley recently and, just like the last time I saw her play live, I left feeling like I'd been in the room with some kind of mad superhuman genius. She zooms between jazz piano and reggae ukulele, her new and old work and some well-chosen covers (her version of Loretta Lynn's "One's on the Way" is brilliant), she tells weird jokes, and she's just such a performer as much as she is a musician. She feels decidedly old-school and still perfectly modern, mocking politics, mocking herself, doing "the Tom Waits version!" of her most Blossom Dearie-ish songs, then pivoting into straightforward pop songs and jazz ditties. ANNA MINARD
Fifty years on, pastoral progressive greats Jethro Tull are still kickin’! For those familiar with the group’s history and massive catalog, y’all know Jethro Tull were always more than just frontman Ian Anderson standing on one leg and blowing LAMF into a flute, right? But for everyone else: Jethro Tull make classic rock expanded by folk and jazz. Cool? You should know that this is a newish incarnation of Jethro Tull, but the set list will supposedly include tracks from the group’s long career, including killers off the first album, all their other hits, and for sure the much-loved “Aqualung." MIKE NIPPER