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Ski Mask The Slump God, Pouya, Pop Smoke, DJ Scheme, Danny Towers
Like seemingly every young rapper of note in 2018, Ski Mask the Slump God came up through SoundCloud. But while many in that world chase trends, Ski Mask has developed a singular style. Latest mixtape Beware the Book of Eli is defiantly strange, with murky production, absurdist lyrics, and protean flows. Each track is a whirlwind of voices and cadences, referencing Greek mythology, children’s cartoons, and blowjobs with equal gusto. The Florida rapper knows his history, both old and recent—MF Doom, Wu-Tang, and Odd Future are clear forebears here—and his work is all the richer for it. ANDREW GOSPE
Mary Lambert, SassyBlack, Youth Speaks Seattle
You probably know Mary Lambert for her vocals on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Same Love," which she then spun into her own song, "She Keeps Me Warm," and then into her own album, Welcome to the Age of My Body. But she's also a fine poet! While some of Lambert's work in Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across feels as overdetermined as the title of her collection sounds, her plainspoken style and straightforward approach to body-image issues and sexual assault can be disarming and back-straightening. These effects are greatly amplified in Lambert's performances of the poems, which are indisputably moving. On this night, she'll celebrate the release of her new album, Grief Creature. RICH SMITH
Bea Miller, Kah-Lo, Kennedi
Bea Miller didn't win first place on X Factor in 2014, but the singer-songwriter is doing just fine with a Hollywood Records deal. She'll breeze through Seattle on her "sunsets in outerspace" tour.
Seattle-bred, LA-based singer-songwriter Jaymes Young will revisit his hometown with his signature dusky cinematic instrumentals.
Otherness, the 2014 album by Kindness (aka English singer-songwriter/producer Adam Bainbridge), cracked me open emotionally—especially “With You,” the track they produced with R&B wonder Kelela. Bainbridge is able to get to the pulpy heart of things, incorporating chilled out, soulful sounds to create a transcendent spiritual listening experience. Their September release, Something Like a War, features an even more impressive roster of guest artists, like Robyn, Jazmine Sullivan, and the legendary Bahamadia—what a cosign! Eighties-inspired tracks like “Cry Everything,” “Lost Without,” and “Hard to Believe” will put you in your feelings and make you want to dance. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Vetiver, Matt Dorrien
Vetiver main man Andy Cabic's most interesting work occurred during his time with Bay Area minimalist funkateers Tussle; he has also played guitar for Devendra Banhart when the latter was at his peak. Which is not to belittle Vetiver, who make fine roots rock, but they lack a certain fire and distinctiveness. I've found their most rewarding release to be the 2008 covers album Thing of the Past. On their original songs, Cabic and company come across like a more introspective Fleet Foxes. As steeped in folk-rock history as they are, Vetiver have modernized over the last decade to become a peddler of sleek, mellow rock that could stand to be more colorful and obtrusive. DAVE SEGAL
Big Bite, Dreamdecay, Nasti
Local punks Big Bite will supply sludgy slacker rock before they head out on tour. They'll be joined by locals Dreamdecay and Nasti.
Following the success of his 2018 Carnival EP, young Nashville-based musician Briston Maroney will come to Seattle with songs from his latest release, Indiana.
Penny & Sparrow
Austin duo Penny & Sparrow will bring their indie-folk to Seattle on their Finch North America Tour. NPR says the new album "[showcases] the duo's celestial harmonies, songs with stories that unfold like wild, vivid dreams and shimmering."
Pinback have a sound that exists in its own vacuum. A clean, well-ordered, and precise sound. The San Diego duo of Rob Crow and Zach Smith fold and unfold an audible origami. Vocals are placid and sedate, guitar strings are muted with palms; they pick through sequences, pinpoint and serene. TRENT MOORMAN
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, Rippin' Chicken, Unsinkable Heavies
It didn’t take long for Delvon Lamarr to take his killer Organ Trio worldwide. Really not a surprise, because while Lamarr tickles the traditional Hammond B-3 jazz grooves, he can drive it into some kind of soulfulness in a blink. It’s something I’m not sure if contemporary Seattle deserves, but that’s another story. Anyway, it’s gonna be a guaranteed solid night of gettin’ y’all’s swingables swung, what with Rippin’ Chicken, uh, rippin’ into organ riffs versus guitar pyrotechnics (they’re proggy like a motherfucker), and jazzy, swingin’ horn rock from Unsinkable Heavies, a group that tends to get “out there.” MIKE NIPPER
KEXP Presents Death and Music
Join KEXP morning show host John Richards for an evening on "death and music." The program features special local musical guests, personal stories from past years of the program and the history of how it came to be, and an exploration of the intersection of "these two distinct veins of life and how they feed into one another."
EarthGang, Guapdad 4000
EarthGang have that ATL hip-hop sound I love, keeping the spirit of Outkast (fun and freaky dirty South) alive without sounding much like that particular duo. EarthGang are a duo, too—rappers Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot. They’ve been buzzing since self-releasing their debut in 2013, their quirky, psychedelic rap eventually catching the ears of J. Cole; EarthGang signed to his Dreamville Records last year. Their major label first (and third full-length overall, excluding all the mixtapes and EPs and comp singles and guest spots in between), Mirrorland, is fucking banging. Johnny Venus told Pitchfork that the album is inspired by 1978 Wizard of Oz redux The Wiz: “It’s really colorful. It’s really dangerous. It’s really trippy. It’s literally Freaknik Atlanta in the summertime—folks riding around in cars with big rims with paint on their faces.” Johnny Venus has the gnarly, demented, Caribbean-flecked vocal quality, while Doctur Dot is a tad more straightforward eccentric, slicker, very slightly quicker—though both are lyrically agile, clever, witty as fuck, with the ability to be both odd and catchy. They’re edging toward stardom. Here’s hoping their quirky charm is intact when they arrive. LEILANI POLK
Southeast London EDM and trap producer Troyboi will bring the noise and the funk to a live set in the south end.
Brian Jonestown Massacre percussionist Joel Gion is very clever with maracas, to quote Brian Eno's "Baby's on Fire." As leader of his own band, Gion struts on similar sonic ground as BJM: 1960s-inspired psych-rock beholden to the golden guidelines set by the Beatles, the Chocolate Watchband, and the Rolling Stones (Brian Jones–era, of course). Gion has a knack for penning instantly catchy melodies, conveying a nonchalant brilliance that perfectly mirrors his onstage demeanor. He may look like he's out of his gourd while slapping tambourines with Anton Newcombe & co., but Gion has been paying attention to psychedelia's masters and creating his own savvy interpretations of it over three solid albums. DAVE SEGAL
Named after the mollusk that makes its home on the Pacific Northwest's sandy beaches, Seattle quintet Razor Clam bring grit, glamour, and goth-pop to the stage. The all-femme band centers queerness in both their music and their live performances, fostering a space where everyone feels safe and free to be themselves. Their 2018 EP Vicious Sea Cows is packed with a mix of salty and sweet tracks that recall goth-rock bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees: "ITB" is a buoyant and synthy bop, perfect for bouncing around the dance floor, while the spooky, drum-driven "There" is made to conjure spells to. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Role Model, Guests
Role Model (aka Tucker Pillsbury) will bring his dreamy bedroom-pop songs with diary-style lyrics (like his popular bop "I don’t rly like u") to an all-ages show.
Recording for respected labels such as K and Burger, Portland's the Shivas write easy-rolling, reverb-laden rock tunes that adhere to traditional psych- and garage-rock moves with the devotion of an Ugly Things magazine writer. True, there's no innovation going on in a Shivas song, but the compositional panache is so strong and the instrumentation so tantalizing that the music's familiarity leads to "yeahs" not yawns. Shiva is the Hindu deity of destruction, but the Shivas are more apt to pacify you than prod you into a violent rampage. DAVE SEGAL
Bear witness to one of Seattle's most interesting bands. They bill themselves as "digital folklore," and Terror/Cactus definitely make music that embodies the paradoxical tension between modernity and tradition. With roots in Argentina, multi-instrumentalist Martín Selasco and his mask-wearing bandmates ingeniously mix cumbia, exploratory electronic music, and surf rock on their debut LP, Impulsos. These danceable hybrids sound like futuristic party music to which you drink cocktails made with ingredients you've never heard of. DAVE SEGAL
Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2
Rachmaninov's music generally causes audiences to melt into sopping puddles of their own feelings, and the Second Symphony is no different in this regard. The whole thing is a violet-tinted croon sung in strings and weepy woodwinds, and if you can just allow yourself to sit back in your chair, let your eyes soften for a bit, and think of the one who got away, then the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, conducted in this program by James Feddeck, will lead you down a gentle path of watercolor memories. The stirring finale, however, will jolt you back to the present, feeling fully refreshed. Alongside this emotional reverie, one of the symphony's bass clarinet players, Angelique Poteat, will present a new cello concerto inspired by the environs of the Pacific Northwest. RICH SMITH
Seventh Annual Freakout Fest 2019
If the acts at Capitol Hill Block Party and Bumbershoot skew a bit too young and EDM-ish for you, you may want to check out Freakout Festival, which has been gradually improving in quality over the last seven years. What began as a psych-rock-heavy event has morphed into something more diverse, while still retaining elements of its original mission statement (see the festival name). This year’s lineup looks strong, with appearances by Death Valley Girls, Actionesse, Bearaxe, Elephant Stone, Federale, Khu.éex', Razor Clam, and Terror/Cactus. DAVE SEGAL
Big Freedia, Low Cut Connie
A friend told me that the relationship between Seattle and New Orleans is strong because, traditionally, our fair city was always the first or last stop for touring jazz bands from the Big Easy. That connection facilitates a cultural exchange that’s readily apparent in the acts that come through town. And I suppose it would help explain why Big Freedia comes through at least twice a year—Seattle needs A LOT more bounce. This New Orleans rapper is the best version of what every MC should be: She knows how to get the motherfucking party going. Bring some Icy Hot for your knees and get ready for the Queen of Bounce to make you MOVE. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Young SoundCloud rapper Jack Harlow has reached a mainstream audience through recording in his bedroom and hustling long and hard in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
Headed up by Tlingit bassist/vocalist (and lauded glass artist) Preston Singletary, Khu.éex' (pronounced Koo-eex) are a supergroup composed largely of indigenous poets and musicians. Beginning as a chance meeting between Singletary and legendary funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell (Parliament-Funkadelic, Talking Heads), Khu.éex' combine far-out funk and jazz with spoken word and Great Native Northwest storytelling to present a contemporary interpretation of their culture to the world. Most recent EP Héen ("water" in Tlingit) deals with the importance of water to indigenous communities across the country. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Stranger music contributor Ana Kaplan has written, "Dude York have proclaimed themselves as America's Band, and their love of Cheez-Its, La Croix, and rock and roll only bolster that reputation. Released earlier last year on Hardly Art, their second record, Sincerely, navigates dark themes of love, depression, and anxiety under the guise of singsong alt-pop. Guitarist Peter Richards and bassist Claire England switch off on vocals, and with Andrew Hall on drums, this trio’s live show gets loud."
Michelle Blades y Los Machetes
Mexican-Panamanian multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Michelle Blades has a songbird, dulcet quality to her vocals, while her music culls elements of 1970s folk and psychedelia, krautrock, garage pop, synth rock, Talking Heads–style post-punk, and off-beat experimentalism into music that is irrepressibly charming. She grew up on a steady diet of cumbia, salsa, dembow, and son (she comes from a family of salsa musicians), but her style is more informed by the time she spent in Phoenix's underground DIY scene and after that, in and around Paris, France, home to her label Midnight Special and where she eventually settled. Her transatlantic band Los Machetes will back her at Freakout. LEILANI POLK
Allen Stone's Karaoke Extravaganza
Deeply divisive white boy soul singer Allen Stone has graced these pages often by fans and foes alike, and will now take over Seattle for two nights of what he's known for: neo-soul classics and probably a few grandpa sweaters.
LIV†, Campana, ALLA, DJ Kween Kay$h
Seattle singer-songwriter Olivia Thomas, who makes R&B crooners over hip-hop beats and piano ballads under the moniker LIV†, will headline with support from Campana, ALLA, and DJ Kween Kay$h.
Puget Soundtrack: Erin Jorgensen Presents 'The Night of the Hunter'
This expressionistic fairy tale, from the '50s but decades ahead of its time, was the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever got to direct. Robert Mitchum famously embodies a roving preacher with a murderous hatred of women and a lust for money that puts him on the track of two child runaways. For an extra treat, Erin Jorgensen will perform a live marimba score.
The Hot McGandhis
Get down to "funky jazz and boogaloo tunes" from a quintet of seasoned Seattle musicians as they play standards from the 1960s to the present.
The Asteroid #4
Always pay attention to any band that covers a Rain Parade song and collaborates with a member of Kaleidoscope (the UK one). The Asteroid #4 do a splendid version of those Paisley Underground giants' "I Look Around," which displays AN4's penchant for sublime melodies and gorgeously layered vocals. Over the last 24 years, this group has traipsed through the gentler and more pastorally spaced-out end of the psychedelia spectrum, building an impressive discography. They may have peaked on 1997's soaring, sitar-laced "What a Sorry Way to Go," but AN4 continue to produce sumptuous, melodious psych-rock on 2018's Collide. DAVE SEGAL
Carissa's Wierd - An Evening with Mat Brooke & Jenn Champion
In Carissa's Wierd, Jenn Champion and Mat Brooke traded bar-stool confessions over aching, sparsely orchestrated slowcore, each singing in barely more than a whisper, lyrics over-lapping, leaning on each other (with lines like "If I could just see straight/I'd probably head straight for the door"). They'll reunite this fall for the 20th Anniversary of Ugly But Honest. ERIC GRANDY
Montreal indie-rock band Elephant Stone stand out from others of their ilk thanks to frontman Rishi Dhir's way of incorporating traditional Indian instrumentation (primarily sitar, on which he's adept, but also tabla and dilruba) into jangly, driving psychedelic rock that takes many groovy turns. The result makes you want to get down, although there are plenty of swaying, swirling, otherworldly moments, too. New single "Land of Dead" finds the trio taking a heavier, more concise, stoner-meets-tronic turn. LEILANI POLK
Freak Out Fest Afterparty: Nots, Guests
Self-proclaimed "nuevo no wavo" band NOTS bring lush punky energy over a backdrop of comic synths and swirly vocals. The Tennessee quartet will headline after Freakout Fest with as-yet-unannounced special guests.
Formerly rooted in ’90s alternative grunge-pop realms, Seattle quintet Great Grandpa (guitarist Patrick Goodwin trading off on lead vocals with vocalist Alex Menne, with backup from bassist Carrie Miller, guitarist Dylan Hanwright, and drummer Cam LaFlam) have shifted gears for their sophomore LP, Four of Arrows. It’s a luxurious yet understated outing that is melodically rich, emotive, and well-orchestrated, with more pianos, more folk tendencies (picked acoustic guitars, pitch-perfect vocal harmonies), more twinkling beauty, more introspection (the songs “weave through the pains of familial divisions, partnership, internal and external forgiveness, and the struggles of mental illness”). There’s still some dissonance and guitar grit, too. This party is the official release celebration for Four of Arrows. LEILANI POLK
In the 11 years since his 2008 debut, Brand New World, Noah Gundersen has evolved from his Olympia beginnings in stripped-down indie folk to a fuller, more emotionally complicated sound that brings an unabashed sentimentality to each song—even the one about porn stars (check out the track “Bad Actors” on 2017’s WHITE NOISE). Gundersen’s committed, melancholy vocal power has a raw honesty that beckons comparisons to Thom Yorke, the Lonely Forest, and Johnny Cash. SOPHIA STEPHENS
This torrid San Diego trio are my pick for most exciting prospect at Freakout Festival. You can't help hearing MC5-like revolutionary fervor in the Schizophonics' raunchy ramalama and those gruff, Rob Tyner–esque vocals, and anyone who can't get with that is not someone you want to know, brothers and sisters. The jams that Pat and Lety Beers and a rotating cast of bassists kick out fill you with emergency-room energy and the kind of invincible feelings needed to resist the corrupt administration currently desecrating democracy. Or you could channel all that kundalini the Schizophonics are generating to fuck all night. DAVE SEGAL
Ray LaMontagne, Kacy & Clayton
Lifelong independent film soundtracker Ray LaMontagne will bring his soft rasp and folky bluesy forest-laden indie rock back to Seattle this autumn with folk/roots duo Kacy & Clayton in tow.
HELMET 30th Anniversary Tour
Alt-metal band Helmet will show their endurance for thrashing at this Seattle stop on their 30th Anniversary Tour. ("30 Years x 30 Cities x 30 Song Set. No Openers.")
BRONCHO, Hot Flash Heat Wave, Rinse & Repeat
Pretty sure you’ve heard BRONCHO. Maybe it was the jangly “Try Me Out Sometime” (which sounds like it was ripped straight out of the early ’80s post-punk songbook) or the relentlessly catchy “Class Historian” (the one with all the du-du-du-ing and a guitar riff that feels nostalgic and sunny). The Oklahoma indie-rock quartet has taken a sexier, groovier turn in 2018 full-length Bad Behavior, which starts out strong with “All Choked Up,” a snotty little ditty with a sauntering and swaggering cowbell-studded rhythm. It’s dark and funky-fun, and I imagine it’ll prompt some lip-curled dance faces when they bring it to Seattle. LEILANI POLK
The Get Up Kids, Kevin Devine, The Whiffs
Before the word could be thrown around like an insult, the Get Up Kids were emo royalty. Hailing from Missouri, they released a standout of the genre with 1999’s Something to Write Home About. These songs are full of catchy hooks, mid-tempo pop-punk melodies, and earnest, often broken-hearted lyrics. The band officially split in 2005, only to reunite three years later for a handful of reunion shows. With a comeback album and several tours under their belt, it’s safe to say the Get Up Kids are back at it for good and not just cashing in on nostalgia. KEVIN DIERS
Naked Giants encapsulate a lot about your early 20s—that goopy, postadolescent period where the tension between taking things seriously, but not too seriously, is at an all-time high. The trio balances these extremes with great ease. From naming their debut album SLUFF (a made-up filler word that sounds punk and has taken on a variety of meanings) to dealing with dreams of wanting to be a star on "TV," their music is raucous, good-natured fun that's particularly moshable. I just want to run into other people's sweaty bodies while banging to the anthemic "Slow Dance II." JASMYNE KEIMIG
X Ambassadors, Bear Hands, VÉRITÉ
Considering their Top40 radio ubiquity, it's been basically impossible to not recognize the Jeep commercial-ready stadium party rock sound of X Ambassadors. They'll return to Seattle on their Orion Tour.
Summer Walker, Melii
Summer Walker is exactly the voice you need to get you through cuffing season, aka autumn, aka the time when everyone is trying to get boo’d up and retreat from the onslaught of cold. The R&B crooner gets the muddling of emotion this time brings: jealousy, desire, melancholy, horniness. Despite the subject matter, her songs are buoyant, warm, and sexy, like a keyed-up SZA with Brandy’s stunning vocal range. Turn on “Stretch You Out” when you want to twerk and cry, and “Body” for when you feel crazy attracted to the person you’re having sex with right now, but still wondering: What else is out there? JASMYNE KEIMIG