Combat that S.A.D. creeping in and head over to a packed and warm concert venue around town for one of these excellent shows. This week, we've got everything from a fresh crop of pop-punk from the Down Under (Alex Lahey), to modern heavy metal cranked out by a local legend (Theories), to the comeback tour of a divisive hiphop icon (Jay-Z). Follow the links below for ticket links and music clips, and find even more on our music calendar.
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Depths is a monthly audiovisual show by Andrew Crawshaw and Justin Thomas Kleine, who create live, drony electronic soundtracks for cult films. Stranger music critic Dave Segal has written, "It's impressive how these musicians transform what can be overly familiar scenes with their spontaneous interpretations." In December, they'll be providing the soundtrack to the classic holiday slasher Black Christmas.
Sweet Honey in the Rock
Sweet Honey in the Rock started out in 1976, the year our increasingly bizarre country turned 200. Forty-one years later, they’re still black women singing about important stuff in close harmonies, with the urgency of soul and the devotion of gospel. They added an ASL interpreter, Shirley Childress Saxton, who stayed with the band from 1981 until her death. I hope they plugged in another ASL interpreter. You can snicker at inclusiveness, but that’s what it comes down to (short form). “We are America… Those other people are not America.” So said RNC chairman Richard Bond in 1992. And it still is news. ANDREW HAMLIN
Juan Maclean, Marcus Marr (DJ Sets)
Alongside the Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, and Black Dice, Juan Maclean has been helping shape the sound of the influential DFA label since its 2003 inception. Pairing with LCD Soundsystem's Nancy Whang to provide his studio creations with a proper live band, he's also remained active as an internationally regarded DJ. He was tapped for his own entry in the long-running DJ Kicks! mix CD series in 2011 and continues to move dance floors with his classic house-inflected DJ sets. NICK ZURKO
Alex Lahey, Lisa Prank
Alex Lahey is the newest star to emerge from down under, and like her Melbourne contemporaries, she has the pop song down to a science. Her tracks are filled to the brim with punk elements to craft anti-anthems about anything from awkward exchanges to the friend zone. There’s no doubt she takes inspiration from Courtney Barnett, but Lahey packs a more positive punch. She’s at her best on “Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder,” where she defends the often disregarded Aussie city in a high-strung, power-pop ambush of emotions and experiences. ANNA KAPLAN
FKL, Erik Blood, NAVVI, Raica
Seattle/London duo FKL used to go by Funktionslust, a German word that means something like “pleasure in one’s role.” Their chilly, cleanly produced electro-pop is more functional than lusty—they’ve toured with buzz band of yesteryear, Wet, which is a decent stylistic reference point. Elsewhere on the bill is an eclectic mix of local electronic talent. NAVVI’s nocturnal electro-pop comes closest to that of the headliner, the solo work of composer/producer Erik Blood (Shabazz Palaces, Tacocat) is thoughtful and variegated, and a DJ set from tireless experimentalist Raica should run counter to the poppier proceedings. ANDREW GOSPE
Helping Hand: A Night of Fundraising for Jazz Legend & Resident Artist Dr. Julian Priester
In America, a jazz giant like trombonist/composer Julian Priester must periodically rely on benefit shows to help him deal with high medical bills common to people in their 80s. It’s a disgraceful situation, but thankfully, Priester—best known for his stellar work in the 1970s with Herbie Hancock’s paradigm-shifting Mwandishi group and for his 1974 fusion classic Love, Love—has talented friends willing to step up and play their challenging jazz-fusion compositions to raise much-needed funds. Bandalabra Trio (Industrial Revelation’s Evan Flory-Barnes and D’Vonne Lewis, plus saxophonist Skerik) and Priester’s own ensemble, Cue, will elevate your night, for an important cause. DAVE SEGAL
Jay-Z, Vic Mensa
Jay-Z is a business, a brand, and all that, and I’ve long respected his business moves, but forget ye not that this shit is art, not stocks or sports—and his art has damn near been George W. Bush finger paints for close to a decade. Jay-Z the MC more than regained my respect, though, with the anti-commercial, pro-Black 4:44, his most honest-feeling work possibly ever. (Thank god for the limitless magic of the game-changing Knowles women, the hardest steel his aesthetic blade has yet to sharpen itself against to date.) Beyond his sublime return to form as a lyricist, his oft-questionable taste is fairly unimpeachable here, possessing a subtlety he hasn’t had since his debut. LARRY MIZELL JR.
Average White Band
The Average White Band are indubitably remembered as mid-1970s, AM-radio, horn-rock hit makers of the highest order of the FUNK! I’d reckon their jams are what folks would now, as they did then, consider a proper dance-party soundtrack! Well, Average White Band have a Seattle residency, and they’ve promised to be honkin' their horns as funky as they ever did. So, y’all, it’s time to dig out your patchwork denim leisure suit, press your flares, and polish up your platforms, ’cause it’s about time to get down and “Pick Up the Pieces”! MIKE NIPPER
Three jazz students in Toronto bonded over their affinity for contemporary hiphop and tried their hand at reinterpreting the music of artists like A Tribe Called Quest and Odd Future. So began BADBADNOTGOOD, and while the backstory provides an interesting angle to their original instrumental grooves, the context is unnecessary for appreciating the deft beats and smooth arrangements that grew out of those early experiments. Anyone who pines for steady, muscular patterns in jazz, some actual soul in post-rock, or organic, hiphop-inspired instrumentation would be well served to pick up a ticket. BRIAN COOK
M.E.S.H., Thegn, CCL b2b NBC, Tengu Yawn
Recording for Berlin’s revered PAN label, M.E.S.H. (aka James Whipple) stands as one of its most interesting producers. When he came to Seattle in 2015, I wrote that his “music sounds like Photek during his peak drum & bass phase, but slowed to a brutal dubstep tempo.” His latest album, this year’s Hesaitix, maintains that approach, but with atmospheres that evoke the dank desolation and contemplativeness of Burial’s best work. Listening to M.E.S.H., you sense that he creates with the mind-set of an assassin. His music hits you with a pitiless, surgical impact, its sound design intricate and lethal. And for some lovely, twisted folks, that equals party time. DAVE SEGAL
Ron Jones' Jazz Forest
Prolific composer Ron Jones has composed and arranged the music for Duck Tales, Family Guy, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now he's back with his Jazz Forest, a collective of 12 highly skilled musicians attempting the synchronicity of a string quartet with the future-thinking joy of iconic jazz artists.
The Accused AD, Demon Hammer, Hallucinator, the Devils of Loudon, Oxygen Destroyer
HELL YEAH! Well-loved, metal soaked ’n’ stoked 1980s thrashers the Accused AD have our evening’s “let's shred till we’re dead” sorted. These cheeky ex-Accüsed members hilariously call themselves “the West Coast’s premier Accüsed tribute band.” Um, wait, y’all know the story? This group of shredders added the “AD” to their name to distinguish themselves from the original Accüsed, which now features only one OG member. Tonight the Accused AD will play More Fun Than an Open Casket Funeral in its entirety, to commemorate its 30th anniversary. Also on deck tonight is thrash/NWOBHM/“Kaiju”/black metal heaviness from Demon Hammer, Hallucinator, the Devils of Loudon, and Oxygen Destroyer. MIKE NIPPER
Ball of Wax 50: The Foghorns, Screens, Visceral Candy, The Laughing Group, Jenni Potts
This Ball of Wax compilation release party will celebrate their 50th release, featuring live performances by local musicians like the Foghorns, Screens, Visceral Candy, the Laughing Group, and Jenni Potts.
Ekali, Medasin, Judge
Canadian instrumentalist and producer Ekali will return to Seattle for the second time since their expansive Autumn North American Tour of 2016 to bring fresh and futuristic electronic music to the Showbox stage, alongside Medasin and Judge.
Flobots, Bang Data, Forget Me Not
The word “progressive” in the context of music usually means a band trying to push the instrumental and theatrical boundaries of the genre. In almost every other subject, “progressive” means radical political egalitarianism. Hiphop act Flobots embody both senses of the word. Instead of a DJ, they employ horns, funky bass, and rock instrumentation to bring their music to life, instead of preprogrammed samples, their lyrics center on humanitarian challenges such as immigration reform. JOSEPH SCHAFER
Mary J. Blige: Evolution of a Woman Tribute Show
Johari's latest good idea, which she did not come up with, but which she is certainly coproducing, is a tribute to the R&B singer Mary J. Blige. The idea first came to one of the show's featured singers, Ashanti Proctor, who wanted to do a kind of musical play about Blige. But Johari encouraged her to just make it a tribute. Also, they only had a three-month window to organize the event. But why Blige? Well, she has an impressive track record. Her career began in the early 1990s, when she brought the street cred of hiphop to the R&B world without sacrificing its apolitical and black- elegant principles. She has more hits than you can remember. She is still making hits. Lastly, she's been in the game so long, that, like Bill Murray or Snoop Dogg or Martha Stewart, she's won the honor of just being cool. It will be fascinating to see what Proctor, Johari, and the rest of the lineup do with her work. CHARLES MUDEDE
Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox
In a reimagining of contemporary pop hits in the styles of jazz, ragtime, and swing classics of the '20s though the '50s, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox busts genres with a rotating collective of musicians and vocalists who attempt to cross all musical boundaries and generations.
Semantron, DANGG, Fungal Abyss
The time has come once again to implore you to witness the psychotropic splendor that is a Fungal Abyss show. Improvising after ingesting hallucinogens is not recommended to you amateurs at home, but the pros in Fungal Abyss turn this high-wire stunt into heavier-than-a-death-in-the-family psychedelia. Every FA performance I’ve been fortunate enough to attend is a brain-blasting adventure. Headliners Semantron have no music available right now, but their personnel—Brothers of the Sonic Cloth’s Dave French, Neurosis’s Scott Kelly, Green Jello’s Guy Nelson—portends gargantuan catharsis. DAVE SEGAL
Theories, Tacos!, the Family Curse
Joe “Grindo” Axler is a true example of the eclectic nature of modern heavy metal. When he’s not serving you behind the bar, Axler plays drums for two of the heaviest yet sonically opposite metal bands in the Northwest. On one hand, there’s Samothrace, who play slow, crushing doom metal with an average song length somewhere around the 10-minute mark. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s Theories, which is the musical equivalent of a brick to the face—raging, unapologetic grinding death metal played at a breakneck speed. Release that tension with Theories and let them grind your mind. KEVIN DIERS
Wiscon, Skates!, Freeway Park
Thumping soul rockers Wiscon share their music like every live show is a party for the end of the world. They'll be joined by Skates! and Freeway Park.
Maldoggies Family Christmas with Widower
Northwest indie rock and folk-pop stalwarts the Maldives and the Moondoggies join forces for a family band Christmas series for two nights at the Tractor.
Around The World With KEXP: KEXP Mash-Up Party
Esteemed KEXP members will gather for a music mash-up party led by DJ Kid Hops, DJ Chilly, and Darek Mazzone, with electronica, world music, and Latin vibes all night long.
The Chanukah Party
Enjoy a Feast of Lights celebration with Portland's Night Shade Dynasty puppetry show, comedy by Brett Hamil (past Stranger contributor, current Shadow Council presider), and music by Adra Boo and Hotels, plus a dance party DJed by Silk Safari to end the night.
Dude York, Naked Giants, Dogbreth
Halftime for the Holidays tackles the highs and lows of the holidays with Dude York's typical mix of bluntness, cheekiness, and cheesiness. "Hollywood Holiday" is a tongue-in-cheek ode to winters in Southern California. "Jingle Bells Rock" is an audible eye roll at the Christmas classic. "Takin' Care of Christmas" is a play on the Bachman-Turner Overdrive track. And other songs delve into the lower points of Christmas, for instance "Break Up Holiday," which sums up the feeling of having to see a hometown ex when you go back to see your parents. The whole song is a fierce, guitar-powered jab. And the title Halftime for the Holidays? All but two songs end in a half-time guitar solo. ANNA KAPLAN
Phobia, Xoth, Vitriol, the Great Sorcerer, Nosretep, Envenom
Orange County grindcore mainstays Phobia didn’t reinvent themselves on 2017’s Lifeless God. Not that they needed to. The band’s warp-speed metallic punk, fueled by drummer Bryan Fajardo’s mastery of the blast beat, can whip cervical spine vertebrae into creamy mush. The band’s set at the second night of this year’s Hail Santa is sure to be a highlight of the annual fest. Further mind-bending will be provided by local wunderkinds Xoth, whose 2016 album Invasion of the Tentacube continues to make waves in the metal underground. JOSEPH SCHAFER
Scarlet Parke, Fell From a Star
Smooth and smoky songstress Scarlet Parke plays on your heartstrings with her particular blend of blues and pop that gains momentum from her brand of dark yet party-ready seduction. She'll be joined by Fell From a Star.
Alice Merton’s breakout hit, “No Roots,” rides a funky bass groove and a drum pound on every down beat, while she—who has an Irish father and a German mother—sings about having no roots, indeed, and her home “was never on the ground.” This appeals to young people, naturally, who often don’t wish to belong to where and who they came from, an expression of spreading and measuring one’s wings. Some people set out on the road away from home, and some never go back. And not all who are lost wander. I wonder how Merton herself shall live this out. ANDREW HAMLIN
Familiars, Cool American, Emma Lee Toyoda, Sleepover Club
Tender-hearted fantasy rockers Familiars will spread a Northwest mist of indie experimental tracks from their latest album Digest Self, with support sets by Cool American, Emma Lee Toyoda, Sleepover Club.
Join Portland folk artist Josh Garrels as he performs tracks from his Christmas album, The Light Came Down, on his tour of the same name.