11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri., May 23-Mon. May 26. $5 donation requested. Seattle Center, www.nwfolklife.org.
The 40-page guide to the Northwest Folklife Festival is so overwhelming (you got yours in last week's Weekly, right?), it can be hard to know what exactly the thing is about. "Traditional Balafon Music"? "Raging Celtic Bluegrass Rock"? "Yupik Dance and Comedy"? The Folklife clich鬠of course, is blond dreadlocks, drum circles, broomstick skirts, annoying street performers, and . . . OK, there's some truth to that. But Folklife is easily the most far-reaching and least commercial of the big Seattle Center festivals, with a big emphasis on positive energy and a multiculti outlook that's for real. This year's fest will include a special emphasis on traditions of the sea, with more maritime songs, poems, panels, and crafts than you can shake a fish at. Of course, cool cats from the Hill will always scorn Folklife because it's not about rock stars and there's nowhere to smoke. But that's no reason for you to miss out on a good time. MARK D. FEFER
THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA
Previews begin 8 p.m. Sat., May 31. $10-$30. Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer St., 206-269-1900.
The choice for must-see entertainment onstage this summer has to be Intiman's world premiere musical The Light in the Piazza. How's this for pedigree: It's based on a 1960 novella by Elizabeth Spencer that was a finalist for the National Book Award; award-winning playwright/ screenwriter Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, Longtime Companion) directs and wrote the book; composer/lyricist Adam Guettel is a Stephen Sondheim Award winner for his past work; and choreography is by esteemed local Pat Graney. All of this goes toward the story of a young woman's forbidden romance in 1953 Italy. Intiman is the class act of the big houses, and Lucas never does anything uninteresting (not even his debatable, vengeful-gay-man-melodrama, The Dying Gaul). If Light has even half the appeal of its creators, it will be something to remember. STEVE WIECKING
FREMONT SOLSTICE PARADE
Noon Sat., June 21. Downtown Fremont.
The Fremont Solstice Parade doesn't take place until June 21, but you're already behind the curve! Have you signed up yet for your foamed latex prosthetic makeup class? How about working with instant papier m⣨鿠How do you expect to be ready to take to the streets on Solstice Saturday? As the 1960s recede ever deeper into the past, as nostalgia dries and crumbles away in the attic of memory, the Fremont Arts Council's Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade springs ever green. Just to walk among the kilted, face-painted multitude is to return in mood to a time when patchouli and the peace sign were as yet untinged with irony. You can believefor the space of an afternoon, anyway that all you need is love, that all you've got to do is come together and smile on your brother. The parade's ground rules are designed to ease you into a timeless frame of mind: no motors, no signs, no words at all. (And, of course, there's the annual "controversy" over the naked bicyclists and how much the SPD will hassle them. . . . ) Of Fremont's four annual seasonal celebrations, the paradea kickoff event for the weekend-long Fremont Fairis the only one that draws a crowd from well outside Wiccan and Celtic revival circles. Maybe just because it's the one least likely to be rained on, but still. (For a list of classes and workshops on making art for the parade, see www.fremontartscouncil.org.) ROGER DOWNEY
9 p.m. Sun., June 29. $35-$45. Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., 206-628-0888.
Being Lou Reed, like being Hunter Thompson or Mother Teresa, is a career unto itself. But Louis Firbank, disheveled son of Long Island, has done a better job of it than anyone else for over half a century. Indeed, though many potential heirs to Reed's brand of darkly literate schreiing have come and goneIggy, Bowie, Jim Carroll, and even Marilyn Manson, who owes a debt to "Sister Ray" all by itselffew of his spiritual progeny ever mastered the art of showing us how terror and ecstasy are eternally embedded in the mundane. That unique perspective is Lou Reed's greatest gift, the one that finally distinguishes master from student. Albums like Set the Twilight Reeling are the sound of a man punching through the mystery to see what's beyond. Rock hard as the White Stripes might, this is a perspective one only achieves after multiple decades behind the lines. ERIC WAGGONER
6 p.m. Sun., July 6: Wallingford Seafair Kiddies Parade (the first of the community parades); 7:30 p.m. Sat., July 26: Torchlight Parade, along Fourth Avenue. www.seafair.com.
Well before all the other festivals listed here, Seafair was the grand event of the summer, a distinctly Seattle mix of water sports and neighborhood boosterism. The hydroplane races were our bid for national attention, but the big lineup of parades grounded the festival in the city, and they are still one of the best ways to spend a summer evening sitting on the sidewalk (despite recent ordinances). The Torchlight Parade in downtown Seattle is the swankiest, with hydroplanes on trucks, multiple marching bands, and a full deck of political types in borrowed convertibles. But the smaller, neighborhood parades are life-sized, reflecting something specific about each corner of the city. Wallingford kids release butterflies, while Lake City grown-ups drive a stagecoach. The Hi-Yu Festival in West Seattle actually predates Seafair, wearing its nostalgia as gracefully as its Chinook name, and in the International District, the young women in the Seattle Chinese-American Girls Drill Team actually smile while they march (the rest of the season, they cultivate a drop-dead stare). And the Seafair Clowns and Pirates, for better or worse, can be found racing from place to place, sometimes leaving their good sense behind. There are other events during the year that are more sophisticated, and I love them, too, but when the last car goes by in a Seafair parade, you can get up and walk down the middle of the street, waving to the crowds as you pass by. SANDRA KURTZ
FOURTH OF JUL-IVAR'S/ WASHINGTON MUTUAL FAMILY FOURTH
Gates open at noon, Fri., July 4. Myrtle Edwards Park downtown and Gas Works Park in Wallingford.
Even though Memorial Day is supposed to mark the beginning of summer, usually the real heat (in Seattle terms, anything above 65 degrees) doesn't begin in earnest until July. Hopefully, by the Fourth, you'll be able to take in the festivities without that down jacket. Either way, an observation of the always-an-eyeful Fourth of Jul-Ivar's above Elliott Bay or the Washington Mutual Family Fourth (previously sponsored by AT&T) over Lake Union requires planning. Forties or cabernet? KFC or catered? Is someone going to make a trip across the county line to pick up sparklers (or M-80s)? Whatever the caliber of your celebration, most important is location, location, location. Going to Gas Works (home base for the Family Fourth) is a good way to get trampled. Myrtle Edwards Park, site of the Ivar's event, is a little more manageable. Among other locales worth scouting are West Highland Drive on Queen Anne Hill, running north past Parson's Gardens with a panoramic view of downtown and the bay; or Magnolia Boulevard, a quiet sans-streetlights residential road, with views of West Seattle and the water, that feeds onto the Magnolia Bridge (itself an ideal point of view, if you don't mind risking the 2-foot-wide pedestrian walkway). The effort will be worth it when the sky lights up and you've got a stellar view of fireworks eclipsing the stars. ROSIE BOWKER
UW SUMMER ARTS FESTIVAL
Wed., July 16-Sat., July 19. Free-$45. University of Washington, 206-685-6696, summerartsfest.org.
Feel smart about the art you're seeing! This fest combines performance and commentary in dance, music, theater, and visual arts, all on the theme of "Spheres." This year's extravaganza includes the Kronos Quartet in the Northwest premiere of Terry Riley's Sun Rings, the Chamber Dance Company (seen above) performing historic works by Isadora Duncan and Ted Shawn, and a campuswide installation of sundials by artist Rebecca Cummings and astrophysicist Woody Sullivan. Seattle Opera's infamous lecturer, Perry Lorenzo, will talk about "The Music of the Spheres" (what else?), and philosopher Ron Moore, a festival veteran, returns with "Spherical Wisdom: Completeness and Return as Ideals in Western Art and Philosophy." The opening speaker will be neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, author of Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Human Brain, talking about "Emotion, Feeling and Social Behavior: The Brain Perspective." Between all of this, not to mention the lunchtime concerts (with cr갥s!), the Stan Brakhage retrospective, and the poetry readings, you will be one smart and cultured person at the end of the week. SANDRA KURTZ
BITE OF SEATTLE
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri., July 18-Sun., July 20. Free.
Seattle Center, 206-232-2982.
We're not sure why Folklife and Bumbershoot feel compelled to add all those supposedly enriching "cultural" eventsBavarian clog dancers, puppet poetry, internationally acclaimed musicians, whateverwhen everyone knows what Seattle Center festivals are really about: plopping down on a nice grassy knoll by the International Fountain and stuffing your face with sticky-sweet elephant ears and deliciously greasy egg rolls till your tummy cries "Uncle" (or, more likely, "Maalox"). The lovely folks at Bite of Seattle understand that. They tolerate the occasional fire juggler and drum circle but never let it interfere with the holy business of eating. As long as you wear your elastic-waist pants, the only thing that's tough is choosing how to expand them: Will it be the lobster roll or the juicy lamb gyro; the Biringer Farm strawberry shortcake or Hawaiian shaved ice? Some of that challenge is removed by the presence of $2 taster bites at many booths and the flat fee of Kathy Casey's Alleya gathering of gourmando goodies from some of Seattle's finest restaurants, buffet-style. If you're really so serious about it, feel free to attend one of many chef symposiums and cooking demonstrations scattered throughout the Center. And when you're done, come find us at the fountain. LEAH GREENBLATT
THE BLUE ANGELS
Noon-12:45 p.m. Fri., Aug. 1-Sun., Aug. 3. Southwest Lake Washington.
Days of pirates and clowns and building scale-model hydros to race behind your bike simply fill time until the arrival of Seafair's gem: the Blue Angels. Oh, to squint at the partly sunny glare from their polished wings, as grown dogs whimper and the new-to-town jump in fright; to hear the screamingly tight turns of the recruiting-poster lads, only to look up and discover they have reached for the sky and gone. The other planes in the air show are but warnings, telling spectators to hurry to that cliff-hanging street in that overrun neighborhood. The Blue Angels are coming, swooping low across Lake Washington (and, in those wondrous days of flight safety boxes, Elliott Bay!), climbing to the disappearing point where their wings stall, plummeting toward Earth to the most adrenaline-pumping, oh-my-god-how-did-they-miss-each-other maneuvers. Rehearsals are just as spectacularand when work-a-week folks in office buildings hear one, they crowd the windows. The Blue Angels are everything that "grown-ups" don't like: loud, fast, bridge-closing, Columbia Center-buzzing, fuel-guzzling, military-industrial-complex-supported flyboys. Yet their afterburner siren song will not go unanswered. The dazzling "look Ma, no hands!" daredevils take flight, and our hearts soar on the wings of these Angels. JOANNE GARRETT
Opens Sat., Aug. 2. $47-$125. Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, 206-389-7676.
Richard Wagner, with characteristic arrogance, called Parsifal not an opera but a "festive performance for the consecration of a theater": his own custom-built theater, in fact, in Bayreuth, Germany. That hasn't stopped opera houses doing Parsifal, but something of the solemnity of its original purpose, not to mention the woozy romantic-medieval religiosity of its plot, has kept it out of the mainstream repertory. But now Seattle has an opera house of its own to dedicate, and Seattle Opera director Speight Jenkins is putting Parsifal to its original purposeas the first production to take the stage of Seattle's new Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Premiered little more than six months before its composer's death in 1883, Parsifal's overheated imagery of stigmata, dove, and holy chalice, chastity and castration, sex and sanctity still divides critics and audiences. There's no longer much disagreement about its music, though: an astonishing slow unfolding of long musical lines woven into lush harmonies pushed to the borderline of dissonance. And Jenkins' production team (director Fran篩s Rochaix, designer Robert Israel, lighting designer Michael Chybowski) are likely to leave generating the required clouds of incense to conductor Ascher Fisch while they concentrate on deconstructing Wagner's torturous self-aggrandizing allegory into sober, vivid 21st-century images. ROGER DOWNEY
Sat., Aug. 16-Sun., Aug. 17. Myrtle Edwards Park, 206-781-5734, www.hempfest.org.
Let's start with the obvious: Hempfest is not a mass invitation to sit in the park all weekend and get stoned. It is, in essence, an invitation to get stoned first and then go sit in the park all weekend. And yet, you'll find a mass of retail and food booths and music stages that's not much different from the other street fairs that are synonymous with summer weekends in Seattle. Festival organizers have taken pains in recent years to ensure that it's a family-friendly event. However, all the good vibes and mellow police presence in the world cannot disguise or water down two essential facts: Hempfest's central purpose is to celebrate (and push for legalization of) an illegal substance, and it has become the summer's largest annual gathering of hippies north of the Oregon Country Fair. If you want to find out how remarkably useful and versatile hemp really is, enjoy a variety of mostly folk- and rock-oriented music acts, tune in and drop out (for a weekend! for a lifetime!), or see what the counterculture looks like after 35 years of (sometimes) evolution, Hempfest is for you. If you're allergic to tie-dye, probably not. GEOV PARRISH