Best of Seattle 2013: Arts and Culture

Best Arts Innovation: “Untitled”

Of the novelties and surprises of Ludovic Morlot’s tenure as the Seattle Symphony’s new music director, none have been as exciting—or borne greater implications for the future—than the “Untitled” series of late-night new-music concerts in the Benaroya Hall atrium. They launched last October with a daring program of musical ... more

Best Arts Nonprofit: Capitol Hill Housing

We’re going to cheat a little on this category, having so recently praised Seattle Storefronts and King County’s 4Culture. The main reason for this is the ancillary arts impact of the 12th Avenue Arts building presently under construction on Capitol Hill, just north of Pine Street on an old SPD parking lot. When completed by the ... more

Best Arts Institution: First Thursday Art Walk

Did you know the First Thursday Art Walk is over 30 years old? And that it bills itself as the first and oldest art walk in the country? A model now followed by every gallery district in America? (And by Belltown, West Seattle, and Cap Hill.) I had no idea. It was founded back in 1981, when the few early Pioneer Square galleries ... more

Best Museum News: Tacoma Art Museum

I fully expect that by Best of Seattle2014, SAM’s Kimerly Rorschach will have announced plans to modernize the old Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. Until then, however, the big museum news comes further down Puget Sound, where the Tacoma Art Museum is preparing to add a 16,000-square-foot addition to house the ... more

Best Museum Exhibit: Andy Warhol’s Flowers for Tacoma

Seattle museumgoers generally treat the Tacoma Art Museum as an afterthought—someplace you drive past en route to Portland. And the Tacoma Dome gets even less respect; it’s a venue for monster-truck rallies and Justin Bieber concerts. The irresistible ... more

Best New Art Gallery: Hard L

Unlike many sterile art spaces, Hard L is an inviting place. It was created with safety in mind—an arts refuge for “women and queers especially” to show their work. The Gallery’s foundational ethic was reflected in an early show, Queervoyant, intended as “A Queer Art Showcase About the Future,” which coincided with Pride week. ... more

Best Gallery Show: The Seduction of Color

Sometimes it’s nice to be freed from the burden of authorship and provenance, deciding how this artist ranks against that, judging whether an artwork is authentically part of an oeuvre. You could look at the snapshots in last fall’s The Seduction of Color—also a book ... more

Best Breakout Artist: Jerick Hoffer

Who knew Jerick Hoffer was destined for stardom? First, probably, his fellow students at Cornish College; then most everyone who’s seen his local stage performances. I suspected it after his memorably fearless performance in Balagan Theatre’s Spring Awakening, and was ... more

Best Photographer: Eirik Johnson

Locally raised and trained at the UW, Eirik Johnson recently returned home from Boston to teach photography at Cornish and continue documenting the boondocks. As seen in published collections including Sawdust Mountain (about the post-logging economy) and Camps & Cabins (depicting seasonal hunting and ... more

Best Movie Theater: Sundance

Outside the city, new multiplexes rise amid seas of concrete, preferably located near a freeway off-ramp. But in congested Seattle, where the old single-screen movie palaces are too large and inefficient to run profitably (see the Neptune and the Egyptian’s sad demise), the trick is to repurpose an existing structure. That’s what Sundance ... more

Best Actor: Hannah Victoria Franklin

Over the course of the past few seasons at Washington Ensemble Theatre, Hannah Victoria Franklin has portrayed a bow-lipped robot goddess, a homicidal housewife to her cuckold husband, and an ace rapper proffering a Faustian bargain to her would-be partner. Her most recent turn as the lead in Tall Skinny Cruel Cruel ...more

Best Theatrical Production: August: Osage County

August: Osage County opens like a homespun yarn, but by the dramedy’s conclusion, playwright Tracy Letts has earned not only the Pulitzer Prize and Tony awards he’s won, but your heart and soul as well—at least that’s what happened during Balagan Theatre’s production this past April. A film version will be out soon starring the ... more

Best Local Playwright: Cheryl L. West

Cheryl L. West’s tautly told tale of three generations of railcar workers in Pullman Porter Blues—staged last fall at Seattle Repertory Theatre—does for civil rights what Biloxi Blues did for the grunts of World War II. By creating a variety of strong characters grappling with societal sea change, she puts together a series of altogether ...more

Best Memoirist: Domingo Martinez

Seattle’s breakout novelist during the past year is clearly Maria Semple. But among the nonfiction crowd, who mine their own lives for literature, we strongly recommend Domingo Martinez. His first book, The Boy Kings of Texas, was deservedly short-listed ... more

Best Dance Staging: Sweet Fields

Pacific Northwest Ballet has performed several works by choreographer Twyla Tharp, and this spring that relationship extended to their professional-division students, who gave a marvelous reading of Sweet Fields, Tharp’s exploration of early American and Shaker themes. The grounded simplicity was a distinct challenge to ...more

Best New Dance-Company Member: Cara-Mae Marcus

Cara-Mae Marcus joined Spectrum Dance Theater this year, just in time to serve as the pivot point for artistic director Donald Byrd’s revival of his A Cruel New World/the new normal. Byrd combined three different parts into one grueling role that gave a new continuity to the dance, originally made in response to post-9/11 ...more

Best Freelance Choreographer: Olivier Wevers

When he’s in Seattle, he’s usually working with his own Whim W’him ensemble, but Olivier Wevers has been just as busy out of town, 3 making dances for other companies in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. And one of these works, his very witty The Sofa, which combines a changing roster of partners dancing all around the titular ... more

Best Dancer Under 30: Laura (Gilbreath) Tisserand

As a self-described “tall girl” in a dance form usually filled with petite women, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Laura (Gilbreath) Tisserand has always been easy to spot in the ensemble, but it’s not her height that makes her stand out. She’s been coming into her own as a ballerina, the focal point of a classical picture or the center of ... more

Best Dancer Over 30: Ana Montes

Ana Montes manages to tear up the floor whenever she appears with Carmona Flamenco, but the best way to see her is at one of the duo’s monthly shows at Cafe Solstice. They perform in a cabaret setup on a platform just a bit larger than my tiny kitchen, so Montes’ percussive footwork and slashing arms are right in front of the ...more

Best Burlesque Dancer: Lily Verlaine

My favorite burlesque routine is one I saw performed some years ago by the lovely Lily Verlaine. “Wearing” nothing above the waist but a large bunch of long-stemmed flowers held in front of her—roses or, of course, lilies—she saucily invites audience members to pluck them one by one from her arms. When they’re gone, she exits ... more

Best Local Publisher: Fantagraphics

Fantagraphics recently suffered the loss of its co-publisher, Kim Thompson, to cancer. In a dark irony, the 37-year-old company has never been healthier or more successful. Gary Groth soldiers on, the Georgetown bookstore and art gallery regularly receives famous visitors (Dan Clowes, Joe Sacco, the Hernandez brothers ... more

Best Web Comic: Broodhollow

Kris Straub is known around town for his hilarious webcomic Chairsawsuit, but for Best of Seattle it’s all about his other webcomic, Broodhollow. Less than a year old, Broodhollow is a horror comic that documents the life of Wadsworth Zane, a neurotic encyclopedia salesman. A strange turn of events takes Zane to the small and ... more

Best Arts Comeback: Ark Lodge Cinemas

When the Columbia City Cinema closed a couple of years ago due to problems meeting city code, its regulars were heartbroken. The South End didn’t have any other movie theater, and this was a great one—playing art-house and family-friendly movies alike in a charming, historic building that stood in sharp contrast to soulless ... more

Music

Best New Band: Week of Wonders

Shortly after his band Orca Team went on “indefinite hiatus,” frontman Leif Anders connected with the members of his new band through a love of books—and booze. “We played a couple gigs with the Torn ACLs and Tim [McClanahan], their bassist, was there at the last Orca Team show. He was super-drunk, and afterwards he ... more

Best Album to Listen to With Headphones: Ocean’s Roar

If the Pacific Northwest manifested itself as a human being, it would likely assume the form of Phil Elverum. Under his Mount Eerie moniker, Elverum has the uncanny ability to channel the landscape, often singing from the perspective of the wind, the grass, and the mountains. On Ocean’s Roar, he assumes the persona of the violent ... more

Best Makeout Album: Suchness

The best kissing music is either sweaty, loud rock ’n’ roll or a subtle, sexy soundtrack you can just put on and forget. (Or really any music, depending on whom you’re kissing.) But let’s just say you’re at a party—a really cool, you know, VIP kind of affair—and your host has the chilled-out dream pop of We Are Loud Whispers’ debut ... more

Best Album to Break Stuff To: N V N V N V

On the opening track of Dreamdecay’s N V N V N V, the Seattle quartet lulls the listener into a steady, nauseous haze of guitar feedback and ’verbed-out moaning. Suddenly, halfway through, everything drops out but an eerily quiet drumbeat. NOTE: This is the point at which you and your fellow gang members should menacingly ... more

Best Single: “Burned Body”

Both times I’ve seen Naomi Punk perform, a piece of gear got fried. Neither incident was surprising—the Olympia/Seattle trio punishes its instruments and amps when performing. Travis Coster beats his guitar, thwacking it in criss-cross motions. Drummer Nick Luempert hits his drums like a toddler throwing a tantrum ... more

Best Record Label: Translinguistic Other

“Words are words, but as far as the idea of meaning communicated through words, I feel like there’s a thing that music is trying to get at that’s beneath the words.” So says wizard-bearded David Golightly as he sits in front of a campfire. “The Translinguistic Other,” Emily Pothast says, finishing Golightly’s thought. She is drinking a ... more

Best Hip-Hop Artist: Jarv Dee

Jarv Dee snaps off rhymes that roll and stutter like a snare line; his sinus-whine raps and wide-eyed projection bounce between and over the quarters, eighths, thirds, and everywhere between, creating advanced patterns with ridiculous ease. His knack for rhythm and cadence, viral hook writing, and boisterous personality ...more

Best Vocalist, Female: Julia Shapiro

Julia Shapiro writes really incredible love songs. What’s refreshing is they’re fun love songs. Nobody’s weeping about broken hearts or riding away to a fairy-tale wedding. Shapiro writes about real, dirty, 20-something lust. And she wails about it. Case in point: ... more

Best Vocalist, Male: Arrington De Dionyso

Growing up, a young Arrington De Dionyso recalls owning a book by famous “sound effects guy” Michael Winslow from Police Academy. “He wrote a book about mouth sounds that I had when I was 8 years old. It taught you how to make a bunch of sound effects using just ... more

Best Renaissance Rocker: Shana Cleveland

Surf-rock quartet La Luz is not the only project of frontwoman Shana Cleveland—the singer/songwriter fronts “quietime crooners” Shana Cleveland and the Sandcastles and led the now-defunct K Records group The Curious Mystery. She’s also contributed short stories ... more

Best Producer: Blue Sky Black Death

Blue Sky Black Death may have its roots in indie/true school hip-hop—and the production credits to prove it (Guru, Jean Grae, Holocaust)—but the duo’s cinematic, genre-blurring “experience” albums Late Night Cinema (2008) and Noir (2011), and their accomplished collaborative album Third Party (2010) with Boy in Static vocalist ... more

Best Pop Band: Iji

The state of pop is a curious one these days. Cher, 67, is pop. Cee Lo is pop. Alan Thicke’s son is pop. Perimeters roam free as long as your tunes are catchy. Yes, pop is getting strange, but if Lady Gaga is any indication, that’s what we like. In the genre’s growing—and often weird—sub-ranks is the music of Zach Burba ... more

Best Country Band: The Ganges River Band

You can take the man out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the man. So it goes for Aaron Dugas, who fronts The Ganges River Band and whose vocals sound as though they were lifted straight off a dusty road somewhere in the Lone Star state. “When I moved here from Houston,” Dugas remembers, “I was going to start ... more

Best Punk Band: FF

No, it’s not an abbreviation for Foo Fighters. But FF would probably have been friends with Dave Grohl and co. in the ’90s, though. Channeling Seattle’s grunge heritage and mixing it with Sonic Youth’s slackadaisical tendencies, FF is this year’s punkiest band of punks. Like all good punk bands, FF doesn’t waste your time. Its ... more

Best Electronic Artist: Vox Mod

Scot Porter meticulously hand-drew, frame by frame, the animation for his music video “Iridescent Asteroid Mists.” By laying a piece of transparent acrylic between his legs and turning on a desk lamp, he carefully traced and redrew the fractal shapes that populate the ... more

Best Queer Band: Glitterbang

If Robyn and Peaches had the most club-ready baby in the world, it would be Glitterbang. This February, Joey Veneziani and Nicki Boedigheimer’s LP Occasionally, Love Is War shimmied its chrome butt out among the public and shook it hard enough that you couldn’t help but take notice. Best listened to with lots of neon and ... more

Best Cat Band: Seacats

Studying the litany of animal-derived band names often feels like touring zoo exhibits: “And here we have the elusive Reignwolf . . . ” The convention can be tiresome, but every once in a while you encounter a creature worth observing a bit. A particularly exciting species in ... more

Best Experimental Band: MTNS

Daniel Enders, known colloquially as “Dan the Man” is something of a celebrity in town—partially because he is so recognizable, a large man with long hair usually pinned up under girly berets. Ever-present in the city’s bars and on its sidewalks, he is often walking a number of dogs. He always waves and smiles, a sort of benevolent ... more

Best Rock Band: Rose Windows

There’s a saying: Opinions about rock ’n’ roll are like assholes—everybody’s got one. Well, that’s a variation of the saying, but it’s true anyhow. With so many opinions weighing in, how exactly did hazy psych rockers Rose Windows bag the win this year? Listen to the band’s righteous Sub Pop debut, The Sun Dogs, and hear for ... more

Best Metal Band: Addaura

Addaura frontman Ryan Patterson has worked as a maintenance man at Cornish College of the Arts for 10 years. “I walk every day to work at 6 a.m.” Patterson says. “The city is beautiful at that time, it’s glowing orange and purple. The sun is rising, but the lights are still on.” “City Light,” the first track on Addaura’s excellent LP ... more

Best Tacoma Band(s): ILLFIGHTYOU / A Leaf

The T-Town music scene spurts in ebbs and flows. At times the gritty city to the south is chock-full of intriguing acts, bringing the handful of stages throughout the 253 to life and spreading beyond. At other times, all seems quiet, an eerie calm engulfing the city like a hangover after a night of drunken karaoke at Puget Sound ... more

Best Tribute Band: The Outlaws

Waylon Jennings died of complications from diabetes more than a decade ago, but the country star’s music goes on because of tribute groups like The Outlaws who keep his spirit alive with rowdy versions of “Luckenbach, Texas” and “Good Ol’ Boys.” The Jennings-only pop-up version of Jeremy Manley’s band J.P. & the Geminis, the ... more

Best Busker: Carly Calbero

In Pike Place Market’s crowded arcade, even if you can’t see pint-sized Carly Calbero, you’ll no doubt hear her. The singer/songwriter can pull off a rousing acoustic version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” as easily as she can deliver one of her own self-penned tunes, songs that explode with feeling, carried by her clean and expressive ... more

Best Accompanist: Andrew Joslyn

The way composer/orchestrator/violinist Andrew Joslyn uses a bow, it might as well be a magic wand, allowing him to weave orchestral instruments into various genres including folk, rock, hip-hop, and even dubstep in a way that’s unexpected yet at the same time makes complete sense. Whether he is supporting countless local ... more

Best Musical Utility Player: Michael Harley Notter

Musicians are a notoriously flaky bunch, but guitarist Michael Harley Notter firmly does not fall into that camp. In fact, sometimes you might think he’s two people, because he goes by both Michael Harley and Michael Notter, and his projects—SHIM, Hannalee, and Motopony—keep him endlessly busy. His folk trio Hannalee ... more

Best Music Video: Just a Bill” by Billy the Fridge

If John Waters decided to shoot his next film in Seattle, Billy the Fridge would likely snag the starring role. He’s hard to miss. Billy has a mop of curly hair, weighs 500 pounds, and always wears a chain necklace with a donut hanging from it. He’s also a rapper. Billy’s video ... more

Best New Venue: Heartland

In the immortal words of Rihanna, “We found love in a broken place.” We haven’t asked her, but Rihanna was likely singing about the U District’s new all-ages venue, Heartland, which has already created a thriving community in its relatively short lifetime. When former underground haven Healthy Times Fun Club fell, Seattle’s ... more

Best Rock Club: Crocodile Cafe

I grew up in upstate New York, where the cows far outnumber—at a ratio of, like, 500:1—the music venues. I’ll never forget the story of a friend who, at 15, flew to Seattle to visit her sister, snuck into the Crocodile Cafe, and spotted Peter Buck “just hanging out.” Before I moved here, one of the things I did on my first trip to Seattle ... more

Best Jazz Club: Royal Room

As much as I love perennial favorite Jazz Alley, acts like Ricky Skaggs and The Average White Band who have graced that stage aren’t the first that spring to mind when I think of jazz. Those would be Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, you know? Things are a little different at composer Wayne Horvitz’s Royal Room ... more

Best Underground Venue: The Black Lodge

Recently I went to see L.A.-based band Foot Village at The Black Lodge. When the group started setting up, I realized that they weren’t 3 going to perform on the stage. Rather, they set up a labyrinth of four entangled drum kits right in the middle of the floor, all facing into each other to create a giant tom-tom warship. The audience ... more

Best Vegan Metal Bar: The Highline

This was a very close race, but the winner is The Highline by a soy nugget. Jokes aside, this 3-year-old hardcore Capitol Hill eatery combines dietary activism and ear-splitting distortion like no other establishment in town. While you’re enjoying a severe dose of riffage, you can also enjoy a side of “Satan Fingers” (fried seitan ... more

Best Festival: Mo Wave

When you have Double Duchess, Big Dipper, and Gaytheist all in one place, it’s pretty much impossible not to have fun. This year’s new queer music and arts festival, Mo Wave, was indeed mega-fun. Chop Suey booker Jodi Ecklund conceived the festival as a platform for queer musicians who don’t normally get the spotlight to ... more

Best Hip-Hop Night: LoFi

Amid the boarded tenements and half-built condos on the fringes of the South Lake Union and Eastlake neighborhoods, you’ll find a core group of beatheads who don’t give a damn about your urban-development plan. These are sonic deconstructionists. Every Tuesday for the past seven years, the LoFi performance gallery has ... more

Best Wine/Music Pairing: Rodeo

You wouldn’t think a man who outfits his entire band in white cowboy suits would be a devoted red-wine drinker, but when Brent Amaker (of Brent Amaker and The Rodeo) met vintner Darin Williams of Proletariat Wines at the Capitol Hill Block Party, they discovered they were mutual fans. There and then they conspired to ... more

Best Band Name: Full Toilet

We need more bands like Full Toilet. Screw the pastoral imagery of the current indie-folk zeitgeist, lose the unGoogleable ironic band names. Yes, if you do an image search for Don Sheets’ band, you know what’s going to happen. Yet that’s likely the point—the name’s in line with the band’s primordial punk sound. Imagine Butthole ...more

Nightlife

Best Comedian: Jen Seaman

Being a female stand-up comic isn’t easy. But with a last name recalling one of the English language’s most blatant puns—”What’s long and hard and full of seamen?”—you’re pretty much born into the profession. Comedian Jen Seaman has embraced the calling, quipping “I can’t even wear a pearl necklace.” On being a female ... more

Best New Karaoke Joint: Marco Polo Lounge

Karaoke at the Marco Polo Lounge has always possessed the character and ambience that make sports dives like it great places to want to sing—but, it being located on the industrial side of Georgetown, my Greenwood ass needed a reason other than that real-life NASCAR and its ever-present smell of fried chicken to choose it over the ... more

Best New Karaoke Song: Thrift Shop

After surveying every prominent karaoke host in town to find out what the best new song of the year is (based on frequency of request), “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore was the near-unanimous response. I’ve yet to have the privilege of seeing it performed, but judging by its extreme difficulty level and given my near-20 years of ... more

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