Best of Seattle: Arts & Culture

Featured
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Barbara Mitchell As PR Manager/ "Special Ops" at One Reel, best known for organizing the annual Bumbershoot festival, Barbara Mitchell gives new meaning to the idea of wearing many professional hats. She loads up on extra scarves and gloves, too. more...

Carl Spence SIFF artistic director Carl Spence began working for the festival in the early ’90s, not long after graduating from the UW, when the festival’s parent business was based at the Egyptian. Since then, the festival was mostly nomadic, with no permanent home, using borrowed screens during its month-long annual extravaganza. more...



Guest Bests
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Jonathan Dean Seattle Opera’s Speight Jenkins said it best: “I thought at first it was just a fad... it took me all of three minutes to realize supertitles were opera’s future.” And keeping so focused on that future since 1997 is Jonathan Dean, the author of all titles used for the company’s productions. more...

Matika Wilbur The young photographer Matika Wilbur drove out of Seattle two years ago, leaving her Capitol Hill apartment behind. Her goal for Project 562 is to document members from all of the country’s federally recognized tribes. more...

Wayne Horvitz Keyboardist and composer Wayne Horvitz is known around the country for his inventive, multi-genre music. Once a staple of New York’s avant-garde jazz scene, he and his wife, fellow musician Robin Holcomb, have long resided in Seattle’s South End, which is where he says he usually likes to hang out. more...



Staff Picks
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Visual Arts

Best New Public Artwork
The city is full of traditional totem poles carved by Northwest tribal artists, who bear a distant kinship to the Polynesian creators of Easter Island moai. In SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park, installed this spring, the 46-foot-tall white head that is Echo recalls both cultures of the Pacific. more...

Best Blue-Sky Arts Announcement
Pioneer Square is, simultaneously, a struggling neighborhood and the center of the city’s arts scene—the latter anchored by the gallery/studio warren in the Tashiro Kaplan Building. But how many First Thursday art walkers have paid attention to the ugly, largely empty 1971 building just across the street? more...

Best Gallery Show (Native)
Last month’s exhibit at Gallery4Culture by the Spokane-raised artist Scott Kolbo, recently transplanted to Seattle, was called Our Alley. Inspired by his own childhood, Kolbo recruited his own kids and their pals to play games in such an alley. more...

Best Gallery Show (Visitor)
The Brooklyn duo of Stephen Nguyen and Wade Kavanaugh filled the Suyama Space atrium with 900 pounds of black craft paper last summer. After much twisting and heaping the paper into a knotty, undulating mass of strands, their installation Drawn From the Olympics alluded to the rainforest of our Olympic Peninsula, whence paper products are still extracted from wood pulp. more...

Best-Loved Gallery to Close
Before the Wrights or the Shirleys or other local arts patrons began collecting in Seattle, the tiny postwar gallery scene was represented by the likes of Zoe Dusanne and Otto Seligman. And it was from the latter establishment that Francine Seders got her start in the ’60s. more...

Best Unlikely Resolution to an Art Theft
It’s every artist’s nightmare: You’re invited to show your work in some important, far-off city—well, Salem, Oregon—and the truck transporting your art is stolen. That’s what happened with Whiting Tennis’ stolen paintings last December, resulting in the loss of seven works. more...

Best Museum Exhibit (Visitor)
The winner of its biannual Gwendolyn Knight/Jacob Lawrence Prize, SAM brought young Pennsylvania photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier to town for her Born by a River, which presented both family portraits and vistas of industrial blight in her hometown of Braddock. Her family photos, in which she sometimes appears, are deliberate, intimate scenes of hair braiding, doll collections, sick men in bed, old and gnarled feet and hands. more...

Best Museum Exhibit (Native)
Still on view through September 7, SAM’s all-native show Modernism in the Pacific Northwest: The Mythic and the Mystical focuses primarily on what I call the Big Four: Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, and Guy Anderson. We do see an important selection of their work, including some recent acquisitions on view for the first time. more...

Best Museum News
Sylvia Wolf’s position as museum director just got a little more secure, and the Henry Art Gallery’s budget gained a nice little bump, with the June announcement of John and Shari Behnke’s endowment of her position. John Behnke’s on the Henry’s board (as was his father), and the gift further solidifies the museum’s position in the contemporary art world. more...


Film

Best Indie Cinema Fighting the Good Fight
Now 46 years old, The Grand Illusion Cinema is Seattle’s most venerable indie screening venue, a nonprofit largely run by volunteers and a staunch holdout in the U District’s (ahem) challenging retail landscape. This is the cinema’s 10th year under new management (since the spinoff from Northwest Film Forum), and it’s celebrating with programming as diverse as vintage Chris Marker, new Kim Ki-duk, and an exclusive engagement of the Nick Cave movie 20,000 Days on Earth that will sound all the better on the theater’s new surround-sound system. more...

Best Cinema Innovation
You like Transformers IV at the local mall? We prefer Snowpiercer with a nice IPA. more...

Best New Movie Star
Opening here August 22 at the Guild 45th and Lincoln Square, the indie road-trip movie Land Ho! has already received strong notices. The New York Times calls the comedy, about two divorced older gents visiting Iceland, “delightful,” and the Village Voice’s Amy Nicholson had special praise for Paul Eenhoorn, writing, “He holds the screen with an unassuming humility, the kind of power Fred MacMurray used to have. He plays his crank with the affectionate, tough, self-mocking tone of a skeptic reluctantly pounding the bongos at a drum circle.” more...

Best Source for Region 3 J-Horror DVDs
There are some things you just can’t find on the Internet. You can look up certain movies on IMDb, sure, but to actually watch them is a different matter (with subtitles, a sharp picture, etc.). more...


Theater & Performance

Best Stage Production
One of the lesser-known side stories in Superman comics concerned “the bottled city” of Kandor, which the evil half-man/half-machine Brainiac kept as a souvenir after taking both the city and its occupants hostage from Krypton via shrinking ray. Much in the same way—without the evil—Village Theatre director Steve Tomkins in November mounted a jewel-box-sized version of Les Misérables which, despite its small scale, never lost the power or epic grace of the original Broadway smash. more...

Best Stage Adaptation
Five hours, folks. That’s what we were in for at Book-It’s epic June adaptation of Michael Chabon’s epic Pulitzer-winner The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which spans 1938–54 as two cousins build and destroy a comic-book empire. more...

Best Response to an Offstage Tragedy
Jerry Manning’s unexpected death this May, following a heart procedure, was a huge blow for the Seattle theater community—extending far beyond Seattle Repertory Theatre. He’d been there since 2000 and had served as artistic director since 2010. more...

Best Stage Provocation
Jerry Springer: The Opera’s savage view of American culture makes The Book of Mormon look about as audacious as a Full House episode, and the cast of Balagan Theatre’s January production took the full measure of the show’s outrage and bile. Most memorably: Brandon Felker as Springer himself in a skillful sendup of the trash-TV host’s faux-paternalism; Kevin Douglass, double-cast as (are you sitting down?) Jesus Christ and a diaper fetishist; and Lindsey Larson, who landed an emotional sucker punch as a stripper selling the hell out of an unexpectedly moving “I Just Wanna Dance.” more...

Best Dance Production
Two of the works that Mark Morris Dance Group brought home to Seattle at the Paramount over Valentine’s Day weekend—Love Song Waltzes and its companion, New Love Song Waltzes—were excellent examples of Morris’ ability to capture the rhythmic heart of a score. But in Socrates, a movement essay illustrating the death of the philosopher, set to Erik Satie’s ultra-spare work, the choreographer found the simplest of kinetic analogies—as the cast gradually “dies,” they lay down on the floor like tired children. more...

Best Dance Moment
Salt Horse’s Color Field filled odd corners and back hallways at Northwest Film Forum in March with eccentric moments, but the final one was the most stunning. Belle Wolf was cocooned in a brilliant yellow sheet while the lights were on, only to flap it wildly when the lights were off. more...

Best Road Gig
The most-anticipated concert in Spring for Music, the most-anticipated classical-music festival in New York City’s season, the Seattle Symphony’s performance in Carnegie Hall in May got a thrilling but accidental publicity boost when John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean—an SSO commission that the orchestra had decided months earlier would be one of the pieces they’d show off to the Big Apple—won a Pulitzer just before the trip. more...

Best Legacy
If Seattle Opera’s founder, Glynn Ross, made a name for the company as improbably ambitious—presenting Wagner’s Ring, the genre’s vastest challenge, in what was in the ’70s still a bit of a cultural backwater—his successor Speight Jenkins established high standards in every other area: artistic excellence, a beautifully refurbished home, financial stability (only in a few recession-racked seasons has the budget remained unbalanced), and an uncommon drive to attract new and young audiences and push the art form forward. more...


Books & Beyond

Best Literary Reissue
First published in 1956, John Okada’s debut novel was essentially forgotten twice. No-No Boy was hardly read in the ’50s, then rediscovered in the ’70s (thanks in part to a 1976 SW story by Frank Chin) and republished by the University of Washington Press in 1979. more...

Best Comics Incubator
Led by its mustachioed editor Marc Palm, The Intruder quarterly comics compendium has become the clarion call of Seattle’s new guard of alt-comix masterminds. Not since the ’90s heyday of Pete Bagge and Jim Woodring has our city been blessed with such a glut of amazing illustrators. more...

Best Comic Convention
When I walked into Short Run last year, I had no idea it was going to change my life. By the end of the night I’d met some of the most inspiring local artists I’d ever come into contact with, and carried out an enormous haul of indie comics. more...

Best Local Internet Celebrity
Every day, Lindy West wakes up, trudges through hordes of horrifying baby-men who threaten her on the Internet, and proceeds to get her feminist on via her brilliant writing at Jezebel.com. Thank God she does—in a world where Hobby Lobby can steamroll through the Supreme Court at the expense of women’s right to their bodies, we need her now more than ever. more...


Music

Best Rock Band
As Hobosexual, Ben Harwood and Jeff Silva aren’t the only guitar/drums duo in town, but they’re the most badass. With detuned fuzzy guitars and hard-grooving riffs, the pair has been pummeling the Pacific Northwest with their stoner rock since 2010. more...

Best Metal Band
Over the years, metal has become so laden with heavy subgenres that it’s getting harder to apply the original term to any band. But no one in town is doing heavy better than Great Falls. more...

Best Underage Band
Tigerlily, Bird, and Emiko Cooley are Bleachbear, arguably the coolest teen girls in Seattle right now. Thoughtful, intelligent, and talented, it’s hard to believe they’re between 14 and 16. more...

Best Queer Band
Wishbeard have a self-proclaimed “boy band” following among queer teenage girls. Beyond lead singer Bryn Santillan’s cameo in Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm” video, there’s good reason—these ladies aren’t only dreamy personalities, they also craft some of Seattle’s dreamiest music. more...

Best Punk Band
Black Flag’s masculine shirtless shouting be damned—with all the screaming and bodily fluids involved, nothing’s more punk rock than squeezing another human being out of you. Seattle supergroup Childbirth upped the punx on everyone this year by slipping on maternity gowns and putting out a cassette, with a fetus wearing shades on the cover, called It’s a Girl! more...

Best Side Project
Tendai “Baba” Maraire’s father Dumi single-handedly brought the beautiful sounds of the mbira to U.S. shores in the ’70s during his time as an ethnomusicologist at the UW. Tendai carried on the legacy by blending the sounds of that haunting African thumb piano with avant-hip-hop as half of Seattle’s celebrated Shabazz Palaces. more...

Best Musical Utility Player
While at Cornish, 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist Lena Simon dabbled in a little bit of a lot, studying everything from classical clarinet (her most proficient instrument) and composing music for Javanese gamelan while joining three widely respected indie bands: Pollens, Tomten, and Throw Me the Statue. Last year she added Kairos, her new electronic project, to the load, and it’s since signed to the recently defunct Fin Records. more...

Best Jazz Combo
Over the past year, there has been almost-unanimous praise for Industrial Revelation from the Seattle music press. After the release of the curt and courteous LP Oak Head last fall, the quartet became the first full-fledged jazz combo in a while to break out of the dark and dusty confines of jazzdom, edging its way into the slightly brighter lights of the local music mainstream. more...

Best Club DJs
For all Seattle accomplishes on the indie, folk, electro, and hip-hop circuits, its one Achilles heel is the largely lukewarm club scene. That’s why when the DJs of the Emerald City Soul Club roll into Lo-Fi the second Saturday of every month, toting crates upon crates of obscure soul records, tastemaking, dance-starved night owls freak out in the best way possible. more...

Best Country Artist
We’ve dubbed him Seattle’s “man of pedal steel,” and for good reason. Country Dave Harmonson—when not playing with Cahalen Morrison and Country Hammer, Ganges River Band, Country Lips, Annie Ford Band, the Swearengens, Side Saddle, T & D Revue, Tequila Rose, Wes Jones Band, Papillion Saints, or Zoe Muth—leads his own group, Country Dave’s Pickin’ Crew, a twang-tinged country band of the highest order. Whether it’s a Waylon cover you’re craving or just the lively reverb of lap steel guitar, with his own group or one of his friends’, Country Dave delivers and then some. more...

Best Roots Band
Though the pair has lately branched out in pursuit of other collaborations and solo work, the Seattle country-folk world would feel the loss should Cahalen Morrison and Eli West go their own ways altogether. Their latest release, I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both Hands, is the duo’s best yet, a string-filled (specifically banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, dobro, and guitar-filled) Pacific Northwest folk story with songs like the sprightly minor-keyed “Fiddlehead Fern” and the roving river chantey “Off the Chama.” more...

Best Cat Band
Here at Seattle Weekly HQ, we consider suggestions for this “cat-egory” with the utmost seriousness. Cats, as we know, rule the Internet, and such power (as we are often reminded by the Maru and Grumpy Cat vids that interrupt our workflow daily) is not to be taken lightly. more...

Best Pop Band
Great pop music nods to the past, often in the form of certain musical tropes, while feeling like the future, often in the form of youthful enthusiasm. Enter Cumulus, an Anacortes-born band that in the past year has become a Seattle standard, playing shows that burst with bright, jangly joy while harkening back to the best indie pop of the ’90s. more...

Best Hip-Hop Artist
Raz Simone’s 2014 started with a bang, with the announcement that he was the first rapper to sign to Lyor Cohen’s new venture, 300 Entertainment. His meteoric rise to success might surprise some: Simone has released only two EPs and this year’s brilliant full-length Cognitive Dissonance: Part One. more...

Best R&B Artist
Otieno Terry was the winner at this year’s EMP underage band competition, SoundOFF!, pulling the audience in from his first note to his very last. Of the two rounds he competed in, each began with a silent room accented only by his crystal-clear voice ringing and singing a spoken-word melody out across the space. more...

Best Busker
Categorizing herself as alternative soul, Whitney Mongé has poured everything, including her soul, into music. Spending most of her days, year-round, busking outside the choice spots at Pike Place Market (a position she worked hard for, after years performing on the Market’s less-desirable cobblestone walkways), Mongé opens herself to every passer by hoping to make a connection. more...

Best Band Name
Toke up, Seattle! You legalized pot. In this dusky-green era in the Emerald City, we are blessed not only with the ability to freely purchase a multitude of marijuana varieties, but also the chance to listen to two different bands named Weed. more...

Best Cover Band
Does the world really need more Radiohead? Probably not. But one thing we could all use a little more of is the music of the Pablo Honeys, Seattle’s all-female Radiohead tribute band. more...

Best Electronic Artist
At a glance, electronic music can seem at odds with the natural—which is why Manatee Commune, aka 20-year-old Grant Eadie, is such an interesting artist. Rather than pulling from the mechanic inspirations of mainstays like Aphex Twin or the cosmic leanings of more contemporary artists like Flying Lotus, Eadie infuses his beats with the lush sounds of the Pacific Northwest landscape that surrounds his native Bellingham. more...

Best Collaborator
Technically he’s no longer a Seattleite. If you really want to be specific, composer and Bainbridge Island native Jherek Bischoff’s not much of a permanent resident anywhere these days, splitting his time among L.A., New York, and, in September, here, when he’ll take the Moore stage supported by a string quartet and other musicians like Zac Pennington of Parenthetical Girls. This one-off show (performed in two sets) is tucked in among projects with David Byrne (who contributed to his latest record, Composed), playing bass and writing songs for the Kronos Quartet, touring with Amanda Palmer, etc. more...

Best Collaboration
Named after a Star Wars assassin droid, local ambient artist IG88 detected the high midi-chlorian count in R&B jedi Shaprece, and the two have proceeded to become the most formidable musical duo in the Galaxy (or in Seattle, at least). Shaprece’s gorgeous, stirring vocals weave through IG88’s chopped-up tapestry of fluttering, orchestral rhythms on the duo’s incredible new Molting EP—a triumph considering the high bar the two had already set on their one-two punch of a debut single, “Tell Me/Her Song.” more...

Best Band From Everett
EMP’s 21-and-under music competition, Sound Off!, has an uncanny way of opening a window of sorts onto Seattle’s hottest bands of the future. Oddly, it’s not always the first-place winners who take off, as is the case with Fauna Shade, who lost in this year’s final round. more...

Best Music Variety Show
If you want to get to know a band, don’t ask “What’s your preshow ritual?” Instead, take them out on a lake in a goddamn hot-tub boat. more...

Best Local Music Doc
In a town that’s seen some of its most beloved watering holes and venues shutter to make way for urban development, local director Ryan Worsley’s worthwhile documentary, Razing the Bar, is an intimate portrait of yet another space to recently bite the dust: the Funhouse. The doc relates the legendary punk bar’s history as a gritty arts incubator, exploring not only the tightknit community that revolved around the club, but also gentrification, always a charged topic in booming Seattle. more...

Best Music Video
It is rare to see a music video that captures the spirit of a song without becoming a slave to it. Yet such is the case with the video for Iska Dhaaf’s song “Happiness,” directed by Stephan Gray. more...

Best Record Label
Ballard’s Light in the Attic had a banner year. Rather than filling a niche or focusing on a genre, the 12-year-old label has continued to rely on quality above all else, releasing interesting compilations from a wide swath of artists, from the recent Mark Lanegan anthology to a collection of self-published New Age music spanning 40 years. more...

Best Producer
What qualifies Charlie Smith for this designation is the fact that he has produced four of the best albums to come out of Seattle in the past year—the debut full-length by Kairos; what could be a breakout for rapper/singer Katie Kate; a transfixing release from Cock & Swan; and the first album from Pillar Point, the infectious new project from Scott Reithermann (Throw Me the Statue). But it is the shared nature of those releases—all adventurous, sometimes difficult, albums that defy pop convention without sacrificing likability—that seal it for the emergent producer. more...

Best A&R
Okay, okay, so technically Ishmael Butler has only signed one act to Sub Pop since becoming an A&R man for them last year. Unofficially, his Shabazz Palaces collaboration with THEESatisfaction helped net Sub Pop the incredible awE naturalE, one of the best local releases in 2012, before Butler was on staff. more...

Best Local Album
There are so many things to like about Katie Kate’s sophomore release, Nation. Her mixture of hip-hop, EDM backing beats, and that sultry voice, slipping through lyrics like silk off a shoulder, is hard to resist. more...

Best Makeout Album
“I won’t even step on my own rug with my shoes/But if you want to/Walk those pretty Jeffrey Campbell heels into my bedroom”—quite the lines to start an album with. In that regard Digital Wildlife, easily The Physics’ most relentlessly sexy album yet, never lets up. more...

Best Album to Break Stuff To
If at first the word “lovers” doesn’t have you entertaining thoughts of a dish-destroying rampage, by the time you’re through with Constant Lovers’ Experience Feelings, chances are you’ll be ready to rage. From the drone-steady sludge of opening track “Mush Teeth” to the axe-shredding and urgent polyrhythms of “Cry Me a River,” this album pumps you up and inspires the absolute destruction of such things as: anything your ex gave you, any home furnishing you’ve grown tired of, and/or anything in your home that’s already broken (natch). more...

Best Good Idea to Die
With both a world-class music scene and a large tech community, Seattle seemed like the perfect locale for Lively, a music startup that made live concert video and audio available on smartphones for a small fee. The company raised over $2 million, built out a large office and performance space in SoDo, and had strong support from the local music community, but despite offerings from the Pixies, Lisa Loeb, and Aer, the company simply ran out of cash and was forced to lay off the bulk of their staff.

Best Band to Break Up
The end of The Lonely Forest is notable not for what the music world lost with the departure of the anthemically inclined and emotionally forthright pop band, but for the dashed hopes it signified. When the band announced, before its Sasquatch! appearance this spring, that it was going on “indefinite hiatus,” it spelled an official end to an optimistic run that started with a win at the Sound Off! under-21 band battle at EMP in 2006 and was quickly followed by its signing to a major label and some help from Death Cab for Cutie guitarist and noted producer Chris Walla. more...

Best Comeback
I once heard someone describe Blood Brothers vocalist Johnny Whitney’s voice as “Lisa Simpson getting strangled.” Coincidentally, that’s also the sound the band’s grieving army of fans made when the beloved group announced its split in 2007 after releasing its brutally brilliant final album, Young Machetes. While they might not get the credit, Blood Brothers’ batshit-crazy take on post-hardcore puts them right up there in the PNW musical hall of fame with Hendrix, Nirvana, and Modest Mouse, which is why their recently announced reunion has so many frothing at the mouth. more...

Best Venue
Sure, as of today, The Sunset Tavern is closed. But get a load of what owner Max Genereaux has in store for its long-planned renovation, slated to reopen in September: more floor space for live shows and a new lounge for those who just want to have a drink—and Sunset 2.0 is going to be better than ever. more...

Best Live Show
I last caught Kithkin at the Crocodile for its CD release show with Master Musicians of Bukkake. That band’s psychedelic brand of goth doom metal coupled with the front man’s terrifying stage getup (which conjured images of an unholy tryst between True Detective’s Reggie Ledoux and Bob from Twin Peaks) prompted many to leave, a few muttering, “This is the scariest shit I’ve ever seen.” more...



Geek Pick
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Best Geeky Museum
Known for its amazing collection of music stuff, Experience Music Project Museum has been a Seattle treasure since its construction in 2000. However, it doesn’t cater only to music geeks—within the metal bubblegum structure exists a haven for science-fiction and pop-culture geeks as well. more ...

 
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