Best of Seattle 2018: Arts & Entertainment

Best Musical Act


After years, 2018 finally (finally!) saw Thunderpussy put out the its self-titled debut LP. So how does a band survive—heck, even thrive, continually booking big festival gigs—for such an extended time without releasing a proper album? Simple: Put on a kick-ass rock-and-roll live show. The women of Thunderpussy distill pretty much every classic rock band—from AC/DC to Led Zeppelin to Aerosmith—into a tight cohesive sound with razor’s-edge sharpness, then unleash it in a swagger-filled fury when they hit the stage. As you may have guessed by—I dunno, the name Thunderpussy—there’s nothing subtle about the presentation. Singer Molly Sides leads the band’s hard-rock warriors with her howling rallying cries and a slithering, contorting onstage sensuality that makes the most of her dance background; Whitney Petty melts hardened old rock dudes’ faces with her guitar solos; and Leah Julius (bass) and Ruby Dunphy (drums) keep the party train’s rhythm chugging steadily on the tracks. A wise man once sang, “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ’n’ roll.” Well, Thunderpussy’s come a long way, so don’t expect Seattle’s Best Musical Act to stop rocking anytime soon. | | SETH SOMMERFELD

#2 Rise Up | #3 Old Coast

Brandi Carlile. Photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Brandi Carlile. Photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Best Singer-Songwriter

Brandi Carlile

With her new album, By the Way, I Forgive You, local legend Brandi Carlile further established herself as not only one of the premier voices in Americana, but also one of its most empathetic songwriters. The album’s lead single, “The Joke,” contemplates how difficult our lives can be both externally and internally, and points to the recognition that we might do better to understand one another with more depth than, say, simply social-media status updates. When Carlile finished the record, she told KEXP, “I realized it was about this big, ugly, difficult process of forgiveness. I just feel like, as life happens to us, and to me personally, I’ve felt a need quite often to forgive myself for things I’m not proud of.” And just as forgiveness goes a long way, so has Carlile’s extensive career. It seems the poet/singer is finally getting the recognition she deserves, lately appearing on myriad late-night talk shows, sharing the Safeco Field stage with Pearl Jam, getting a restaurant named after her (The Carlile Room), and selling tens of thousands of copies of her stunning LP. | | JACOB UITTI

#2 Sarah Gerritsen | #3 Megan Moreau

DoNormaal. Photo by Melissa Hellmann

DoNormaal. Photo by Melissa Hellmann

Best Hip-Hop Act


Seattle rapper DoNormaal (aka Christianne Karefa-Johnson) likens the evolution of her music to her own pursuit of self-actualization. Growing up as an introvert and one of the only students of color in California classrooms, then later at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, she built a rich inner world out of necessity. “It took me a while to feel really comfortable being myself,” DoNormaal said, sitting on a couch in her Ballard apartment. “I think I always knew the magic of who I was and that all of the things that made me different … benefited and fed me, and made me who I was.” Her music serves as a tool to communicate with the outside world.

At once psychedelic, vulnerable, and hopeful, DoNormaal’s brand of hip-hop draws on a strong sense of self and the dualities of her own personhood. Since moving to Seattle five years ago, she’s carved out an identity as a highly productive, constantly gigging, thoughtful and experimental rapper who displays her inner triumphs and struggles like a badge of honor. Seattle Weekly sat down with Johnson to discuss self-love, spirituality, and finding inspiration in unlikely places.

How does Seattle’s music scene and culture influence your sound?

Seattle’s a place where there’s this out-of-the-box, unconventional feel that I think definitely matches up with my sound. I think a lot of my influences from my sound come from my childhood and my family, and having this hodgepodge of influences growing up my whole life. I had a pretty solid sound in the beginning when I first moved here, but just being here and in an openness creatively definitely helped me to experiment more and try new things.

Your latest album, Third Daughter, seems to center around a strong sense of self and looking inward, particularly in the songs “Emotional” and “Ego Slave.” What brought you to that point?

I’ve always been very introspective and introverted, and spending a lot of time in my own head, and contemplating life and my feelings. I’ve always been very sensitive and I’ve always written since I was really little, so I think that’s just a natural part of my creative expression— a lot of looking inward and trying to describe to people this really vibrant, colorful inner world that I’ve created over all of these years.

Do you have any routines or practices that help you cultivate a healthy self-esteem?

I talk to myself a lot, ever since I was little, by calming myself down and self-soothing. There’s duality in everybody, and I’ve used that to represent different sides of myself. So one side of myself is maybe more confident about something, and talks to the less-confident side of myself and vice versa. I’ve always had a lot of sides of myself communicating with each other, and that’s how I help myself get through hard times. I think that I very much have one foot in the spiritual realm at all times. I feel very connected to my ancestors and to the people I love who have passed, to the world, to the sun and the sky. I pray a lot. In my everyday life, I feel pretty grounded in that.

What are you currently drawing inspiration from in terms of music or art?

I’ve always really loved reggae music—all Caribbean music, really. I feel like it’s always been a part of my sound in an ancestral and cultural way, because I have lots of family from there. So I really want to explore that more, maybe make a reggae-inspired album with island vibes.

I’ve been feeling very inspired by a lot of comedians, and thinking about ways that through my music, or through other art forms, I can play around with the social agreements and flip things on its head and create these different realities for people to enjoy.

I really like scary movies, thrillers and horrors. I really like what Jordan Peele has been doing with Get Out and his new one coming out next year. That’s a whole other thing that inspires me, that he’s taking these real-life situations like racism and using these metaphors and these stories to reflect back what is really happening in our society.

Those are things that are inspiring me—to reflect what’s going on in our society right now back in a way that opens up their minds and that’s funny and trickstery. Paradigm shifts. | | MELISSA HELLMANN

#2 Sir Mix-a-Lot | #3 Travis Thompson

The Davanos.

The Davanos.

Best Rock Band

The Davanos

The Davanos are very, very good at what they do. Since 2003, the group has delivered ace classic-rock musicanship and built a loyal following. But what does it say when the group voted Seattle Weekly’s Best Cover Band in 2011 earns Best Rock Band in 2018? How did y’all vote Thunderpussy to be the Best Musical Act, but only the third Best Rock Band? What’s going on? Seattle rock music isn’t stagnant, but that a cover band would beat all the great up-and-coming modern acts is quite frankly depressing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a ripping set of covers from the Davanos, but is that really what y’all feel is currently the pinnacle of the city’s rock-music scene? Try harder. | | SS

#2 Pearl Jam | #3 Thunderpussy

Kenny G. Photo by Chapman Baehler

Kenny G. Photo by Chapman Baehler

Best Jazz Artist

Kenny G

Kenny G is a genius. While we understand he may not be everyone’s cup of jazz tea, the curly-haired, strong-featured musician is known around the globe because the dude plays songs people like to hear. And that’s a gift. Kenny G’s style is effortless. He’s a breeze through a cloudless sky. His lilting alto saxophone moves like a Mini Cooper through an open highway. And while it’s easy to crack on the guy for all his success over more than 30 years, the Seattle-born musician—who burst on the scene with his 1986 release Duotones—is doing what he loves and pleasing his many listeners, from concert halls to dentist offices alike (he’s also been making more frequent stops at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in recent years). Who else can boast a world record like holding the longest note ever recorded on a sax (an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds), appear in Super Bowl ads (Kenny’s finally embraced his comedic undertone), and work with the likes of Whitney Houston, Babyface, and Foster the People? What’s not to like? | | JU

#2 Diane Schuur | #3 Phil Sparks

Macklemore. Photo by by Ryan McKinnon

Macklemore. Photo by by Ryan McKinnon

Best Pop Artist


Since breaking out into superstardom in 2012, no Seattle musician has been 1/100th as polarizing as Macklemore. Legions love him; legions loathe him … and both sides have legitimate cases. That said, there is simply no denying that some of his singles are beyond catchy. Even if you’re not on-board lyrically, you’re really gonna stand here and say that “Can’t Hold Us,” “Thrift Shop,” “Glorious,” and “Downtown” aren’t hooky-as-hell pop songs? Get out of here with that nonsense. To be frank, it’s the choruses that have allowed Macklemore to steal the spotlight from other MCs, and that’s because his formula of outsourcing them has worked brilliantly. If critics just accepted that he’s a rapper who makes banger pop songs instead of focusing on what he means for “real hip-hop,” maybe we could just enjoy some radio-friendly jams and focus more on the fact that Macklemore constantly reps our city and continually tries to uplift in the local youth hip-hop community. | | SS

#2 Susan G | #3 Michete

Odesza. Photo by Tonje Thilesen/Shore Fire Media

Odesza. Photo by Tonje Thilesen/Shore Fire Media

Best Electronic Music Act


The chasm of success between Odesza and everyone else in Seattle’s electronic-music scene is frankly hard to fathom—it’s not a big fish in a small pond, it’s a blue whale in a fish tank. The duo of Harrison Mills and Clayton night have garnered two Billboard-topping Dance/Electronic albums (2014’s In Return and 2017’s A Moment Apart) and garnered hundreds of millions of streams with their chillwave indietronica sound. While the mainstream might think all EDM is about blaring builds waiting for the beat to drop, Odesza goes down ultra-smooth, with melodic, dreamy soundscapes that feel perfect for drifting aimlessly on warm, starry nights. It’s not a fluke that Odesza has headlined both Bumbershoot and Capitol Hill Block Party or sold out back-to-back-to-back nights at The Paramount. That’s what happens when you make electronic music that appeals to both the most extreme EDM kids and casual music-lovers alike. | | SS

#2 Jenn Champion | #3 Nark

Best of Seattle 2018: Arts & Entertainment

Best Record Label

Sub Pop Records

With Sub Pop recently celebrating its 30th anniversary (with the excellent SPF30 event at Alki Beach), plenty of words have been spilled about how the record label is forever embedded in Seattle’s musical DNA. While many rightfully look back at the acts that formed the label’s foundation and started the grunge movement (hello, Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Soundgarden) and the onslaught of eclectic breakout acts that came after (nice to see you, Fleet Foxes, the Shins, The Postal Service, Shabazz Palaces, and even Flight of the Conchords), perhaps the most stunning thing about Sub Pop is how relevant the label remains. In a time when recorded music is becoming increasingly devalued, Sub Pop’s releases by acts like Father John Misty, Beach House, clipping., Frankie Cosmos, and Downtown Boys still feel like they actually matter. (Heck, Sub Pop’s stellar subsidiary label, Hardly Art—home to local standouts TacocaT, Chastity Belt, Dude York, and others—even came in second in the voting.) Sub Pop has never rested on its laurels, and that’s why it’s still vital. | | SS

#2 Hardly Art | #3 Barsuk Records

Easy Street Records. Photo by Ryan Cory

Easy Street Records. Photo by Ryan Cory

Best Record Store

Easy Street Records

Amid constant change in Seattle, some things remain thankfully constant. While the city frets over the demolition of music spaces like The Showbox (Best Music Venue), Seattle’s most important record store remains in West Seattle. This year, Easy Street Records turned 30. Owner Matt Vaughan, who opened Easy Street while college-aged, has seen nearly every important Seattle band pass through his store. Easy Street has sold thousands of albums and hosted in-store performances, and even boasts a cafe (which offers items like a Woody Guthrie Farmers Omelet and New Wave O’s Rancheros), but all the while it has remained true to its local roots. Look no further than the prominent presentation of local albums near the register. | | JU

#2 Sonic Boom Records | #3 Wall of Sound

The Showbox. Photo by Josh Kelety

The Showbox. Photo by Josh Kelety

Best Music Venue

The Showbox

In case you’re not keeping up with the news, Seattleites love their Showbox. When news broke in July that foreign developers might tear down the beloved venue to build high-rise luxury apartments, the music community responded with righteous fury. The #SaveTheShowbox movement quickly garnered massive local support from fans and local icons like Death Cab for Cutie, Pearl Jam, and Macklemore. And it’s not hard to see why. With its top-notch sound system, solid acoustics, two-side wrap-around bar, and spring-loaded floor, there’s really not a bad place to watch the show in the 1,100-capacity venue. On top of that, The Showbox has history dating back to Seattle’s jazz boom. It’s not only hosted many of the best touring acts in musical history, it’s always been the dream venue for local acts hoping to hit it big, the indication that they’ve made it: One day, we’re gonna headline The Showbox. While its future might still be murky and uncertain (though the #SaveTheShowbox movement was able to get the City Council to at least temporarily block its demolition for 10 months), Seattle’s love for the venue is crystal-clear. | | SS

#2 Kremwerk | #3 The Triple Door

Timber! Outdoor Music Festival. Photo by Neon Tide

Timber! Outdoor Music Festival. Photo by Neon Tide

Best Festival

Timber! Outdoor Music Festival

More and more summer music festivals seem to pop up each year. But it also seems that fewer and fewer understand how to treat their artists and patrons with the exquisite care that Timber! Outdoor Music Festival provides. The weekend event at the outdoor oasis that is Carnation, Wash.’s Tolt-MacDonald Park offers a familial vibe, where you can see old friends or meet new ones while taking in tremendous music with a local lean. Timber! is never about flash or celebrity. It’s not a place to be seen for being seen’s sake. Rather, it’s about thoughfulness and the reasons we all fell in love with music in the first place—sharing a common sonic appreciation with artists and fellow art lovers—while doing so in a picturesque location just outside Seattle.

Founded in 2013 by Artist Home impresario Kevin Sur, Timber! might not have the deepest pockets, but it’s the little things that make it worth going to year in and year out. Artist Home takes the production of fun seriously. In addition to the music, Timber! attendees can spend time on outdoor activities like kayaking, swimming, stargazing, and roasting s’mores by the campfire. (Timber! was such a summery sucess that Artist Home decided to add a winter counterpart, the aptly named Timbrrr!, which takes place each January in Leavenworth.)

While other festivals like Bumbershoot or Capitol Hill Block Party may attract massive audiences with bigger-name acts, Timber! is never guilty of showcasing sub-par bands. Sur’s keen ear and expert talent buying has brought in standouts like Car Seat Headrest, Langhorne Slim, the Dead Milkmen, Chastity Belt, the Black Tones, Industrial Revelation, the Moondoggies, and Gifted Gab. When you’re able to bring that kind of music together with a true sense of summer, it’s no wonder our readers love it. | | JU

#2 Seattle PrideFest | #3 Northwest Folklife Festival



Best Nightclub


Nightclubs—the worthwhile ones, anyway—are more than places to dance and get drunk. Great nightclubs are little crevices where the dictates of polite society evaporate. No place in Seattle achieves this more consistently than the Kremwerk Complex. When mother/son duo Nicole and Austin Stone opened the club in a basement in the Denny Triangle in 2014, it quickly became a premier venue for cutting-edge electronic music. Since then, Kremwerk has expanded both physically and ideologically with the addition of the above-ground Timbre Room and Little Maria’s Pizza. It still hosts some of the most interesting DJ sets around, but also boasts live music and a roster of freewheeling, experimental drag events that have helped usher in Seattle’s current drag renaissance. Monthly events like Cucci’s Critter Barn, Thriftease, and Rapture have expanded the notion of what Seattle’s queer nightlife is and does, and a whole coterie of young performers has sprung up in response. More than anything else, this is what makes Kremwerk the best nightclub in town: For many of Seattle’s weirdos, artists, queers, music fans, and whoever else can scrounge up the cover price, it feels like home.| | SAMUEL CHAPMAN

#2 The Triple Door | #3 Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley

Cinerama. Photo courtesy Seattle Cinerama

Cinerama. Photo courtesy Seattle Cinerama

Best Movie Theater


There’s not just a lot of competition for your free time, there’s a lot of competition specifically for your movie time. And the Cinerama stakes its claim by being the place that—like none other in the area—makes moviegoing feel like an event. Other theaters (SIFF’s screens, the Grand Illusion, Northwest Film Forum) are as reverently devoted to the religion of film, but they can’t match Cinerama’s single-screen grandeur: spacious seats, state-of-the-art sound, and a screen designed for epic film formats. It’s just the place for Thursday-at-midnight blockbuster openings (I saw all eight Harry Potter premieres there), but it also honors its roots with events like the 70mm Film Festival (Sept. 7–20). This year’s lineup includes Vertigo, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Sound of Music, E.T., Lawrence of Arabia, and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. And also Howard the Duck. | | GAVIN BORCHERT

#2 SIFF Cinema Egyptian | #3 SIFF Cinema Uptown

5th Avenue Theatre. Photo by Dick Busher

5th Avenue Theatre. Photo by Dick Busher

Best Performance Venue

5th Avenue Theatre

As a producer, in addition to the touring shows it hosts, the invaluable 5th Avenue Theatre scores big on two fronts. It’s Seattle’s prime purveyor of full-dress, thoughtful, and above all affectionate productions of Golden Age musicals that, however fondly remembered, don’t get staged quite as often as they deserve: Damn Yankees, The Pajama Game, Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Candide, to name only a few. The 5th also works to add to that canon by nurturing shows in their early years before they go on to Broadway runs and national tours of their own: The Wedding Singer, Catch Me if You Can, and the king—better yet, queen—of them all, 2002’s Hairspray, which eventually spawned a blockbuster Broadway hit, a second movie adaptation, a live TV production, and a recent Village Theatre staging that largely recreated the magic for those who, thanks to the 5th’s gamble, could look back and say “We saw it when.” The two functions are connected: Because the 5th’s love for the classics has made its audience enthusiastic and discerning, it’s gotten a reputation as a great place to launch shows. | | GB

#2 McCaw Hall | #3 Café Nordo

Century Ballroom.

Century Ballroom.

Best Place to Dance

Century Ballroom

#2 Stripped Screw Burlesque | #3 Can Can Culinary Cabaret

Seattle Art Museum. Photo by Natali Wiseman

Seattle Art Museum. Photo by Natali Wiseman

Best Museum

Seattle Art Museum

It can’t be overstated how much having a truly world-class art museum means to Seattle. In a city in flux, the Seattle Art Museum serves as a stable pillar of the cultural community. From the overhanging entrance-way marvel of John Grade’s sculpted tree (Middle Fork) to the museum’s exquisite core collection of Native American art to the rotating special exhibits, SAM operates on many different elite levels simultaneously thanks to a sharp curatorial staff. Recent years have seen the museum host exhibits like Kehinde Wiley’s A New Republic and Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, which doubled as jaw-dropping showcases of modern masterworks and blockbuster cultural happenings. But SAM has still provided space for stunning smaller displays, like a rare full presentation of Jacob Lawrence’s stunning The Migration Series. Throw in its educational outreach, free admission on First Thursdays, and the late-night soirées of SAM Remix, and you’ve really got a museum with something to offer everyone in Seattle.| | SS

#2 MoPop | #3 Frye Art Museum

Frye Art Museum. Photo by Mark Woods

Frye Art Museum. Photo by Mark Woods

Best Art Gallery

Frye Art Museum

It’s a museum, not a gallery, strictly speaking, but we understand why you love the Frye. First off, it’s free, and accessibility matters. Also, like the 5th Avenue (see above), it thrives on an old-vs.-new dual mission statement. It was founded in 1952 to house Charles and Emma Frye’s collection of traditionalist 19th-century art, and it still gives a rotating selection of those paintings, and that aesthetic, pride of place—hanging them salon-style, opulently and snugly crowded together, like pieces of a mosaic, in a genteelly spacious room. This summer’s exhibit of French landscapes, and an entertaining April lecture on reactionary arch-academician Adolphe-William Bouguereau (1825–1905), continued that tradition. But the Frye also pays attention to new developments with an earnestness rivaling the Henry Art Gallery’s—for instance, sociopolitically activist works by Mexican-American Walla Walla artist Juventino Aranda and Quentin Baker’s upcoming text-based installation Ballast (Oct. 6–Jan. 27), which makes poetry out of U.S. Senate accounts of an 1841 shipboard slave revolt. | | GB

#2 Vermillion | #3 The Factory

Jesse Link.

Jesse Link.

Best Visual Artist

Jesse Link

One of the main appeals of Seattle is the way it mixes cosmopolitanism with nature. And no artist captures the joyful spirit of the urban wilderness like Jesse Link. His paintings of half-cartoonish/half-realistic animals adorned with human-made accoutrements (bears with flags, tigers with blindfolds and necklaces, turtles hauling lumber with rope) pop with vivid color and wild expressiveness. It’s work that’s super-easy to connect to, whether you’re a fine-art aficionado or a kid who just likes neat pictures of creatures. Link first caught the eye of many Seattleites in 2015 with his stunning large-scale murals in West Seattle Junction and at Shack Coffee, and his artistic momentum has continued ever since. In January 2017 he opened his own gallery on the third level of Pike Place Market, where tourists and locals alike can marvel at his paintings and sculpture. When you want to escape Seattle for its natural surroundings but can’t find the time, Link’s colorful critters can always brighten your day and at least temporarily ease your craving for that animalistic connection to Mother Earth. | | SS

#2 Jen Vaughn | #3 Casey Curran

Lindy West. Photo by Jenny Jimenez

Lindy West. Photo by Jenny Jimenez

Best Author

Lindy West

Lindy West transforms everything she touches into a feat of astuteness and wit. Since getting her start at The Stranger almost a decade ago, the Columbia City-based writer has addressed topics including feminism, pop culture, and body positivity for outlets such as Jezebel, Vulture, Cosmopolitan, GQ, The Guardian, and, in her current role as a contributing columnist, The New York Times. In 2016 she collected her thoughts on feminism, fat-shaming, and everything in between into her first book, the memoir Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman. It received wide acclaim, with Publishers Weekly even declaring it “required reading.”

Her comedy-writing skills are now being tugged in a new, onscreen direction as an adaptation of Shrill staring Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant is being developed for Hulu. Production of the six-episode series began in Portland in early August. The prolific West has other projects in sight, including an independent film called Thin Skin, which she’s producing with her husband, Ahamefule J. Oluo (the noted local trumpeter), and Stranger film editor Charles Mudede. It’s described on its website as “a music-infused dark comedy about keeping it together when you’re falling apart,” and the three are currently soliciting donations to begin shooting in October. We might yearn for more of West’s insightful and humorous prose on the page, but as long as she’s writing in some form, we’ll get by. | | MH

#2 Tom Robbins | #3 Maria Semple

Nikkita Oliver. Photo by Sara Dilley

Nikkita Oliver. Photo by Sara Dilley

Best Poet

Nikkita Oliver

There are certainly more active poets in Seattle, but there aren’t any who can match Nikkita Oliver’s name recognition and relevance. Oliver has always focused on poetry as a live communal connection rather than one to be experienced on the page, but even if you’ve never seen her at a poetry slam (or watched one on YouTube), you’re likely familiar with her activism. She’s a former mayoral candidate and a leader in the Seattle Peoples Party, crusading against institutional racism and its various manifestations in the city. She’s used her art to help expand the causes she’s passionate about and galvanize social soldiers. The best poets distill the truth of the world with clarity, wit, and empathy. Why should we restrict them to doing so only on the page? Prose is prose whether written in a chapbook or spoken at a slam or delivered to an audience at a rally, making Oliver a perfect poet for Seattle in this climate of social unrest. || SS

#2 Anastacia-Reneé| #3 Sonya Vatomsky

Best Comedian

Emmett Montgomery

I am not from this city, but this is my home. I have been wandering around inside for over a decade and a half, and I have been doing stand-up and storytelling and other weird stuff in front of audiences for most of my time here. Many of the folks that were doing comedy when I started have quit or moved to other cities to get famous (with varying results), or have left the planet entirely. Some of my favorite venues no longer exist. But there are some truly amazing folks that have chosen to remain and face the emotional and economic challenges of telling jokes in one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States by being our best selves on the stages we still have and seeking out and creating new spaces. Every year new hopefuls pick up the microphone, and while many of them quit or move, some of them decide to stick around and have found a way to do amazing things that only they can do. The gentle readers of Seattle Weekly have voted this grumpy bearded daydreamer Best Comedian three times, and while he is grateful, he would love to share some of his favorites with you.

Thomas Nichols, a recent Dallas transplant, is a punchline machine. Clara Pluton fills the stage with her own strange universe and speaks with a rhythm of language that is all her own. Max Delsohn approaches comedy with the skills of their writing background and has a gentle rage that I really enjoy. Aila Slisco is funny in everything she does, whether it be stand-up or characters, and did a slideshow about dingoes that I can’t stop thinking about. Kayla Ruth carries one of the purest hearts I know and swims through waves of nervous energy to deliver perfect and absurd jokes. I encourage you to seek out these folks and find your own favorites and be part of something wonderful. | + | EMMETT MONTGOMERY

#2 Peggy Platt | #3 Wilfred Padua

Hula Hula karaoke. Photo by Scott Gilchrist.

Hula Hula karaoke. Photo by Scott Gilchrist.

Best Karaoke

Hula Hula

While it’s almost always a massive bummer, on rare occasions Seattle’s rapid, business-displacing growth can have a positive outcome. Hula Hula had to move out of its longtime Lower Queen Anne home in March 2017, but a month later it was reborn on Capitol Hill. It was a very quick aloha/aloha situation. In a little over a year it’s become one of the city’s wildest karaoke hotspots—seven days a week starting at 9 p.m. While other prime karaoke spots might offer a more low-key vibe (Bush Garden) or private rooms (Rock Box), Hula Hula is a populist party through and through—capturing the best (and worst) that Capitol Hill circa 2018 has to offer. Oh, and its intentionally cheesy tiki aesthetic perfectly fits the act of amateurs belting out pop songs. | | SS

#2 Bush Garden | #3 Rock Box

Catty Wompus. Photo by Leland Studio

Catty Wompus. Photo by Leland Studio

Best Drag Performer

Catty Wompus

5 Essential Things to Know About Catty Wompus by Kyler Archer (aka Catty Wompus)

1. Catty Wompus is a singing cartoon-level bonkers drag queen.

2. She has been performing in Seattle for the past 7 years.

3. You can catch her at Hula Hula every full moon hosting the city’s only full moon party.

4. She was “the Northwest’s #1 Katy Perry and Taylor Swift impersonator” at Julia’s Le Faux for the past 3 years.

5. Catty Wompus spontaneously entered a pie eating contest at Westlake Center in 2016. She finished in second place. |

#2 Arson Nicki | #3 Old Witch

Betty Wetter hosts Betty’s Body of Knowledge. Photo by Colette Cosner

Betty Wetter hosts Betty’s Body of Knowledge. Photo by Colette Cosner

Best Trivia Night

Betty’s Body of Knowledge (Solo Bar & Eatery)

On Sunday nights, drag performer Betty Wetter is the queen of Solo Bar, and her adoring subjects flock to take part in the trivia extravaganza known as Betty’s Body of Knowledge. You’re simply not going to find a more fun or performative trivia-night host in Seattle. With the standard rounds testing current affairs and general knowledge and the always-entertaining audio and visual rounds, patrons are guaranteed laughs that won’t be found at other hyper-serious trivia gatherings around town. While there are prizes for the top two teams (and best-named team), everyone wins an amusing evening at Betty’s Body of Knowledge. | | SS

#2 Luncbox Laboratory | #3 Prost!

Emerald City Comic Con. Photo by Daniel Stockman/Flickr

Emerald City Comic Con. Photo by Daniel Stockman/Flickr

Best Convention

Emerald City Comic Con

When it started in 2003, Emerald City Comic Con was just a small gathering of a couple thousand local comic-book enthusiasts. Five years before the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, cons like this were still considered niche gatherings of nerds whose passions left them on the fringes of pop culture. Needless to say, that was a loooooooooong time ago. In 2018, ECCC packed nearly 100,000 people into the Washington State Convention Center over four days (and superhero-movie box-office receipts can damn near be calculated as part of the U.S. GNP). After being bought by con organizing giant ReedPOP in 2015, ECCC became even more of a titan. While it might be harder to maneuver the halls with the utter mass of humanity the event now brings, the enthusiasm that abounds every time ECCC weekend rolls around is palpable, and visually apparent in the sea of cosplayers (both young and old) and fans totting oversized bags stuffed with their latest nerdy purchases. | | SS

#2 Northwest Flower & Garden Show | #3 GeekGirlCon

Chris Pratt. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Chris Pratt. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Best Actor

Chris Pratt

Playing a doofy slacker on a critically if not Nielsen-istically adored ensemble sitcom is not a usual path to action-hero superstardom, but Chris Pratt managed it, leaping seemingly overnight from Parks and Recreation to leading-man franchise-juggling. The Lake Stevens native has been a cornerstone of Jurassic Park, Guardians of the Galaxy, LEGO, and Avengers movies, making $600 trillion a picture (give or take some zeroes). We all couldn’t be prouder of him, of course, but… he’s not going to be content to be forever just another Chris, is he? Just another charmingly handsome partner in the firm of Pratt, Pine, Evans, and Hemsworth? Considering all the buffing, polishing, and de-unique-ifying that that entails? (A totally scientific, peer-reviewed survey of four men at the Cuff Complex on a Sunday evening in February proved conclusively that, heartthrobby as he still is, Pratt was waaaay sexier at his Andy Dwyer weight.)

(Also, shout-out to performance artist Sara Porkalob; the 3rd-place finisher gets the nod as the best actor actually actively working in Seattle.) | GB

#2 Tom Skerritt | #3 Sara Porkalob

Pinball at Shorty’s. Photo by Clayton Parker/Flickr

Pinball at Shorty’s. Photo by Clayton Parker/Flickr

Best Arcade


While Shorty’s is renowned as a pinball and arcade bar, sometimes it feels more like a roller-coaster ride. Because whenever you talk about the beloved spot (which opened in 1997), inevitably the question comes up of whether the iconic hangout will even be around this time next year, or if it’ll be another victim of the condo boom. But at least for now, let’s put that aside and celebrate Shorty’s game-night perfection.

When you walk into the Belltown establishment, you’re immediately inundated with sounds, lights, people, and energy. It’s a frenzy of fun. Owner Avout Vander Werf curates a Coney Island–inspired spot with a menu full of hot dogs and rooms full of fan-favorite pinball machines including The Addams Family, Star Wars, and Ghostbusters and classic arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man.

“I was always interested in pinball even as a little kid,” says Vander Werf. “A pinball machine is a very unique product. It’s sitting right there right on the intersection of art, wizardry, engineering, and salesmanship.” And so Vander Werf devoutly built his home for the games, which if you ask any of his regulars is more a lifestyle than a hobby. Within Seattle alone, there are multiple pinball leagues, competitions, and theme nights. “We were offering pinball before it was hip,” says Vander Werf. “Pinball was kind of dying at one point. But ever since then, it’s made a big comeback. And it basically started here in the Pacific Northwest.”

While some buildings around Shorty’s have received landmark status, Shorty’s to date has not. “People always say, ‘I’m super-happy your building got landmark status.’ But we didn’t,” Vander Werf says. And although recent discussions have suggested selling Belltown airspace to help preserve its historic buildings, like Shorty’s, from demolition, the future of the pinball hangout remains in flux. Nevertheless, it stands ready for its patrons’ hot-dog consumption and pinball mastery. | | JU

#2 Full Tilt Ice Cream | #3 Seattle Pinball Museum

Emmett Montgomery. Photo by Alex Garland

Emmett Montgomery. Photo by Alex Garland