Spring Arts 2018 Critics’ Picks

Plan out your calendar with our selections for the season’s best entertainment events.

March 3

The Crossover Event

Here is a known fact: Matt “Spekulation” Watson knows how to throw a party. For the last handful of years, the MC, producer, and all-around culture-jammer has organized the Block Party at the Station, each summer featuring some of the greatest musical talent in this town without selling a single sponsorship to a car company. It is a civic treasure. And while new-dad Watson has said he won’t have the time to put on the Block Party this year (don’t worry; it’ll be back), he is still throwing what promises to be one hell of a party to celebrate the release of his instrumental visual album, an engrossing beat-heavy work that features a justice league of players from the city’s jazz, psychedelic, and hip-hop scenes. The “visual” part of the release is all about super heroes, which is why Watson timed his party to coincide with Emerald City Comicon. Cosplayers welcome. Columbia City Theatre, columbiacitytheater.com, $10. MB

March 8


Something Familiar could claim the title of the most carefree-sounding album about anxiety. The sophomore release from Hibou (aka Seattle singer/songwriter Peter Michel) creates effortlessly breezy and light musical backdrops that make his lyrics about depersonalization go down oh-so-smoothly. The sonic package, which is being released by Barsuk Records, feels like swaying on sandy beaches while blissfully ignoring the storm clouds on the horizon. Indulge in the beautiful anxiety when Hibou heads to Neumos for Something Familiar’s release show. Neumos, neumos.com, $15. SS

March 9

Jason McCue

For the next two Fridays, you can catch some of the most exciting young acts in the area competing in the semifinals of the Sound Off! underage battle of the bands at MoPop. Go. And then go to the finals on March 3, where you might see the next Jason McCue. Then go see McCue, who was the unlikely winner of last year’s competition. There, between bigger, louder acts, he mesmerized a crowd of teenagers and music-industry know-it-alls with a simple set of conversely earnest and acerbic acoustic ballads that landed him somewhere between Phil Ochs and Sondre Lerche. It was, in a word, transcendent. McCue heads to Washington Hall to celebrate the release of Pangea, the album that he made with part of his prize package, an otherworldly collection of songs burnished with his wit and grit. Would we know about McCue without Sound Off? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Washington Hall, jasonmccue1.bandcamp.com, $9. MB

March 9

Lorde and Run the Jewels

The unlikely combo of the best pop star on the planet and the top rap duo going seems like something pulled from the best fever dream ever. In 2017, Lorde proved that the isolated teen perfection of Pure Heroine wasn’t a fluke with the brilliantly messy and buzzed party that is Melodrama. Her performance at Bumbershoot last year also showcased how far she’s come as a performer since her endearingly twitchy, gothy roots. That said, it won’t be easy to follow the all-bangers all-night chaos that is Run the Jewels live. Nobody in the game can match Killer Mike and El-P’s blend of ferocity, goofy banter, social voice, and insane energy. Hopefully, this fever holds. KeyArena, keyarena.com, $40–$100. SS

March 15–April 8

Moisture Festival

Since 2004, this has been Seattle’s motley springtime gathering of musicians, dancers, and circus artists of all kinds. Back again this season are favorites like Americana singer/guitarist Baby Gramps, acrobat/martial-arts team Nanda, and bubble sculptor Tom Noddy, plus a weekend of Libertease Cabaret burlesque shows (March 29–31). Oddball acts include virtuoso whistler Jason Victor Serinus and Zipcode Man, who has memorized more than 30,000 of them. (”If it’s a town more than a thousand,” he boasts, “I’m probably not going to get stumped.”) Hale’s Palladium & Broadway Performance Hall, moisturefestival.org, $22–$28. GB

March 23 & 24


It’s rare for dance-based theatrical performance to leave the audience with wobbly legs, but the beautiful and heart-crushing horror of Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre’s Betroffenheit demands that viewers search for solid footing in the wake of the emotional devastation. Jonathan Young’s mental demons come to life in this dark, surreal exploration of his real-life experience dealing with PTSD and addiction in the wake of his family members’ death in a fire. The Moore, stgpresents.org, $33. SS

March 29

Seattle Mariners Home Opener

While reasons for pessimism abound, there’s always a kernel of hope when the Mariners’ record sits at an unblemished 0-0. Sure, the M’s now have the longest playoff drought in all of pro sports (after the Buffalo Bills made the NFL playoffs), but it’s still fun to see Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz, and Robinson Caño take the field before everything turns into the usual soul-sucking hellscape of injuries and ineptitude. The season gets underway with a matchup against the Cleveland Indians. Safeco Field, mariners.com, $35–$120. SS

March 29 & 31

Become Desert

The timing couldn’t have been better: In April 2015, just a couple weeks before the Seattle Symphony was scheduled to play John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean in Carnegie Hall as part of the invitation-only Spring for Music festival, the piece won that year’s Pulitzer Prize for music. Suddenly it was the festival’s must-hear concert, garnering international attention (and even celebrity attention; pop goddess Taylor Swift loved the work so much she donated $50,000 to the orchestra). Thus interest is high for the premiere of Adams’ follow-up, Become Desert, another epic canvas (one movement, 42 minutes) for which Alaska’s unofficial composer laureate is adding a chorus to the full orchestra. Benaroya Hall, seattlesymphony.org, $37–$122. GB

March 29–April 1

Alice Gosti

Even if most of us fall short of being hoarders, American culture certainly has its roots deep in the soil of capitalist materialism. Always-engaging Seattle choreographer Alice Gosti dives headfirst into our object obsession—and the memories, dreams, and symbolic weight we attach to our stuff—with her latest work, Material Deviance in Contemporary American Culture. How do we fill our own existential voids with clutter? On the Boards, ontheboards.org, $23–$30. SS

Material Deviance In Contemporary American Culture. Photo by Tim Summers

Material Deviance In Contemporary American Culture. Photo by Tim Summers

March 30

David Simon & Laura Lippman

Sometimes opposites attract. Other times, you’re both on the crime beat at The Baltimore Sun. Married couple David Simon and Laura Lippman both cut their teeth reporting at the Sun before moving on to acclaimed fiction-writing careers. Simon wrote for Homicide: Life on the Street before creating the iconic TV drama The Wire. Lippman become one of the most prominent female crime writers, penning numerous award-winning detective novels. If you’re looking for insightful and entertaining thoughts on the current criminal-justice system, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than spending a night with the couple. Benaroya Hall, lectures.org, $20–$80. SS

April 5

Trailer Park Boys

Not since SCTV’s Bob and Doug McKenzie sketches has Canada so overtly and hilariously subverted its image as the world headquarters of bland affability. Since 2001, the TV mockumentary series Trailer Park Boys has revealed life in the white-trashiest corner of Nova Scotia. The series’ stage-show spin-off brings Ricky, Julian, Bubbles, and Randy for an uncensored evening of comedy, music, and drinking. (Actor John Dunsworth, who played skeevy park manager Mr. Lahey, passed away last fall, forcing them to postpone and rename their “Dear Santa Claus, Go Fuck Yourself” tour.) The Paramount, stgpresents.com, $30–$50. GB

April 10

Jonathan Evison

Few authors handle their characters with the compassion that seems to come naturally to Jonathan Evison. The Seattle novelist’s latest work, Lawn Boy, explores the struggles of the modern American Dream through Mike Muñoz, a young Chicano landscaper in Washington state. He feels stuck in a post-high school rut of menial work, and efforts to get out only make him further question if prosperity is really possible for him. Evison heads to the U District to discuss the new coming-of-age story shortly after its April 3 release date. UW Bookstore, ubookstore.com, Free. SS

April 13

The Moondoggies

After years of being incorrectly lumped in as a part of the Northwest’s folk-rock scene (because beards + white dudes?), the Moondoggies assert their true jam-heavy rock-and-roll identity on their new Erik Blood-produced Hardly Art album, A Love Sleeps Deep. Singer/guitarist Kevin Murphy has sharpened his tongue, finding the sweetness in love songs and taking direct lyrical aim at his frustrations with our mistreatment of the planet and casual racism directed at his wife. The band gets into some seriously deep grooves, but it always feels more Pink Floyd-expansive than jam-band noodling. The band treks down from Everett to release A Love Sleeps Deep at the Neptune with Grand Hallway and Le Sang Song. The Neptune, stgpresents.org, $14. SS

April 21–May 6

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

It’s not easy growing up as an overweight sci-fi and fantasy-loving Dominican boy in New Jersey. It’s even harder when your family is cursed. Expect an engaging dose of magical realism when Book-It adapts Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for the stage. As Oscar grows from a boy struggling to find love (or at least lose his virginity) to a man still looking for that connection the story interweaves his family history, supernatural mongooses, and more unexpected turns. Center Theatre, book-it.org, $26–$50. SS

April 24

Calidore String Quartet

Though he couldn’t have known it for sure, Schubert may have intuited that his String Quintet, finished just a couple months before he died in November 1828, would be one of his last major works—not a tragic piece but a valedictory one in its spaciousness and immense emotional range, as if he were taking one final opportunity to say everything he had to say. The Emerson String Quartet produced my favorite recording of the Quintet—the one that best makes the case that this is the greatest piece of chamber music ever written. David Finckel, the Emerson’s cellist on that 1992 disc, joins the younger Calidore String Quartet to perform the Schubert masterwork here. Meany Center, meanycenter.org, $40–$48. GB

April 27–May 14

The Nether

For most of the modern age, two visions of the future have battled it out in popular culture: the utopia of self-driving cars and space colonization, and the dystopia of unintended consequences. As corporate America has begun to bring the hallmarks of utopia to market, the realm of the imagination has been ceded to the darkness that follows, most notably found in Black Mirror and the resurgence of Philip K. Dick’s work. The Nether was written before any of that, in the innocent time of 2011, but the play should fit nicely into the mix. Jennifer Haley’s script involves a kind of virtual-reality Eden for pedophiles and a detective determined to shut it down. The last production of a powerfully resonant season from Washington Ensemble Theatre, this play promises to keep you guessing and uncomfortable. But you should be used to that by now. 12th Avenue Arts, washingtonensemble.org, $25–$35. MB

May 9

Nada Surf

To celebrate the album’s 15th birthday, and to raise some money for the ACLU, Nada Surf recently released a reconsideration of its brilliant 2003 release Let Go, featuring covers by Aimee Mann, the Long Winters, Charly Bliss, and more. This, then, is a good moment to remember the role that Seattle played in the fate of that album and the East Coast band that made it. The album had been rejected by every cool, established indie around, owing to the band’s prior stint on a major label, where it produced the mid-9’90s hit “Popular.” But when the owners of Seattle-based upstart Barsuk Records listened, they heard only greatness. It was a risk. “It will destroy everything you built,” some said. It didn’t. Instead it became a part of the label’s growing legacy and breathed life into one of the most enjoyable indie-pop acts of the new millennium. The band has great love for the city of Seattle. Expect to feel that love at this show. The Neptune, stgpresents.org, $18. MB

Betroffenheit. Photo by Wendy D Photography

Betroffenheit. Photo by Wendy D Photography