The Best Performances, Exhibitions, and Concerts Happening This Fall

Our critics pick the top five shows you have to see this season, in every discipline.


By T.S Flock

Bellevue Arts Museum selects a featured material for each of its biennials, and has gone from clay to wood and now metal for BAM Biennial 2016: Metalmorphosis. The 49 participating artists, all based in the Pacific Northwest, display a diversity of styles that reveals how various the medium can be: whimsical and precise, ethereal and earthy, malleable and unyielding. Participants include Julie Speidel, Ries Niemi, Casey Curran, and Jana Brevick (who had a solo exhibition at BAM last year). Bellevue Arts Museum,, Sept. 2–Feb. 5.

The exhibition 30 Americans has toured many venues over the past few years, drawing critical acclaim at each. It finally makes its West Coast debut at Tacoma Art Museum this autumn. More than 50 paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, and videos by prominent African-American artists address topics of race, history, and gender. Drawn entirely from the Rubell collection, the exhibition includes work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Nick Cave, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, and Lorna Simpson, to name a few. Tacoma Art Museum,, Sept. 24–Jan. 14.

The final exhibition at Suyama Space is upon us. As the building is probably not long for this world, Fernanda D’Agostino’s Generativity seems an apt elegy. The multimedia installation will include sculpture, video, coding, sound, and ghostly projections that leave a performance by Isabelle Choinière as a “technological echo.” One gets a sense that the flux within the space will reflect changes in the natural world as well as the more rapid changes in and around the building itself. Suyama Space,, Sept. 23–Dec. 16.

Another final gesture tied to drastic changes, To: Seattle | Subject: Personal will be the last show curated by the Frye’s outgoing director, Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker. The objects in the exhibit will include a number of significant contemporary works acquired by the Frye since 2009, when Birnie Danzker assumed her post. However, the thematic core will assess the present global and regional flux (social, political, and cultural) and share concerns and visions for the future. Frye Art Museum, frye, Oct. 1–Jan. 8.

Over his 44-year career, Yves Saint Laurent used his genius to bridge traditional divides with exquisite craft, changing how people thought about women’s wear. Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style will display more than 100 haute couture and SAINT LAURENT rive gauche garments, along with historical documentation from the archive of Fondation Pierre Bergé. The installation will be co-designed by SAM and Agence NC, and it’s bound to be a visual feast. Seattle Art Museum, seattleart, Oct. 11–Jan. 8.


By Sandra Kurtz

The biannual Men in Dance is the ultimate in mixed bills—the work on tap must feature men in some fashion (as choreographers, performers, or both), but beyond that, everything is up for grabs. So you see kids next to adults, comedy next to tragedy, old-school styles next to the latest developments. It’s a generous exploration of male energy in dance. Broadway Performance Hall,, Sept. 30–Oct. 9.

Choreographer Zoe Scofield forges a sense of group identity in her dances, creating a shared movement language for her ensemble. In her newest work, Clear and Sweet, she brings that skill to a quintessential American tradition, Sacred Harp singing, looking for a kinetic equivalent to a choral experience, while visual artist and collaborator Juniper Shuey translates the environment of the Southern singing school into a theatrical setting. On the Boards,, Oct. 20–23.

Mary Sheldon Scott has been making dances on local artists for more than 20 years, finding multiple ways to show us the individual performer within the ensemble. With this latest project, THE SOLO(s) PROJECT, she’s focusing on that singular figure, with a group of seven solos custom-created for a handful of local artists. She’s comparing these to a book of short stories: each complete in itself, but also a part of a larger expression. Velocity Dance Center, velocitydance, Nov. 3–6.

Pacific Northwest Ballet presents three works that each represent the epitome of their creator’s individual styles. Twyla Tharp’s Brief Fling mixes classical technique with contemporary energy, while Jiri Kylian’s signature combination of balletic articulation and modern expression propels Forgotten Land. Meanwhile there’s George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky (Stravinsky Violin Concerto)—enough said. McCaw Hall,, Nov. 4–13.

Michelle Dorrance, a recent MacArthur Award winner, brings tap dance to a whole new level of engagement—it’s an advanced degree in rhythm. And if that weren’t enough, she’s collaborating with Toshi Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock for The Blues Project, an exploration of the relationship of music, sound, and movement, using rhythm as the connecting element among them. The Moore,, Nov. 11–12.


By Mark Baumgarten

Intiman opened its 2016 festival—devoted to black women’s voices—with a memorable performance of the contemporary family drama Stick Fly by the playwright Lydia R. Diamond. To close the festival, the company is taking its audience back to the Jim Crow South with a production by one of Diamond’s forebears, the late playwright Alice Childress. Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White, her story of an interracial love affair set in South Carolina, is told in stark realism and should serve as both a example of how far we have come as a society and a reminder of how far we have left to go. Jones Playhouse,, Sept. 6–Oct. 2.

The script for Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. by British playwright Alice Birch delivers this direction to its cast: “Most importantly, this play should not be well behaved.” We expect Washington Ensemble Theatre to oblige as it stages this unconventional and brutal (and at times humorous) call for feminist revolution. Structured as a series of manifestos, this will undoubtedly be the most subversive theater work staged in Seattle this season. 12th Avenue Arts,, Sept. 23–Oct. 10.

Seattle Repertory Theatre opens its season with Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun, the harrowing story of Lena Younger, a black woman trying to move her family out of the South Side of Chicago. In the midst of its Broadway premiere in 1959the play won four Tony awards and has since been credited with changing the face of American theater. It should prove no less powerful with a backdrop of today’s fraught conversation about race. Seattle Repertory Theatre,, Sept. 30–Oct. 30.

To celebrate his 20th anniversary as a practitioner of Butoh, Seattle’s own Alan Sutherland will lead a team of collaborators in Little Brown Mushrooms, an exploration of two of his loves: the Japanese dance form and magic mushrooms. The performance should be the most Seattle-specific affair to hit area stages this season, speaking to the soul of our city with references to science fiction and the local arts community in the midst of a mind-bending hallucinatory journey. On the Boards,, Oct. 6–9.

The Vietnam War is familiar territory for American storytelling, but Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone manages to unearth an original take on one of our greatest national blunders, doing so with a fresh perspective that uses modern methods—including graphic novels and rap music—to tell the story of a family uprooted from its South Vietnamese homeland in the war’s aftermath. Much of the cast for this production will be reprising roles perfected during a critically lauded production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Seattle Repertory Theatre,, Dec. 2–Jan. 1.


By Dusty Henry

Before Fences’ Christopher Mansfield was collaborating with Macklemore, he always had a pop streak. In the past few years, he and his bandmates have slowly turned away from the acoustic guitars that helped them rise to popularity on their 2010 self-titled debut, and instead embraced synthesizers and plucky drum loops. On Sept. 9 they’ll unleash their pop leanings with a new EP, To the Tall Trembling Trees. But Seattle has a home-field advantage, so swing by and hear the songs a day early. The Vera Project,, Sept. 8.

What else is in the teaches of Peaches? There’s never enough time to count the ways. Peaches’ blend of punk and rap has made her an unlikely fixture in both mainstream and underground music. She walks this line with her explosive and explicit bravado. She’s like if Suicide Squad was good and existed in real life. The Neptune,, Sept. 30.

If you haven’t heard Kaytranada’s debut 99.9%, you’re missing out on one of the year’s smoothest, most effortless records. The Haitian-Canadian electronic/hip-hop producer made good on the promise of his slew of Soundcloud remix knockouts and delivered an inventive, swinging record of funky rhythmic goodies. The album’s made even sweeter with guest appearances by pop gods like AlunaGeorge, Anderson .Paak, Little Dragon, Vic Mensa, and Syd tha Kid. His live shows reportedly rise to the occasion as well. Showbox SoDo,, Oct. 1.

Ever heard of this guy? Kanye West aka Yeezy aka Pablo will grace Seattle with his presence once again. Everything he does, in his own words, needs a news crew present. Since releasing The Life of Pablo earlier this year, he’s sporadically changed songs and added pieces to the tracklist on streaming platforms. All this is to say no one really knows what shenanigans he’ll get into this time. Last time he came, he brought a mountain and a man dressed as Jesus. If anyone can top that, it’s Kanye. KeyArena,, Oct. 19.

Rae Sremmurd’s Slim Jimmy and Swae Lee just wanna party. A lot of artists do. But none talk about it so infectiously as these two young Mississippi rappers. Between their two records, SremmLife and SremmLife II, it wouldn’t be farfetched to guess that their music has soundtracked most keggers, ragers, and wedding dance parties for the past two years. It’s all about the pursuit of happiness as well as safe sex and paychecks. Who doesn’t want that? Showbox SoDo, showbox presents. com, Nov. 1.


By M. Anthony Davis

This may seem like an obvious pick, but this year’s Bumbershoot features a lineup full of exciting local hip-hop talent. What better way to cap your summer than a weekend with DoNormaal, COSMOS, The Flavr Blue, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis? Seattle Center,, Sept. 2–4.

Gifted Gab is one of the most talented MCs we have in the local scene right now. Her record Gab the Most High is one of my easy favorites of 2016. There was so much flavor with her ’90s theme, and she made it legit with dope lyrics and some sensual R&B as a bonus. Rendezvous, therendez, Sept. 10.

On this tour, Drake has stolen all the headlines firing shots at fellow MCs and bringing out crazy guests like Kanye, Rihanna, and T.I. He said Views would be a classic, and he’s kept his promise, murdering the Billboard charts. This may be the concert of the year; I’d suggest you get tickets now. Tacoma Dome, tacoma, Sept. 16.

Mackned has been buzzing around Seattle, selling out The Croc and Neumos earlier this year. His latest project, Born Rich, received glowing reviews, and the West Seattle native may well be the next local artist to make a national splash. This show kicks off his Raining Game tour. Vera Project,, Oct. 1.

I haven’t caught Chance the Rapper live, but Coloring Book was an exceptionally great record. Chance utilized live choirs and traditional gospel sounds to create a spiritual hip-hop record, bolstered by features from both Kirk Franklin and Young Thug. The project is genius—easily one of the strongest national releases of 2016. The Showbox, showbox, Oct. 24.


By Greg Scruggs

Guessing that Inga Copeland is composer Aaron Copland’s Russian relative is no less accurate than actually researching this enigma. We do know that since 2009, she has made beats and contributed vocals to the duo Hype Williams, an experimental pop-ambient outfit named for the rap video producer. The rest is total speculation, including whether she had a hand in this year’s critically acclaimed Hype Williams release 10/10. Who cares? Speculate for yourself at her Seattle debut. Kremwerk,, Sept. 15.

“Dub” isn’t always followed by “-step”. By fading in and out parts of a song, it’s an art form that changed popular music forever thanks to Jamaican reggae producers like Lee “Scratch” Perry. Still performing at 80, the revolutionary Rastafarian burned down his studio last year—the second of his career to end in flames. When the lighters go up, just pray the Center of the Universe is still standing by the end of the night. Nectar Lounge,, Sept. 17.

“The next time you make a joke about white people not being able to dance, consider that for a thousand years or so it was prohibited,” writes ethnomusicologist Ned Sublette about the Church’s impact on European music. Thankfully, most other cultures felt otherwise, which means Soul-Fi, a party by and for queer and trans people of color, offers a safe space for dance-floor salvation, courtesy of DJ Reverend Dollars’ encyclopedic knowledge of funk, soul, hip-hop, and R&B. Re-bar,, Oct. 14.

On their first summer in Berlin, the Boston-bred Jewish crew Soul Clap surreptitiously slapped up a provocative sticker at techno temple Berghain that read “House Music: The Solution to the German Problem.” Since then, the cheeky duo has skyrocketed to success, and now records with childhood idols like George Clinton. Their first local appearance since Decibel 2014 will be what a ’90s night should sound like: diva house, slinky R&B, and nary an alt-rock anthem. Q Nightclub,, Nov. 10.

Kremwerk’s Research night does its homework, spotlighting the unsung heroes of electronic music. Tonight’s treat is deep, dark DJ Qu, who steeped in the early house scene at Newark’s Zanzibar club. The self-avowed vinyl junkie may show up with digital gear, but rest assured he’s ripped his record collection, perfectly suited for Krem’s dark confines. Last year Qu played Decibel’s after-hours, but for those who lacked all-night octane, this Saturday soirée will keep more regular party hours. Kremwerk,, Nov. 19.


By Kelton Sears

Crybaby Studios 17th Anniversary Show The scummy, underground annex of practice spaces that’s hosted countless Capitol Hill band practice sessions over the years is celebrating its birthday with a free show and—gasp—free pizza, bringing in solid local punk groups like VHS, Boyfriends, Vanity Mirrors, and Bad Motivators to soundtrack the party. Timbre Room, timbre, Sept. 7.

One of New York City’s finest contemporary exports, Guerilla Toss is what happens when you hand a deconstructive noise band a cowbell and tell them to write funky dance music (hint: magic). Appropriately, they’ll be joined by a stellar selection of this city’s noisiest locals—the man-machine/boss battle music of Charms, Nail Polish’s pointed post-punk critiques, and Miscoming’s serrated, surreal shrieks. The Black Lodge, ask a punk, Sept. 23.

The Untuning of the Sky With Sassyblack, one installment in a series from the Henry Art Gallery that hosts local musicians in outdoor venues at night, features former Seattle Weekly columnist SassyBlack (Catherine Harris-White), whose cosmic take on funk and soul and professed love of Star Trek should make for an incredibly apt performance under the stars. Volunteer Park Amphitheater,, Sept. 30.

Gnar Babes, a benefit show for Skate Like a Girl, is a showcase of some of the most promising femme-powered musical talent in town—including Mommy Long Legs party-starting, fart-core brat punk, Hoops’ longing soft grunge, Kelli Frances Corrado’s witchy hymnals, and the psychedelic techno of Portland’s SciFiSol. Sunset Tavern, sunset, Oct. 6.

If you like your music deafeningly loud and crushingly heavy, this show will take you to the outer limits of that realm’s possibilities. Daughters’ mathy, 1,000-mph grindcore recalls the good old avant-grating days of The Locust, while The Body slows it way, way down for menacing industrial experiments that take equal inspiration from Neurosis and Beyoncé. The Highline, highline, Nov. 13.


By Gavin Borchert

In 1947, not long after it was rediscovered—but nearly a century after it was written—George Balanchine decided to build a ballet on Georges Bizet’s teenage Symphony in C, realizing how perfectly its buoyancy and rapturous lyricism would blend with dance. It’s one of the 19th century’s most delicious symphonies, but no one ever plays it; I don’t recall hearing it in Seattle in the past 20 years. So if you want to hear it, and you do, you’ll need to take in Balanchine’s version on the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s all-French season-opening program. McCaw Hall,, Sept. 23–Oct. 2.

Looks like Seattle Opera’s production of Hansel and Gretel is going for surrealism rather than sugar, which is a shrewd approach: All the sucrose you need is in Humperdinck’s glorious score, which combines Wagnerian opulence with ear-grabbing tunefulness. McCaw Hall, seattle Oct. 15–30.

For its first late-night [untitled] concert of the season, the Seattle Symphony performs Witold Lutoslawski’s 1990 nursery-rhyme song cycle Chantefleurs et chantefables (“Songflowers and songfables”)—which isn’t so different from Humperdinck’s fairy-tale music, come to think of it: a little more sensuality, a little more angst here and there, but a similar jokey bounce and playfulness. Soprano soloist/composer Agata Zubel will also perform a work of her own. Benaroya Hall,, Oct. 28.

Possibly the most recent classical musician to achieve anything like household-word status, conductor Gustavo Dudamel was tapped to lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic at age 26. No piece will more effectively demonstrate that he’s moved past his photogenic Wunderkind phase than Mahler’s tragic, even apocalyptic, Symphony no. 9, which he’ll lead here on tour with the Phil. Benaroya Hall,, Nov. 4.

The thoughtfully eclectic seven-concert debut season of Emerald City Music, which opens Sept. 16, includes some impressive musicians: violinist Ani Kavafian, cellist Peter Wiley, the Emerson Quartet’s Philip Setzer. The most intriguing program spotlights 20th-century works from France (Debussy, Ravel, Dutilleux) and England (Adés, Britten). 415 Westlake,, Nov. 11.