The Musicians, Comedians, and Venues That Keep Us Entertained

Seattle Weekly readers share their picks for the best shows in town.

Best Arcade

Full Tilt Full Tilt is far more than an ice-cream shop. Its funky flavors pair nicely with stores of local beer. Even better, the treats and drinks are elevated by arcade games, and most famous, wall-to-wall pinball machines. The combination of sweet-smelling homemade ice cream and the soundtrack of ricocheting pinballs proves intoxicating in each of its three locations. Ever-expanding, Full Tilt is looking to bring more sweet nostalgia into more Seattle neighborhoods in the coming years. Various locations. First Runner-Up: Add-a-Ball Second Runner-Up: Shorty’s

Best Band

All Star Opera Billing its music as “bohemian hip-hop,” All Star Opera features two MCs on top of a four-piece band. Anchored in a thoroughly Seattle jazz/rap vibe (complete with backup horns), the group released its dreamy debut, Shifting States, in late 2016, and made enough of a splash to land itself a spot at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party. First Runner-Up: Among Authors Second Runner-Up: Tacocat

Best Blues Act

Baby Gramps Greil Marcus’ critical catchphrase “the old, weird America” gets evoked a lot, but you’ll rarely see it used more appropriately than with cult favorite Baby Gramps. His growly voice and boot-stomping exuberance combine with the plink-plunk of his metal guitar to turn his performances, of both originals and darn-fool ditties from all over the past century, into a sort of one-man Anthology of American Folk Music. First Runner-Up: Stacy Jones Band Second Runner-Up: The Yadda Yadda Blues Band

Best Burlesque

Can Can Beneath Pike Place Market, the Can Can provides a time machine to an era of speakeasies and dance revues. The in-house dance company stages three to five different productions per year for the nightly dinner show, in addition to all-ages brunch matinees on weekends. The venue decor morphs to match each show, and through Oct. 1, it’s a doo-wop ice-cream shop for the current “Ice Cream” show, built around classic summer favorites such as Grease and Hairspray. First Runner-Up: Stripped Screw Burlesque Second Runner-Up: The Atomic Bombshells

Best Cinema

Cinerama When movies like Dunkirk come out, you hear things like: “You have to see it in 70mm.” And when you hear things like “You have to see it in 70mm,” you know you’ll probably be doing that at Cinerama. As audiences more and more often go for small-screen features, Paul Allen’s temple of the silver screen reminds us that there’s no beating a good movie. 2100 Fourth Ave., 448-6680. First Runner-Up: Central Cinema Second Runner-Up: Northwest Film Forum

Best Comedian

(tie) Brett Hamil, Emmett Montgomery In recent years Brett Hamil has developed a remarkable skill for generating quality humor out of even the wonkiest local politics. The key seems to be avoiding hot takes—the well-informed Hamil likes to gestate before bringing a joke forward in the show or on his YouTube channel. Emmett Montgomery serves as “human warmth-up act,” delivering a hilariously endearing-then-suddenly-jarring style of storytelling. First Runner-Up: Arijana Ramic

Best Comedy Club

Comedy Underground Like many of the world’s best comedy venues, the Comedy Underground is in a basement. The low ceiling and audience proximity adds an element of vulnerability that often brings out the best in the performers. Quality touring acts come through this club, often on the verge of a breakout. Plus, with open mic night on Monday, you can finally try those jokes you’ve been practicing on your friends. 109 S Washington St., 628-0303. First Runner-Up: Jet City Improv Second Runner-Up: Unexpected Productions

Best Comic Book Shop

Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery Beating Fantagraphics for the title of Seattle’s Best Comic Book Shop is a tall order, since the publisher blazed a new path for the entire medium. Last year Fantagraphics turned 40, and even though they lean on old classics like Pete Bagge and reissues as the meat-and-potatoes of their business, they’re still putting out work by some of the most exciting new and innovative artists in the field, like Simon Hanselmann and Julia Gfrörer. 1201 S. Vale St., 557-4910. First Runner-Up: Phoenix Comics & Games Second Runner-Up: Zanadu Comics

Best Convention

Crypticon Read Nathalie Graham’s report on the growth of the Northwest’s largest horror convention. First Runner-Up: Geek Girl Con Second Runner-Up: Emerald City Comicon

Best DJ Night

’80s vs. ’90s with DJ Indica Jones Seattle has plenty of ’80s nights and more than a few ’90s nights, but DJ Indica Jones is one of the only DJs in town seamlessly stitching the two together in the name of getting sweaty on the dance floor. The traveling DJ night often ups the ante by bringing in special guests to amp up the throwback vibes, like Beastie Boys tribute band Brass Monkeys and the lip-syncing and dancing boy-band tribute group All4doras. First Runner-Up: Night Crush at Re-bar Second Runner-Up: Queen4Queen at Pony

Best Drag Show

Bacon Strip Most drag shows follow a fairly predictable formula. Not Bacon Strip—Sylvia O’Stayformore and her cast of performers develop a completely new and original show the first Saturday of each month. Check it out on Aug. 12 when the gurls are taking over the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall for the Georgetown Art Attack in a free trailer park-themed outdoor summer show. First Runner-Up: Mimosa’s Cabaret Second Runner-Up: Arthaus

Best Electronic Act

Flavr Blue Hollis Wong-Wear is so omnipresent as an advocate in the community that it’s easy to forget she’s the front woman of a nationally renowned electronic trio. Along with Lace Cadence and Parker Joe, Wong-Wear churns out buttery-smooth dance tunes in The Flavr Blue, taking rhythmic cues from contemporary hip-hop and pop melodies. The band’s new single, “Top Down,” landed them a premiere in Complex, which Wong-Wear followed with a guest vocal spot on Shawn Wasabi’s late-July viral hit “OTTER POP.” First Runner-Up: Reverend Dollars Second Runner-Up: Luna God

Best Folk Act

Tomo Nakayama Read Christy Carley’s interview with Nakayama about his upcoming album. First Runner-Up: The W Lovers Second Runner-Up: Sera Cahoone

Best Hip-Hop Artist

DoNormaal The indisputable queen of the Seattle rap scene. DoNormaal’s presence and leadership in the community over the past two years helped carve out a space for the 69/50 collective, which counts among its ranks some of the city’s most interesting and innovative young artists. She upped the ante last month with the highly anticipated follow-up to her 2015 debut Jump or Die, the introspective 19-track epic Third Daughter. Her lyrical wit, syntactical acrobatics, and ear for melodies are as untouchable as ever. First Runner-Up: Shabazz Palaces Second Runner-Up: Sir Mix-A-Lot

Best Jazz Act

Kate Voss Kate Voss tried everything from playwriting to piano teaching before discovering a home in the Seattle jazz scene—but she never really settled down. She juggles roles in indie, jazz, pop, and country bands, each with a unique sound aided by her smooth and versatile voice. Most of her recent shows have been duos with her husband under the name Sundae & Mr. Goessl. Make sure to hit up the Hot Spot in Waterfront Park on August 30 to hear Kate Voss and the Big Boss Band. First Runner-Up: Rik Wright Second Runner-Up: Bill Frizzell

Best Music Festival

Bumbershoot Admit it. That part of you that’s still in a middle school dance is at least somewhat stoked to see Flo Rida perform “Low” live at Bumbershoot this year. Even if it’s not, the show’s line-up is still impressive, welcoming a number of big visiting acts (Lorde, Weezer, Haim) as well as local artists (Odesza, Tacocat, Dude York). First Runner-Up: Northwest Folklife Festival Second Runner-Up: Upstream Music Festival

Best Music Venue

Royal Room One of the classiest venues in Seattle, Columbia City’s The Royal Room is the kind of sit-down, full-bar-and-food-service jazz club you’d imagine in a smoky Hollywood film. The cozy stage, lit by a grinning portrait of the moon, hosts performances seven nights a week, and is always pay-what-you-want, keeping things accessible. 5000 Rainier Ave. S. First Runner-Up: The Crocodile Second Runner-Up: Neumos

Best Open Mic

Skylark Cafe & Club Skylark has earned stellar marks recently for its outstanding service to emerging musicians. That’s because the club offers anyone who gets onstage two amps and a drum set, a professional sound engineer who’ll help them dial in their sound, and a professional recording of their 15-minute set ($10 for a soloist and $20 for a full band). Lots of artists have used that demo to get their foot in the industry door. 3803 Delridge Way S.W. First Runner-Up: Conor Byrne Second Runner-Up: The Little Red Hen

Best Pop Band

Tacocat Nowhere in the band’s musical DNA do you find the overcast skies of the Northwest, and Seattle is better for it. Its bubblegum-smacking rhythm, psychedelic guitar riffs, and carefree melodies come as close to channeling the summer sun as any audio can, and Emily Nokes’ dreamy vocals lap at your eardrums like a lazy low tide. First Runner-Up: Sisters Second Runner-Up: The Dudley Manlove Quartet

Best Record Label

Sub Pop There is simply no more impressive Seattle record label. Sub Pop signed Nirvana, for Godsakes, and are probably in some way responsible for bringing your favorite bartender or barista to this fine city. A lot has happened since ye olde grunge days and Sub Pop has weathered its fair share of storms, but throughout most of the 21st century, so far, it has continued going strong. Keep an ear out for what their current artists have in store. Beach House’s new album dropped at the end of June, Iron & Wine is releasing new stuff in August, and Afghan Whigs are hitting the road and going on tour. First Runner-Up: Hardly Art Second Runner-Up: Killroom Records

Best Regular Comedy Event

Weird and Awesome With Emmett Montgomery One of the beardiest fellows in a town full of very beardy fellows, Emmett Montgomery has spent six and a half years highlighting the talents of folks “doing things outside of their comfort zones” or just simply “things they are really good at” with his show Weird and Awesome. While they’re always funny, what those “things” entail can range from stand-up, storytelling, and readings to songs or sometimes just making weird noises. Sometimes all you need to win over a crowd are weird noises. First Runner-Up: Comedy Nest at the Rendezvous Second Runner-Up: The Seattle Process With Brett Hamil

Best Rock Band

Thunderpussy Exposure to the music of Thunderpussy can serve as a kind of portal through time and space, bending the laws of physics to place the listener in the midst of a cosmic concert featuring Heart, Joan Jett, and Pat Benatar all at once, all at the height of their ferocity. Yet the electricity generated by Thunderpussy is all its own—the members’ energy tangible, their passion visceral. It has catapulted the band from small, local gigs to national tours. Just last week it headlined at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. Catch it at a live show—you’ll be changed forever. First Runner-Up: (tie) Rust on the Rails, Hobosexual

Best Record Store

Easy Street Records Easy Street Records can’t be beat. Its size, selection, and abundance of amenities seem endless. Seriously, name another record store where you can sip a beer (local, naturally), eat a cleverly named, musically inspired brunch—I like my eggs with a plate of crispy James Browns—and catch a live performance. Since 1988, there’s been no better place in Seattle to score some vinyl, a good meal, and a great experience. 4559 California Ave. S.W., 938-3279. First Runner-Up: Wall of Sound Second Runner-Up: Silver Platters SoDo