I don’t want to rock your worldview with shocking intel, but Seattle has more than a few musical acts and more than a few concert venues to host them
. Unfortunately, even with such options, it’s easy to fall into a rut. Often things fall into a cycle in which the same local bands end up playing the same venues in the same pockets of town ad nauseam until things get tired and stale. All Star Opera is not one for this (or really any type of) complacency. The genre-blurring six-piece group’s hip-hop/soul fusion led Seattle Weekly readers to vote ASO Seattle’s Best Band in 2017.
Rather than hit the road for an early-year tour in 2018, ASO took advantage of January, a notoriously dead period in the concertgoing calendar, to map their own Seattle World Tour. The band teamed up with Northwest hip-hop culture blog Respect My Region to bring together some of its favorite local acts to play five straight nights in different neighborhood venues: Tim’s Tavern, The Rendezvous, Barboza, The High Dive, and The Royal Room. Not only did this allow the band to traverse the city, but the concerts doubled as a fundraiser and clothing drive for local nonprofit Mary’s Place, which aids homeless women and children.
After a successful first run, All Star Opera and Respect My Region are bringing back the Seattle World Tour in 2019 for a second edition. ASO is expanding to bigger venues that fit the group’s growing fan base (and raising even more for Mary’s Place). The Tour begins Tuesday, Jan. 8, at Nectar Lounge with Cuff Lynx, Trick Candles, and Biddadat. On Wednesday, they head to Capitol Hill with Tezatalks, MistaDC, Sendai Era, and DJ Marvelous at Neumos. Thursday they move to The Crocodile with Kung Foo Grip, Chris King and the Gutterballs, and the Marshall Law Band. The weekend slate starts on Friday night with Cosmos, Tres Leches, and Gypsy Temple at Central Saloon, and the tour wraps on on Saturday at Columbia City Theater with La Fonda, Ralphy Davis, and Whitney Mongé. Each show is $10 in advance or $40 for all five with a VIP bracelet purchased via Eventbrite.
To get a handle on the festivities, we chatted with All Star Opera keyboardist Seth McDonald, who doubles as the Seattle World Tour executive director.
What made you initially want to do the Seattle World Tour?
It started out as a joke where we wanted to film a mockumentary where we went around our own city on tour and stayed the night at each place. But then we realized that no one would actually book us shows. So it just kinda grew into this actual serious idea. All we had was the name Seattle World Tour. And from there, we actually wanted to do five nights of shows in our own city, and team up with a bunch of different artists to make a positive impact. We locked onto Mary’s Place as a foundation that we wanted to benefit.
We wanted to include artists of all genres because we felt that All Star Opera doesn’t fall into one category: We’re hip-hop, we’re soul, we’re funk. It really dawned on us in April 2017, when we played with Industrial Revelation at Neumos, and the crowd received us really well, and then two weeks later we’re playing with Devin the Dude and Jarv Dee, and the crowd received us really well. It just made us think we don’t have to count on one community, we could just be part of a large community. And hopefully over time we can do our part to bring [different music communities] together. The biggest thing for us embarking on the Seattle World Tour is we wanted to do our part in breaking the ice of the metaphorical Seattle freeze. We felt that if we teamed up with a bunch of artists that we didn’t even know—but we just respected and liked their music, whether it was like-minded music or not—it would be a fun, interesting way to bring communities together.
What made y’all decide on Mary’s Place as the charitable beneficiary?
I’m just one-sixth of All Star Opera, but for me, I was homeless multiple times in high school and then after high school. I’ve met multiple people who volunteer at Mary’s Place. The biggest thing for me is that, as a male, I had it a little easier being homeless than a female. I can’t really imagine being a mother and being homeless and having your kid with you. So with that, knowing what Mary’s Place is doing, how can we further their impact? Not only are they impacting females, but their families as well. And homelessness is one of the biggest issues here in Seattle.
What was the thought behind the acts you picked to play with ASO this year?
Even if it’s in a different genre, who do we see that’s really trying to do something unique with their movement? For example, not only does Gypsy Temple put on a [great] live performance, but we saw them register over 3,000 youth voters last fall. Marshall Law Band, another hip-hop/funk band, put on a hip-opera last year, which was a really unique experience. Whitney Mongé did two nights at Jazz Alley, but is also being played on KEXP. Things like that inspire us. I think the hardest part is we can’t bring everyone on.
We also wanted to make sure there was a balance of female and male performers, and I believe there is some non-binary representation as well, as far as LGBTQ. We just didn’t want it to be a bunch of white male bands.