Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

The Sunbreak’s Bumbershoot Music Preview

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Bumbershoot 2015 is just around the corner, and per usual the festival’s a sonic buffet. With literally dozens of acts performing, there’s not enough time or copy space to fill you in on everyone that’s playing. We’ll be there, deep in the trenches, to give you more details. In the meantime, here are ye olde SunBreakers’ top three picks for Bumber-music this Labor Day Weekend.

Chris’s Picks:

Babes in Toyland (#NeverTamed Stage, 5PM on Saturday)

If there’s one thing that has remained constant with Bumbershoot’s programming over the years, it’s that you can count on at least one reunion you really want to see. This year, it’s Babes in Toyland, the brilliant pre-riot grrrl band out of Minnesota. The band played their first show in fourteen years earlier this year and reports say that they sound fantastic.

Kasey Musgraves (Starbucks Stage, 8:45PM on Saturday)

My very favorite album of 2013 was Kasey Musgraves’ Same Trailer Different Park. It had numerous catchy and well-written songs. I’ve since been hoping she’d make a tour stop somewhere near Seattle (one big downside for Seattle’s cosmopolitanism is that country musicians don’t often make stops within the city limits), and it is finally happening at Bumbershoot.

Peaches (Key Arena, 7:45 on Monday)

Did I read that correctly? Peaches, the German provocateur whose most famous song is the club hit “Fuck the Pain Away” and who has released albums called Fatherfucker and Impeach My Bush is playing in a basketball arena? That’s something I never thought I’d see, and can’t imagine missing it.

Kelsey’s Picks:

The Weeknd (Memorial Stadium, 9PM on Saturday)
I didn’t watch the VMAs, but I did re-watch this video of Kanye dancing to his performance. If he can make Yeezus dance like that, I can only image what the crowd at Bumbershoot will be like.

Robert Delong (Memorial Stadium, 3:45PM on Saturday)
Another Washingtonian! When he opened for Odesza in November, his approach to electronic music – which includes Wii controllers and an actual joystick – was refreshing. Guaranteed to be a good dance party.

Kris Orlowski (Starbucks Stage, 4:30PM on Monday)
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the singer/songwriter, but his set with the Passenger String Quartet underneath the glow of the Space Needle in 2013 was one of my favorites to date. I’m looking forward to seeing what new tricks he has up his sleeve this year.

Kris Orlowski once more does his thing at Bumbershoot. (photo: Kelsey Kaufman)
Kris Orlowski once more does his thing at Bumbershoot. (photo: Kelsey Kaufman)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony’s Picks:

It’s difficult not to want to acknowledge at least a dozen musical acts hitting the stage each day of Bumbershoot 2015. There’s an especially rich vein of local hip hop (Raz Simone, Nacho Picasso, Brothers from Another, and Chimurenga Renaissance), and a lot of fab homegrown acts in general (big shout-outs on behalf of Grace Love and the True Loves, Smokey Brights, and Constant Lovers, all of whom will deliver). Also, what Chris and Kelsey said.

My three picks are specifically bands/musicians I’ve never heard live before, but am exceptionally stoked to see do their thing in front of an audience.

Deep Creep (#NeverTamed Stage, 4PM on Saturday)

Local sorta-supergroup Deep Creep includes Cute Lepers guitarist Brian Yeager, Cave Singers/Murder City Devils bassist Derek Fudesco, and Pretty Girls Make Graves singer Andrea Zollo, and their sound–a scrappy, sultry, and faintly menacing blend of The Kills, Nancy Sinatra, and Blondie–is floating my boat in an epic way right now.

Lee “Scratch” Perry and Subatomic Sound System  (Starbucks Stage, 4PM on Sunday)

The 2015 Bumbershoot musical roster is (quite unusually) almost  entirely devoid of any artists who actually recorded in the 1960s or ’70s, but the happy exception this Labor Day comes in the form of reggae godfather Lee “Scratch” Perry. The dude’s been recording, writing, performing, and producing since before you, I, or your parents were born, and he remains a magnificently colorful live performer. Perry’s work has impacted hip hop (he invented scratching on his production of Charlie Ace’s “Cow  Theory Skank” in 1973), electronic dance music, and punk (he also stepped behind the boards for The Clash). Ignore the bros and white kids with dreadlocks, prepare for a contact high whether you want it or not, and give in to the groove.

The Bots  (Rhapsody Stage, 4PM on Monday)

This LA duo’s already logged in a crap-ton of live work, having been playing together since they were 12 and 15, respectively. I’m not sure if lead singer/guitarist Mikaiah Lei’s even hit legal drinking age yet, but he and his drummer/kid brother Anaiah rock their polyglot of Black Keys two-person blues, punk, and Arctic Monkeys-style glam pop like holy Hell.

The SunBreak’s Bumbershoot comedy preview

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Comedy is always one of the most popular parts of programming. In fact, comedy ranks third after live music and the Shiskaberry’s booth. Experts in the field are saying that this is not one of the strongest years of comedy programming for Bumbershoot because there’s no big name comedians, like Patton Oswalt or the guy who does all the voices in the Police Academy movies (September 24-26 at the Parlor in Bellevue).

But I do think there are some great laughs to be had all weekend. Here are a few of the things that I recommend and hope to catch while I’m on Seattle Center grounds this weekend:

Continue reading The SunBreak’s Bumbershoot comedy preview

A Streetcar Named Striptease Rides Through ‘The Tennessee Tease’

Tennessee Tease...

There’s no denying how hot it’s been around these parts all summer long. Overcast days and random spits of rain have done little to stave off the beads of perspiration popping from the brows of even the most composed Seattleites. And there have been days where the humidity’s been, well, pretty oppressive by our temperate standards.

It’s a condition that’s pretty novel for Northwesterners, but it’s a state of physical and emotional being that feeds, and feeds off of, the works of Tennessee Williams. If the collective oeuvre of twentieth century American theater’s most iconic playwright possessed a physical body, its garments would be clinging to it in a hothouse-summer-induced sweat.

That environment would seem a fertile clime for the bump and grind of burlesque performance, and the folks putting on Tennessee Tease (opening at the Theatre Off Jackson tonight) know it.

Co-produced by Sailor St. Claire (a key mover at Sinner Saint Burlesque company) and writer/choreographer/burlesque performer Fosse Jack, Tennessee Tease promises a genuine narrative in which Williams’ memoirs are wedded with burlesque enactments depicting his indelible fictional characters, his real-life friends and loved ones, and his lovers. Sinner Saint’s presentation from last year, Inheritance: Maiden, Mother, Crone, impressed our own Chris Burlingame greatly, and like that work Tennessee Tease is aiming for something more ambitious than your typical burlesque revue. And there’s no denying that the tensions and passions threaded throughout Williams’ writing and private life will provide ample fodder.

Several established local burlesque performers and actors will join St. Claire and Jack onstage, including drag king Al LykyaDiva le Deviant, Jesse Bell-Jones, and legendary Seattle-based ecdysiast Eartha Quake. The jury’s still out, however, as to whether or not TOJ will be providing bourbon, mint juleps, silk kerchiefs for mopping sweaty brows, and/or handheld fans.

Tennessee Tease plays at TOJ August 13 through 15 at 8:00 p.m (doors at 7:30). Tickets, $20, can be purchased here.

Seattle Opera’s Full-Throated ‘Nabucco’ Powers Past its Awkward Staging

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Verdi’s Nabucco opened last Saturday night at McCaw Hall, with the run continuing through August 22; it will be broadcast live next Saturday evening, August 15, on KING-FM. A smash hit when it was first presented in 1842, it still has that power, which one experiences most strongly in the music in Seattle Opera’s production. The singing is magnificent from everybody, chorus included.

The opera, Verdi’s first major success at age 29, is dominated by the role of Abigaille, which has in the past been considered a voice killer. It has to be sung with ferocious and acrobatic intensity most of the time, but includes a few tender moments as well. Seattle Opera’s former general director Speight Jenkins heard Mary Elizabeth Williams sing it and determined to bring her here to repeat the role. She has performed it all over Europe and it’s good to report that it has not destroyed her voice. Soprano Williams was a Young Artist here in 2000-01 and has gone from strength to strength. She was superb and terrifying as Abigaille, despite a tendency to be a hair under the note on her top Cs. Her acting was splendid and menacing, and in her gentler moments she sounded exquisite.

Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn, making his debut here as Zaccaria, sang with deep well-cored, authoritative richness, a foil to Nabucco, sung by baritone Gordon Hawkins. To begin with Hawkins sounded a little as though he was losing his core, but the voice tightened up and he gave a memorable performance, particularly as a weakened fuzzy-minded old man. Young mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton as Fenena, new here, has a truly beautiful voice with depth and nuance. She will surely be back, while tenor Russell Thomas, another Young Artist graduate, singing Ismaele, is another it will be a pleasure to hear again. In short, every voice was a joy to hear.

The story, with a libretto by Temistocle Solera, is a highly imaginative, emotionally extreme version of the biblical story of Jerusalem’s sack by Nebuchadnezzar, and the subsequent exile of the Hebrews to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar (or Nabucco, as he is called here) takes both his daughters to war with him. One, gentle Fenena, is captured by the Hebrews, only to be freed by her Hebrew lover, Ismaele, negating her hostage value. The other, Abigaille, is consumed by ambition, frustration (she wants Ismaele), and rage against anything in her way, including her father. In Babylon, Nabucco pronounces himself a god and demands worship. The Hebrew god smites him with lightning (a startling lighting moment), he goes mad and weak, and Abigaille seizes the moment to grab the crown, ordering the death of all the Hebrews, including Fenena who has embraced the Hebrew god. They are all about to be slaughtered when Nabucco renounces Baal, embraces the Hebrew god, regains his strength, and cancels the slaughter. Abigaille takes poison and dies in remorse.

In an unusual format, the orchestra spans the middle of the McCaw Hall stage, with the proscenium pushed out over the pit, no doubt with the intention of bringing the major protagonists closer to the audience, thus making the experience more intimate. This extra 20 feet or so may have worked for those in the front half of the orchestra stalls, but didn’t make much difference for those further back, and the division of the stage and visibility of the orchestra made for awkward moments and stilted staging. It didn’t, however, affect vocal or orchestral sound.

In all but one chorus, the Hebrews and Babylonian soldiers stay in the back part of the stage, behind the orchestra. There are only two ways for them to move, left and right, so when the soldiers attack and one would expect the Hebrews to scatter every which way, they can’t. When the Hebrew high priest, Zaccaria, exhorts and comforts them, he is facing the audience from the front of the stage and his flock is behind him. There are several moments like this which don’t feel natural in this staging by François Racine.

Perhaps because of the narrowed front stage, movement around tended to be more static than we usually see here, even when the chorus came on in front to sing the famous “Va pensiero.” Trained by John Keene, it outdid itself and received prolonged applause. However it was jolting to see conductor Carlo Montanero applauding them also from his podium. Montanero paced the performance deftly, keeping the orchestra well balanced with the singers, surely not an easy job with the unusual positioning.

The backdrop sets of Jerusalem and Babylon are abstract, changing video projections by principal designer Robert Bonniol. One vaguely suggests the temple and its destruction, but with a dead horse head and neck in the middle, which seemed mystifying until a couple of acts later when Nabucco mentions his horse. The most concrete are the famous hanging gardens of Babylon presented as plants in huge bubbles which descend from the flies. Mostly they are somewhat puzzling. Props are minimal, just one stool in one act, one large modern chair with side table in another.

With sumptuous blue and gold for the Babylonians, and simple red and brown for the Hebrews, Ginette Grenier’s costumes made welcome splashes of color.

Ever So Android: Electronic Rock, Emphasis on the ROCK

Ever So Android (photo: Ben Bobzien)
Ever So Android (photo: Ben Bobzien)

The thin line between abrasion and accessibility is a hard one to straddle for any band utilizing industrial electronic sounds. Seattle duo Ever So Android pull that balance off big-time on their debut full-length Disconnect, an epic rock record whose industrial backbone never comes at the expense of its soul.

The band’s two members, vocalist Hope Simpson and multi-instrumentalist Drew Murray, generate one unholy and ravishing racket. It’s temptingly easy to compare ‘em to early Nine Inch Nails—Murray’s clattering, throbbing, grinding mix of electronic and natural percussion definitely plants some of its roots in Trent Reznor’s rhythmic approach—but once Murray kicks the guitars in and Simpson opens her mouth, Ever So Android becomes an earthier animal.

The synthetic back-masked whooshes that form the intro to Disconnect’s first track, “Moment,” rapidly give way to a concise guitar riff that alternately follows and jabs at the drums, and Simpson’s drama-drenched windstorm of a voice counters the spiky directness with a tribal trill that’s disarming in its primal sexuality.

The rest of Disconnect’s tracks rarely let up, with Murray’s rhythms bashing and burbling while his axe kicks up mutant variations on swaggering hard rock (“Cradle Robbers”), blues stomping (“Leash”), greasy Zeppelin mega-riffage (“Don’t I Have a Say”), and driving pogo-ready new wave (“Learn to Crawl”). Simpson, meantime, fronts the songs with the kind of pipes that send music scribes burrowing through their verbal file cabinets for superlatives. Her voice soars over, growls at, and encircles the tunes with astonishing power and total abandon, without ever losing velocity or veering off-pitch. When most modern rock fuses electronics with organic urgency, the results usually reflect artists struggling to maintain their humanity in the face of the machinery: Disconnect is the exhilarating sound of two human beings (three, if you count veteran producer Bill Rieflin and his punchy, expansive production) resolutely making technology their bitch.

I suppose the relentlessness with which Ever So Android pile-drives their music could be perceived as a liability in some corners: Even “Dirty Fingers,” with its skittering introductory dance shuffle and some of Simpson’s most nuanced vocals, shifts into high tribal-goth gear within twenty seconds. But in a world where electronic music is dominated by ice queens and incalculably arch hipsters, Ever So Android’s in-your-face approach feels refreshingly visceral and immediate. Rage on, guys.

Ever So Android play their CD release party for Disconnect tonight, Friday August 7, at the Crocodile Cafe. Show begins at 9:00 p.m., withTen Miles Wide (formerly The Mothership), The Mama Rags, and the Hollers sharing the bill. Tickets available at thecrocodile.com, or at the door.

Galacticon 4 Blasts into Seattle this Weekend

If you’re a sci-fi fan but were put off my the megalithic crowds that jammed into Emerald City Comicon earlier this year, Galacticon could be just the intergalactic ticket.

Beginning today and stretching through to Sunday, this fourth iteration of Galacticon includes luminaries from over 50 years of genre TV and film. The convention’s very much a grass-roots affair run by the Battlestar Galactica Fan Club and a ragtag volunteer team, but even with some guest cancellations and logistic hiccups,  it promises to be a great time for this ‘burg’s sizable geek contingent.

There’s a guest or panel to scratch almost every sci-fi or fantasy itch. Are you a boomer who grew up with the 1960s family space opera Lost in Space? Cast members Mark Goddard and Marta Kristen are in attendance. Couldn’t get enough of the kids-and-dinosaurs antics of the 1970s Saturday morning show Land of the Lost? Feel free to hang out with Kathy Coleman (pigtailed moppet Holly), Wesley Eure (earnest big brother Will), and Philip Paley (lovable missing link Chaka).

Come on. You know you're dying to hang out with this guy this weekend.
Come on. You know you’re dying to hang out with this guy this weekend.

True to its name, Galacticon’s also showcasing a strong contingent from both incarnations of Battlestar Galactica. Several actors from the 1970s original (Richard Hatch, Terry Carter, Anne Lockhart, Jack Stauffer, and Sarah Rush) are in town to reminisce and meet fans, while Leah Cairns (AKA the new Galactica‘s character, Racetrack) represents the new show’s contingent. The designers responsible for the immersive universe of the 2000s reboot will be also on hand to hang out and discuss creating a new Galactica for a modern audience.

There’s plenty more, too, including Jewel Staite–spunky mechanic Kaylee from the Joss Whedon cult hit Firefly–and Farscape‘s playful fan favorite Chiana (AKA actress Gigi Edgley). Plus Klingons, Borg, Mortal Kombat fighters, and more. All told, it’s a broad expanse of personalities from a lot of great science fiction.

Galacticon takes place in the open environs of Seattle Center, with panels and events taking place in the Center’s Armory as well as Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets are available at the door, or at the Galacticon website, here.