The Weekend List: With guest curator Mark Siano
Mark Siano has a thing for soft rock. “Phil Collins, Lionel Richie songs — they were rambling, glorious celebrations of really mellow music.” He says this in all seriousness. He loves soft rock so much he once produced and sang an homage to the genre. “I was working an office job at a hospital and all they would play was soft rock and my co-workers heard me singing and they said, ‘You should do a show.’” He did three: Mark Siano’s Soft Rock Explosion, The Soft Rock Spectacular and The Soft Rock Kid.
The shows further cemented Siano’s reputation as a nice guy who can do it all: sing, act, emcee and tell a joke. At the University of Washington in the mid-1990s, he and a group of friends formed a comedy troupe called The Habit. They later moved to LA to pitch their show to a cable network; it didn’t work out. During that time, Siano also played in a band.
Last year, the 38-year-old Siano collaborated with girlfriend and performer Opal Peachey on the musical, Seattle VICE, a seamy, smarmy look at real-life Seattle circa 1965. The show opened at ACT. He’s already working on another musical production, Bohemia, set in 1890s Prague and scheduled to open in September at the new Café Nordo. When we met recently, Siano was particularly excited about heading to a bar later to taste test and brainstorm ways of serving absinthe as part of the Nordo show.
“But how to light the drinks on fire and serve it to everyone quickly?” he pondered. Nothing annoys a creative like Siano more than something that drags a show. Even absinthe. It’s all about leading an audience on a journey, which is how we end up talking about Patrick Swayze and the “Time of My Life” dance scene from the 1987 classic Dirty Dancing. Or what Siano calls " a great way to kick-off a dance party."
On Friday night, Siano will channel Swayze along with John Travolta (doing his best Batusi in Pulp Fiction) as emcee and performer in The Studio 54 Experience, a dance party that follows the SIFF screening of 54: The Director’s Cut. The party promises disco dance lessons and recreations of five of the most iconic dance sequences on film from: Dirty Dancing, Pulp Fiction, Fame, Napoleon Dynamite and Flashdance. (Yes, there will be that one shower dance-from-the-strip-club routine).
“The thing about a good disco song is that you can slow dance and then you can freak out,” says Siano, who can do both.
If you go: The Studio 54 Experience, The Neptune, 9 p.m. May 29 ($15 for the party only; $25 for the film and party. Note: the film 54: The Director’s Cut screens at 7 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian). — F.D.
* Denotes items that are $15 or less
Natasha Kmeto *
She's the kind of R&B singer who covers Nine Inch Nails. Also a producer and composer, Kmeto’s powerful arrangements often lean towards the gothic and industrial tones NIN’s Trent Reznor pioneered. A lighter, synth pop influence (think Depeche Mode or Soft Cell) is also apparent in her sound, as are the post-millennial dub-step and EDM trappings one might expect from a contemporary artist looking to move hips on today’s dance floors. Kmeto is based in Portland. Seattle rapper Katie Kate, who also produces her own (very fierce) beats, is the opener. It’s a match made in heaven.
If you go: Natasha Kmeto, Kremwerk, May 29 ($10). All ages — J.S.H.
Don Nordo del Midwest at Cafe Nordo
Yes, full disclosure, the show features his girlfriend Opal Peachey. But that's not the only reason why Siano is plugging this. "It's more inventive and creative than most theater in this town and the surprising combinations of food and performing arts make it truly unique. Plus it's by far the most social of any theater experience you'll have in Seattle. I love how people linger and hang out and drink afterwards."
If you go: Don Nordo del Midwest, Cafe Nordo, Ongoing ($65) -- M.S.
The Can Can’s Flamingo
Loyal readers of The Weekend List might remember the shoutout this venue got from
guest curator Olivier Wevers earlier this year. So why again? Because, Siano explains, “their shows are awesome. Anyone who knows dance and performance knows this is high energy and smart cabaret with a tiny bit of burlesque and big choreography and dancers who are the top of their game.” 'Nuff said.
If you go: Flamingo, The Can Can, Now through Oct. 11 ($40) — M.S.
The Hot Spot at Teatro Zinzanni
The spiegeltent will bid adieu to Zinzanni's current production, The Hot Spot, on June 7. Siano reminds us that it’s a last chance to go see two mainstay performers he loves: Frank Ferrante (“the best crowd work comedian around”) and aerialist and singer Dreya Weber . “They are a power couple," says Siano. "Like Mark and Opal on steroids.”
If you go: The Hot Spot, Teatro Zinzanni, Now through June 7 ($99) — M.S.
PhinneyWood Garage Sale Day *
It’s here! It’s here! IT’S HEEEEEREEEEEEEE! This is one of my favorite days of the year, and it’s an official holiday for thrifting. Through the years, the Phinney Neighborhood Garage Sale Day has been there no matter the thickness of my wallet, yielding treasures of my adulthood such as First Record Player, First Pair of Danskos, First Egg Poaching Cups and a lot of tiny glass animals that I’m definitely going to do something with someday. And to help you navigate the tool sale, flea market and over 100 stalls (many with hot organic beverages for the taking), organizers provide a map with the highlights.
If you go: PhinneyWood Garage Sale Day, Throughout Seattle’s Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods, From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 30 (Free) — N.C.
SIFF Films: The Dark Horse *
I’m interrupting my regular recommendations (of documentaries, short films and bleak international films) to bring you a potentially uplifting international film. The Dark Horse tells the true story of New Zealand speed chess champion Genesis Potini, who battles bipolar disorder and incarceration before giving hope to at-risk Maori kids through chess. According to the lovely people at SIFF, “carefully balancing humor with a raw and unpredictable style, The Dark Horse transcends its tried-and-true genre — the troubled mentor who despite all odds raises the spirits of a ragtag group of disadvantaged youth — and emerges as a deeply felt, wildly inspirational drama with a bite.” Watch the trailer for a taste of this huge winner in New Zealand and likely hit at this year's festival. Also, Dark Horse star Cliff Curtis is scheduled to attend.
If you go: The Dark Horse, SIFF Cinema Uptown at 6 p.m. May 30 and at Harvard Exit at 4 p.m. on June 3 ($13) — N.C.
She needs no introduction. Bette Midler’s knack for pageantry, theatrics and edginess place her among the great entertainers of our time. She’s won Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes (yes, all three of those are plural) and a Tony — never mind all the gold and platinum albums. It’s not fair to simply categorize her as a singer, dancer, comedian, actor or anything else really. She’s a wisecracking force of nature who took the music industry by storm in 1972 with her debut album, “The Divine Miss M” and stayed on top thereafter with innumerable forays into the world of showbiz. A prolific artist to this day, she continues to act, tour and release well-received albums.
If you go: Bette Midler, Key Arena, June 1 (prices vary). All ages — J.S.H.
Massenger, Gazebos *
There’s a bug going around the Northwest. Musicians who catch it succumb to a burning desire to make really, really edgy surf pop music. So edgy, in fact, that calling it surf is a stretch. Sure, it’s energetic and some of the guitar strategies are similar, but there’s so much eclecticism, distortion and screaming in just the right places that the genre often resembles garage or punk music. One of the genre's most exciting practitioners is California’s Massenger, which plays the Highline this week. Both Massenger and another band Gazebos feature incredible female vocalists. Massenger’s Sasha Green and Gazebos’ Shannon Perry follow in the excellent rock tradition of vocalist Siouxsie Sioux. Of the two, Perry has the wilder delivery; Green opts for a lighter, ironic approach.
If you go: Massenger, Gazebos, The Highline, June 2 ($6). 21+ — J.S.H.
Revel's Grill Shack
Korean-French restaurant Revel, in Fremont, is always a good bet for an adventurous, delectable brunch or dinner. In the summertime though, they crank it up a few notches with their Grill Shack. For May, they got in some whole Hampshire hogs from Jones Family Farms on Lopez Island and each night they’re offering a platter of changing cuts, from house made sausage to short ribs, each cut better than the last. Next month they're doing beef, then lamb and goat in July, and more pork in August, all sourced from local farms that focus on ethical practices and sustainability. Vegetarians don’t despair: The Grill Shack Slaw (charred Chinese broccoli, golden beets and ah-mazing black tahini) stole the show for me.
If you go: Grill Shack, Revel, Now through August — N.C.