* Denotes items that are $15 or less
"Alive Inside" *
The power of music — how it affects us, defines and inspires us — is celebrated in this documentary about the healing force of the art form. Strap on an iPod and suddenly men and women fighting Alzheimer’s and dementia are reinvigorated in a way no pill could ever muster. The film follows a social worker named Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit Music & Memory in Mineola, N.Y. Neurologist Oliver Sacks gives us science lessons on how the brain works. The musician Bobby McFerrin offers up insight on the emotional pull of music. But it’s Cohen’s patients who you’ll remember long after the film ends. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, it screens for one last night at The Varsity.
If you go: “Alive Inside,” Varsity Theatre, Through Aug. 28 ($10.50) — F.D.
The 2014 WA State High School Photography Competition *
More than 1,500 students from 70 Washington schools entered the competition. That’s some serious creativity going on and here’s your chance to celebrate this next generation of artistes. A total of 36 photos are on display, the finalists in various categories: Animal, Portrait and, of course, Camera Phone. I suspect we who take selfies would be put to some serious shame by these kids.
If you go: The 2014 WA State High School Photography Competition, Tacoma Art Museum, Through Sept. 28 ($10) – F.D.
"Expedition to the End of the World" *
The charting of uncharted territory is always gripping and visually mesmerizing — especially with so little left to chart. Add to that an immensely intelligent cast that is also quirky and hilarious and you have the magic behind "Expedition at the End of the World." The documentary follows a crew of scientists and artists (a geochemist, a marine biologist, an archeologist, an art photographer, a geographer) as they explore the shores of Northeast Greenland, coming in contact with new species and sites that ultimately lead them back to the same questions of humanity we all face. At one point, one of them muses, “We are pretty bourgeois anarchists, no?” and I’d have to agree, in the best sort of way.
If you go: Expedition to the End of the World, Northwest Film Forum, Aug.29 to Sept. 4 ($11 general) — N.C.
Bumbershoot 2014 Day One
Bumbershoot 2014 is here, and this year’s lineup is a pinnacle of excellence for the 43-year-old festival. In fact, there are so many spectacular musical choices that it’s easy to get frazzled deciding which acts to catch. With that in mind, here are some gems from the hip-hop and R&B heavy Saturday lineup:
Begin with sassy neo R&B divas Fly Moon Royalty at 11:45 a.m. on the Fisher Green stage and migrate to wunderkind soul singer Otieno Terry at the Fountain Lawn after that. Local rock acts McTuff and Dude York both play between 1 and 2 p.m. — if you’re ready for something loud that early. Otherwise downtempo R&B singer SZA (a must-see) will preside over the Fountain Lawn stage at 2 p.m.
For those trying to dance, New Orleans Bounce rap goddess Big Freedia is essential; she plays the Fisher Green stage at 2:45 p.m. Detroit rapper Danny Brown plays that same stage at 4:30 p.m., and this is the perfect year to see him: "Old," his latest album, is a career-best, bravely juxtaposing songs in his classic party rap style against much more serious material focused on his childhood in the inner city.
In the mid-afternoon, Synthpop group Polica is an entrancing pick, and local rappers Grayskul and Ra Scion will bring the intensity. After 9 p.m. comes the most difficult choice of the whole festival: The immortal Wu-Tang Clan at the Mainstage, rock veterans The Afghan Whigs at Fisher Green or soul legend Mavis Staples at the Starbucks stage. You’ll never make it to all three, so choose your own adventure!
If you go: Bumbershoot, Seattle Center, August 30 ($62). All ages — J.S.H.
1 Reel Film Festival 2014
The beast that is Bumbershoot continues. And yes, while there is much hype surrounding the music (see above and below), I am always surprised by all the other stuff going on — the cultural talks, the comedy, the films. If you find yourself at Bumbershoot this year, needing a break from the sun, the ever-present smell of funnel cakes and the crowds, head into SIFF for a dose cool, dark short cinema. The movies in this film festival are carefully organized into themes — Tales of the Planet, Films4Families, Face the Music, Films4Adults. You'll have an idea of what you’re getting, but odds are you’ll still be thoroughly and wonderfully surprised. Get excited about a specific theme or show up at random and just go with it.
If you go: 1 Reel Film Festival, SIFF Film Center (at Bumbershoot), Aug. 30 to Sept. 1. All Ages ($62) — N.C.
Bumbershoot 2014 Day Two
Gargantuan Afrobeat/funk band Polyrhythmics and blues Metal Seattleites Hobosexual are the clear morning picks for Sunday’s Bumbershoot. Another local act, dreamy synthpop duo Golden Gardens, will cast their spell over the Fisher Green stage a little later at 1:30 p.m. Competing for the early afternoon time slot is young, brash and ingenious Tacoma rap posse ILLFIGHTYOU, who play the End Zone stage at 2 p.m. They never fail to burn the house down.
Cali rapper and Black Hippie hip-hop collective member Schoolboy Q plays the Mainstage first, at 2:45 p.m. Seattle Dream Pop experimenter Justin Vallesteros, who performs as Craft Spells, is at the End Zone stage at 4 p.m. Incalculably influential alternative rock pioneers The Replacements play the Mainstage at 6 p.m.
Another seminal band, the post-punk group Mission of Burma, will rock the Fountain Lawn at 7:15 p.m. Pickwick, with flashy keyboard licks and mouth-watering harmonies in tow, is at Fisher Green at 8:15 p.m. The late-night highlights are ultra-manic experimental rock act The Dismemberment Plan, followed by the man, the legend and the interplanetary funk phenomenon Bootsy Collins, Parliament’s original bassist.
If you go: Bumbershoot, Seattle Center, August 31 ($62). All ages — J.S.H.
Bumbershoot 2014 Day Three
Start the final day of Bumbershoot off on a melodic note by checking out the somewhat ironically sunny surf pop group La Luz (The irony is that they’re from around here).
Psychedelic blues rock locals Rose Windows play the Fountain lawn at 3:30 p.m., and I never get sick of front woman Rabia Shaheen Quazi’s voice. It sounds like Stevie Nicks with a touch of Robert Plant.
Introspective singer-songwriter Twin Shadow, who blends the synthy sounds of ’80s New Wave with modern R&B styling, is well worth swinging by the Fountain Lawn stage for at 5:15 p.m. Alternative rock group Nada Surf, whose softer guitar sound and reserved-yet-urgent singing has stayed amazingly relevant as they approach the quarter-century mark as a band, perform on the Fountain Lawn stage at 7 p.m. Wrap up the long weekend with serene dream pop group Real Estate and completely un-serene rockabilly party machine The Reverend Horton Heat.
If you go: Bumbershoot, Seattle Center, Sept. 1 ($62). All ages — J.S.H.