The Weekend List: The arts and culture guide to Seattle's good life

Miranda July, out-of-the-box opera, Seattle Symphony gets all youthy and UW undergrads strut their stuff.
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The Seattle Youth Symphony will play "Side-by-Side" with the Seattle Symphony in a free concert Jan. 25

Miranda July, out-of-the-box opera, Seattle Symphony gets all youthy and UW undergrads strut their stuff.

* Denotes events that are $15 or less

The Ballad of Ishtar *

Some of the most out-of-the-box creatives in town — Heather Bentley, Beth Fleenor, Ahamefule J. Oluo, Wayne Horvitz, Evan Flory-Barnes and okanomodé — will assemble for what is being billed as an electro-acoustic, semi-improvised opera about the worldwide rape culture crisis. Twelve musicians in a performance about chaos, the ugly side of humanity and the Babylonian goddess of sex and war.  If you go, I so want to hear what you think.

More on the opera's creation can be found here:

If you go: The Ballad of Ishtar, Chapel Performance Space, Jan. 22 through 24 ($5 to $15) — F.D.

UW Dance Faculty Concert

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I love debating dance with those who are put off by the art form. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. I don’t know what they’re trying to say. My approach is pretty simple: I go. I take in the music. And I look at the movement. Do they pair well? If there’s a story, OK. If there’s not, so what? If the dancing is strong, I could care less.

I have no idea what to expect with this particular program, but I’ll tell you what appeals to me — these three descriptors from the press release: flying bodies, “a duet for two women in hanging suit jackets” and cans. Two hundred soup cans. Said cans will be onstage with 13 UW undergraduate dancers dancing to Edith Piaf music. Yes, please.

At right: "Coats," an excerpt from an attic an exit, made in 2006 by Rachael Lincoln and Leslie Seiters, will be among the works featured in this weekend's UW Dance Faculty concert.

If you go: UW Dance Faculty Concert, Meany Hall, Jan. 23 to 25 ($10-$20) — F.D.

It’s Alive! Frankenstein on Film

I have to admit that I didn’t think the world needed an entire weekend festival on Frankenstein in its many incarnations. BUT, I was wrong. What makes Frankenstein a horror story that has withstood decades? What is it about the monster that we are drawn to and repulsed by? Why are humans not only capable of but compelled to create things outside of their control?

The films go back to the roots of this horror story: Mary Shelley’s 1818 tale, the dark and delicate magnum opus behind all the horror flicks, parodies, and shoddily thrown together costumes of the last two centuries. And, of course, the movies will also discuss the many representations of Frankenstein on film: James Whale’s original Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein; Frankenweenie, Danny Boyle’s Royal National Theatre production, and, of course, Young Frankenstein. Seattle film critic and Frankenstein scholar Robert Horton will lead discussions and dissections all weekend, so get ready.

If you go: It’s Alive! Frankenstein on Film, SIFF Film Center, Jan. 23 to 25 ($20) — N.C.

Miranda July

Actor, performance artist, filmmaker of The Future and Me and You and Everyone We Know, fiction and nonfiction writer Miranda July occupies a unique place. She returns to town to read from her new book (and first novel) The First Bad Man. I’m intrigued and inspired by everything she does, but her writing is my favorite. Her 2007 collection of stories No One Belongs Here More Than You never sits on my shelf for more than a couple of months without being referenced.

Like many great indie darlings (Wes Anderson, Lena Dunham) she receives a lot of criticism; to love Miranda July is to be aware of one’s quirks and niches and relish them anyway. Her work is bizarre and funny and heartbreaking and totally relatable all at once. Last time July was in town, her talk at SAL managed to be all of these things as well, while simultaneously offering artistic inspiration, and cementing an entire audience’s friend crush. Get excited (in case you can’t tell, I am) and snag a ticket before they sell out.

Here’s David Sedaris reading his favorite Miranda July story, soon to become one of your favorites as well.

If you go: Miranda July, The Neptune, Jan. 23 ($30) — N.C.

Murder Vibes *

No one does ominous like local duo Murder Vibes. They are easily lumped into the synthy Darkwave category alongside groups like Cold Cave and She Wants Revenge, but there is a Post Punk sensitivity to their sound that makes me reluctant to pigeonhole them. Lyrically, Murder Vibes possess that epic, sorrowful sensibility galvanized by driving pop tempos, but also mitigated by slower, atmospheric aesthetics.

Both the instrumentation and singing resembles a strange union of Nick Cave and Cut Copy, but the vocals of singer Peter Hanks have a charisma that deserves to be lauded independently of any celebrity comparison. He can make the listener hang on every word, or throw out a croon that washes over an audience like the world’s gentlest tidal wave.

If you go: Murder Vibes, Columbia City Theater, Jan. 23. ($8.) 21+ — J.S.H.

The Vaselines

It’s sort of a shame a band as talented as The Vaselines is best known for two songs that were covered by Nirvana — “Molly’s Lips” and “Jesus Don’t Want me for a Sunbeam.” But such is the way of things. Whenever they play in Seattle, however, it must be mentioned. Now that the introduction is out of the way, there’s a very good reason why our favorite grunge anti heroes were so interested in these Glasgow natives.

Kurt had a special knack for honing in on artists who hid incredible songwriting behind a deceptively simple lo-fi aesthetic (Remember his claim that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” simply ripped off  the Pixies, for instance? Or that famous picture of him wearing a Daniel Johnston t-shirt to the VMA awards?) These days, The Vaselines sound a lot more polished, but the great, sunny-sounding songwriting is still very much present, and worth witnessing in person at Neumos this week.

If you go: The Vaselines, Neumos, Jan. 24. ($18). 21+ — J.S.H.

Seattle Symphony Side-by-Side *

Nothing triggers an eye roll faster than someone telling me there’s nothing to do in the city. There’s plenty, so much so that it often stresses me out how impossible it is to take in and do everything that our cultural scene offers. Here’s an example of something so culturally enriching that it’s a no brainer (and besides, there’s no football game this weekend to calendar your activities around): the Seattle Symphony joins the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra in one of its “side-by-side” concerts.

These are free events (the symphony is hosting six this season), partnering the symphony with local ensembles throughout the city —  and continuing its effort to make the arts accessible to all. Ludovic Morlot conducts, the program features Tchaikovsky, Chabrier and Hindemith and it all takes place in the acoustically wondrous Benaroya Hall.

If you go: Seattle Symphony Side-by-Side, 2 p.m. Jan. 25 at Benaroya Hall (FREE) — F.D.

Nappy Roots *

Whenever someone asks me whether I prefer East Coast rap or West Coast rap, I always respond with an impudent grin and two words: “Dirty South.” Outkast put the region on the rap map in the early ‘90s, but the movement has blossomed beautifully since then.

Nappy Roots, who play Nectar Lounge this week, have been instrumental to that growth since their debut album dropped in ‘98. The group possesses many of the traits that distinguish Southern rap as a unique genre: rapid lyrical delivery, a penchant for live guitar and bass, extensive humor and unabashed pride in their self-described “country ways.” The clincher with this event: Given the group’s multi-platinum status, the Nectar is a surprisingly intimate venue. This is a rare treat that shouldn’t be overlooked.

If you go: Nappy Roots, Nectar Lounge, Jan. 25. ($12). 21+ — J.S.H.

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About the Authors & Contributors

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Joseph Sutton-Holcomb

Joseph is a full-time landscaper, part-time journalist and full time culture junkie discovering the hidden joys of life as a UW graduate in Seattle. When not taking care of plants or writing, he spends his time in the company of good friends enjoying film, music and the great outdoors.