11 things to do in Seattle

Tanya Tagaq

Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq brings her one-of-a-kind style to Meany Center. (Photo courtesy of ArtsUW)

Tangerine, Cumulus, Emma Lee Toyoda

Here’s a lineup that demonstrates the vitality of indie pop as a genre in 2019, as well as the delicate health of Seattle’s musical ecosystem — and best of all, it’s dominated by women and nonbinary folx. Led by badass singer-guitarist Marika Justad with her sister Miro on drums and Toby Kuhn on guitar, Tangerine was born and nurtured in Seattle, then decided about 18 months ago to decamp to Los Angeles, a city that sustains a genuinely livable music community. As heard on last year’s White Dove EP, Tangerine’s bittersweet, reverb-rich songs are indebted to ’80s FM-radio royalty. Also on the bill: Cumulus is the power-pop project of introspective singer-songwriter Alexandra Niedzialkowski; and Emma Lee Toyoda is a mercurial experimentalist with a heartrending swoon of a voice. –J.Z.

If you go: Chop Suey, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. ($10; all ages)

Ultra Light Beams

Anthony White, the ambitious young artist whose plastic selfie portraits and still lifes depicting millennial excess have garnered lots of local attention, has a new show beginning Thursday. But this time, White is playing the role of curator. Ultra Light Beams, showing at Mount Analogue in Pioneer Square, will feature work from 12 artists hailing from as close as our backyard and as far as Dublin. The group will present vibrant, nontraditional paintings that, while done by hand, give the illusion of having been produced by a computer or machine. The show promises bright palettes and internet-era aesthetics. I’m looking forward to pieces by local abstract painter Brian Sanchez and Detroit-based artist Danny Sobor, whose postmodern oil and acrylic paintings synthesize and reflect digital stock images, symbols from his life and references from art history, both old and contemporary.  –M.B.

If you go: Ultra Light Beams at Mount Analogue, opening reception Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. Show runs Feb. 7-10, 15-16 and 23 (noon-4 p.m.). Closing reception Feb. 26. (Free)

Tanya Tagaq

Imagine someone told you that by twitching your toes in a new way, you could make a sound like chirping crickets. That’s how it feels to hear Inuit throat singers for the first time — you realize you share the same vocal mechanics, but never thought of employing them in this way. Canadian Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq has mastered the aboriginal singing style, which sounds a bit like Tuvan throat singing, with froggy drones produced low in the vocal cords and spliced tones sung at once. But whereas Tuvan throat singing is traditionally a male pursuit, Inuit throat singing originated among First Nations women, who practiced it as a competition when men were away on long hunts. Tagaq makes the style entirely her own, adding elements of punk rock and electronica to the rhythmic exhales and inhales. The result is like listening to a more evolved human — one who is able to sing with her whole body. –B.D.

**Postponed due to snow! New date TBD. If you go: Meany Center, Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. ($37-45)


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Roger Guenveur Smith: Frederick Douglass Now

Los Angeles-based actor, writer, and director Roger Guenveur Smith returns to Seattle after three years for another cerebral and jazzy one-man performance that’s part spoken word and part biographical portrait. Frederick Douglass Now is the third installment in Smith’s narrative-driven work spotlighting Black historical figures. The critically acclaimed Smith previously performed pieces on Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton and California activist Rodney King. This new piece spotlights Douglass as a pioneer in the abolitionist movement and early supporter of the women’s suffrage movement. Smith’s performances are charged, beautiful, thought-provoking and, above all, poetic, paying tribute to historic figures that radiate urgent relevance today. –A.P.F.

If you go: Frederick Douglass Now, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Feb. 8-10 ($25)

J’adore! A Burlesque Valentine

The Atomic Bombshells’ annual Valentine’s Day show is set to transport audiences to a whole new world of sexy for the 11th year in a row. J’adore! A Burlesque Valentine returns this weekend with a “full grab bag of show biz,” according to Kitten La Rue, the burlesque queen who shares the mic with Lou, her love on and off the stage. The night is billed as one full of flash, glitter, comedy and plenty of titillation and tease. Performances include classic routines, new “reimagined” acts and fan favorites such as hip-hop dance crew The Purple Lemonade. Special guests this year include burlesque hall of famer and Prince of Boylesque Jett Adore, who has a knack for taking his clothes off while wearing a cape — and making eye contact so intense that it pierces one’s soul. –A.P.F.

If you go: J’adore! A Burlesque Valentine, The Triple Door, Feb. 8-14 ($28-$45)

Harry Partch Ensemble

Cloud chamber bowls, the kithara II, harmonic canon II and chromelodeon I, diamond marimba: just a few of the 50-plus unique, handmade instruments designed by midcentury experimental composer and designer Harry Partch, which were acquired by the University of Washington School of Music in late 2014. Every year since, UW resident composer and Partch expert Charles Corey has programmed performances by UW students featuring Partch’s otherworldly instruments and abstract, percussion-heavy compositions. This year they appear alongside the works of fellow modernist composers Chris Otto and Elizabeth Brown, who’ll also employ Partch's fantastical array to create unearthly soundscapes. –J.Z.

If you go: Meany Studio Theater, Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. ($10)

Y La Bamba, Tres Leches

Like a work of speculative fiction, Y La Bamba’s new album Mujeres conjures an entire world, an urban-rustic landscape filled with motion and tension, built from idiosyncratic songwriting and atmospheric sound design. Within this sensual nocturne, the voice and vision of singer-songwriter Luz Elena Mendoza is the guide. Behind her is a soundtrack’s worth of electric and acoustic guitars, keening and propulsive; sundry percussion, shakers and handclaps and timbales and inscrutable thumps and cracks; and dense, immersive studio production that sets a mood and suggests a story. Mujeres is the Portland band’s most ambitious work yet, requiring more attuned listening that 2016’s lovely, approachable Ojos del Sol. It should be transportative in the live setting. Seattle band Tres Leches kicks things off with dark basement rock. –J.Z.

If you go: Tractor Tavern, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. ($12; 21 and older)

Jonathan Porretta as the evil fairy in Sleeping Beauty
Jonathan Porretta as the evil fairy in The Sleeping Beauty. (Photo by Angela Sterling)

Pacific Northwest Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty

It’s the last few days to see this classic Russian ballet, about a beautiful princess cursed to nap until a charming prince arrives to nudge her awake with a kiss. If you can set aside the not-exactly-feminist plot, you’ll be rewarded with lavish costumes, some neat set tricks, Tchaikovsky’s lovely score and, of course, truly spectacular performances — including by departing principal dancer Jonathan Porretta, in warty-nosed drag as the wicked fairy Carabosse. –B.D.

If you go: Pacific Northwest Ballet, through Feb. 10. Times vary. ($37-$149)

Author Sharma Shields
Author Sharma Shields (Courtesy of Sharma Shields)

Sharma Shields: The Cassandra

Spokane-based writer Sharma Shields has a thing for Northwest monstrosities. She penned a fantastical (and fantastic) novel, The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, about one man’s lifelong search for the hirsute beast, whom he believes he saw his mother run off with when he was a boy. (It won a Washington State Book Award in 2016.) Now she’s back with a new book based on the early days of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The Cassandra has mythical elements, too. Mildred, the titular character, who gets a plum secretarial job at Hanford, is blessed and cursed with second sight. Shields combines extensive research on the facility (which made plutonium for the bomb detonated over Nagasaki during World War II) with 1940s culture surrounding women pitching in for the war, and adds Mildred’s hideous, prophetic visions of the destruction to come. Insightful and wildly imagined, it’s also a potent reminder of the human tendency toward self-destruction. –B.D.

**Postponed due to snow! New date TBD. If you go: Elliott Bay Books, Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m. (Free)

Degenerate Art Ensemble for Skeleton Flower
Crow Nishimura in Skeleton Flower. (Courtesy of Degenerate Art Ensemble)

Degenerate Art Ensemble: Skeleton Flower

For some 20 years, Seattle’s Degenerate Art Ensemble has been creating innovative performances that sear into your brain and won’t let go. Founders Haruko “Crow” Nishimura and Joshua Kohl blend original music, dance and video with costume and set design from your wildest dreams (and nightmares) to tell fairy tales of monsters and other uncanny creatures. Their newest piece, Skeleton Flower, is their most autobiographical yet, based on Nishimura’s violent childhood. She combines her own memories with folkloric figures who, like her, relied on expansive creativity to escape terrible circumstances. Watch for a mirrored swan, a dress made entirely of flowers and an unstoppable drive for survival. –B.D.

**Rescheduled due to snow! If you go: Degenerate Art Ensemble at Erickson Theatre. New dates: Mar. 13-17 at 8 p.m. ($25)

Elizabeth Gahan show at Linda Hodges
“Freeway Park,” by Elizabeth Gahan. (Courtesy of Linda Hodges Gallery)

Elizabeth Gahan: Reconstructing the View

Seattle artist Elizabeth Gahan has long been playing with the borders at which humans and nature overlap. Her geometric installations along building edges suggest some giant, multicolored lichen encroaching on concrete and brick. Here, in a series of vibrant new paintings, local landmarks seem to be on the verge of being eaten by hypercolored flora and strange blobs in the sky. The places where her neatly drawn architectural renderings crash into the burgeoning rush of nature — that’s where things start to vibrate. –B.D.

If you go: Linda Hodges Gallery, Feb. 7 - Mar. 2. First Thursday reception Feb. 7, 6-8 p.m. (Free)

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About the Authors & Contributors

Agueda Pacheco Flores

Agueda Pacheco Flores

Agueda Pacheco Flores is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where she focused on arts and culture.

Mason Bryan

Mason Bryan

Mason Bryan is formerly Crosscut's associate opinion editor.