11 things to do in Seattle
Spirit Award tour kickoff with Sloucher and Oliver Elf Army
Simply put, Spirit Award is one of the finest rock bands working in the Northwest right now. Less simply put, Spirit Award engages a mesmerizing micro-to-macro inter-band dynamic, teasing expansive, exploratory jams from intricate, intimate musical details. The Seattle-based trio uses drone, repetition and reverb to build immense sonic spaces, then poke and prod and break free from their own edifices via subtle shifts in volume and tempo. The effect is explosive. Frontman Daniel Lyon works a befuddling array of effects pedals for his guitar and vocals, while bassist Chris Moore and drummer Terence Ankeny lock into propulsive rhythms reminiscent of the German-made Motorik style of experimental bands Neu! or Can (if given an injection of nitroglycerin). Tonight they launch a short regional tour before heading further afield in April for shows in Germany, Austria and Morocco (!!!). Angular indie-rockers Sloucher and Everett twee-rock trio Oliver Elf Army open. -J.Z.
If you go: LoFi, Mar. 8 at 8:30 p.m. ($13)
Lola Gil: Thirsty
Los Angeles-based painter Lola Gil calls her style “narrative escapism,” and indeed, stories simmer below the surface of each canvas. As for escapism, she doesn’t let viewers get too far from reality. In “Dehydrated,” a wildfire ravages a landscape while in the foreground, an upside-down young woman spills a glass of water (we get the feeling it’s half-empty). In “Tears have Changed as Change Brings Tears,” a woman faced with a portrait of an iceberg cries tears of what appears to be hair. These surrealist swerves are what draw you into the work, which is created entirely in oil and acrylic but incorporates elements of collage. Seen together, they almost read as a mysterious storybook, stitched together by common visual themes: young women, bananas and glasses of water on the brink of spilling. -B.D.
If you go: Roq La Rue Gallery, Mar. 8 (opening event 6-9 p.m.) - Apr. 7. (Free)
G. Willow Wilson: The Bird King
When she’s not writing epic novels that mix magical realism with sociopolitical history in the name of page-turning plots (see her novel, Alif the Unseen), Seattle author G. Willow Wilson is steadily cranking out issues of the Ms. Marvel comic book series. Now she brings her bottomless imagination and meticulously crafted storytelling to a new novel, The Bird King. This time the adventure is set during the Spanish inquisition. We follow Fatima, a concubine in the Muslim court of Granada, and her friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker, who has a useful talent: he can create new lands and secret passages by drawing them into existence on a map. This comes in handy when the Spanish monarchy comes charging in, and the two find themselves fleeing to a location that exists in fairy tales. Reviewers have compared her work to heavy hitters like Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman and The Thousand and One Nights, so we’re betting both the book and this Capitol Hill reading will deliver.
If you go: Elliott Bay Book Company, Mar. 8 at 7 p.m. (Free)
Batsheva Dance Company: Venezuela
One of today’s most powerful influencers in contemporary dance movement, Ohad Naharin is best known for developing the style called “Gaga” (which predates and has nothing to do with the Lady). Marked by extreme flexibility combined with jagged angles and tiny articulations, Gaga is also notable for how it’s created — mirrors are forbidden, so the movement builds from within rather than without. Naharin created this piece, Venezuela, for his world-renowned Tel Aviv-based company Batsheva Dance. As is common in his work, the movement exudes an unsettling vibe, the feeling that the dancers are compelled by something dark and other that lives in all of us. It’s a rare occasion to see the group in Seattle, and after you do so you’ll start seeing ripples of Naharin’s impact in dance all around town. -B.D.
If you go: The Paramount, Mar. 9 at 8 p.m. ($35-$75)
Seattle Pro Musica: Pacific Voices
With its newest concert, Seattle Pro Musica (the longtime à cappella choral group) shows off its massive singing chops. Presenting work by contemporary Asian and Asian-American composers, members will be singing in Balinese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu (and English too). Composers on the roster include the remarkable Pulitzer Prize finalist Chen Yi, and India’s A.H. Rahman, of Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack fame. The idea for the show came from Asian American members of the choir, and the execution confirms the group’s status, under music director Karen P. Thomas, at the cutting edge of choral performance in the West. Attempting an authentic interpretation of so many languages and cultural motifs is daring, and the result should be a thrill for American ears. -Stephen Hegg
If you go: Seattle Pro Musica, Mar. 9, 7:30 p.m. at Seattle First Baptist Church, and Mar. 10, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood. ($28-$38)
The greater pop music world caught up to James Blake about five years ago, around the time Kanye declared the British musician his favorite new artist. Since then, the 30-year-old London-born Blake has collaborated with Beyonce, Kendrick and Andre3000 — mononymic co-signs that certify his pop chops — and released three albums of his own, culminating in Assume Form from January of this year. Each of Blake’s albums vacillates between traditional pop structures and pixelated electronic experimentation, some more successfully than others, with Blake’s acrobatic croon and minimalist piano woven through. With Assume Form, Blake walks his most alluring and accessible balancing act yet. But albums are one thing; his live-band performances achieve a level of shape shifting sound sculpture that’s nothing short of profound. -J.Z.
If you go: Moore Theatre, **Originally scheduled for Mar. 10, this show has been rescheduled to March 24 at 8 p.m. ($46-$66)
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Purists should step off now: Adia Victoria claims the blues, but her kind of blues are not the elemental three-chord laments or rollicking roadhouse rock to which the term is most often applied. As heard on her just-released sophomore album Silences, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter-guitarist-poet certainly knows her way around a pained and poignant lyric, but she’s unafraid to use every sonic element at her disposal, including glistening synthesizers, orchestral horns and strings and all manner of electronic embellishment, from scratchy, bubbly distortion to swelling overdubbed crescendos. And then there’s her own smooth, sonorous voice, singing of personal struggle and personal triumph with equal parts anguish, ecstasy and humor. “Sneak away to do my dirt/I like the things that make me hurt/They say the weak shall inherit the earth/But the world was never enough,” she sings on “Devil Is a Lie,” one of the album’s heart-swelling highlights. This stuff is gonna sound great — and likely stripped-down — on-stage. -J.Z.
If you go: Barboza, Mar. 12 at 7:30 p.m. ($13; 21 and older)
Markel Uriu: An Object Lesson
At some point every artist finds themselves standing over a scanner, making a digital copy of a frozen trout. Er, maybe not every artist. But definitely Seattle’s Markel Uriu, who has scanned all manner of creatures for her new show, An Object Lesson, which explores the role of invasive species in our culture. She scans plants and animals sourced from ecologists, wholesalers and the side of the road, then slices the print-outs thinly and weaves them into wall-hung “maps” that represent our new global ecosystem. It’s beautiful, meticulous work that she says relates to the internet mixing chamber, the false divide between humans and nature, and who and what gets labeled “invasive.” -B.D.
If you go: Hedreen Gallery at Seattle University’s Lee Center for the Arts, Mar. 11 - May 18. (Free)
Degenerate Art Ensemble: Skeleton Flower
(**Rescheduled from the February snowstorm.) 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.
If you go: Degenerate Art Ensemble at Erickson Theatre, Mar. 13-17 at 8 p.m. ($25)
SIFF’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival
It might seem like SIFF came up with the Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival for the sheer joy of sibilants and fricatives. But the real goal of SIFF’S SFFSFF, now in its 14th year, is showcasing far-out films from all over the world. This year’s lineup includes several Black Mirror-style topics, including a time machine that transports you 10 minutes previously, a giant and silent alien that crash-lands in Los Angeles, a world where citizens get a monthly ration of joy and a subject that always feels closer to truth than fiction: artificial intelligence gone awry. -B.D.
If you go: SIFF Cinema Egyptian, Mar. 9-10, times vary. ($22 for 16 shorts, grouped in two showcases)
Romeo and Juliet
It’s the 16th century love story that speaks to anyone who’s ever slammed the bedroom door and fumed that parents just don’t understand. Romeo and Juliet has been adapted countless times, and now ACT Theatre is offering a fresh take to the mix. This new version resets the story with deaf audiences in mind, reconstructing the script to incorporate American Sign Language (ASL), and using both deaf and hearing actors. Directed by John Langs, who is both a Shakes-pert and a lauded theater innovator, the program promises a fully immersive environment in which to experience the classic play anew. -B.D.
If you go: ACT Theatre, Through Mar. 31. Times vary. ($20-$56)