Best Music Shows

The 48 Best Music Shows in Seattle This Week: Sept 30-Oct 6, 2019

Kishi Bashi, Jerry Paper, and More Music Critics' Picks
September 29, 2019
Multi-instrumentalist Kishi Bashi has upgraded to Showbox Sodo's roomy digs for his Seattle return on Sunday. (Artist photo)
This week, our music critics have picked everything from Lana Del Rey to Jerry Paper to the Earshot Jazz Festival. Follow the links below for ticket links and music clips for all of their picks, and find even more shows on our complete music calendar Plus, check out our arts and culture critics' picks for the 56 best things to do this week.

Heading to Portland or Tacoma? Check out EverOut to find things to do there and in Seattle, all in one place.

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Cornelius, Sugar Candy Mountain
The follow-up to 1997's kaleidoscopic electro-pop explosion Fantasma, 2001's Point finds shape-shifting Japanese production wizard Cornelius scaling back the chaos and finessing his melodies into an ambrosial swirl. It's as if he took the Stereolab track title “John Cage Bubblegum” to heart, but went light on the Cage-ian elements, leaving an ultra-vivid, confectionary song cycle. An agile, sensual conflation of synthetic and organic elements, as well as tropical field recordings and lusciously layered male and female vocals, Point presents Cornelius (aka Keigo Oyamada) at the peak of his wonder-struck, chameleonic powers. And he and his band can bring it live tonight, if the 2007 Coachella performance I saw by them is indicative. DAVE SEGAL

Emotive dance music artist SG Lewis will perform a "three-part ode to club music" (the parts being "Dusk, Dark, and Dawn") with support from Chicago-based R&B/dance duo DRAMA. 


Too Many Zooz, Thumpasaurus
Normally, I’d give a wide berth to any entity calling itself “Too Many Zooz.” The number of great bands whose names end in “z” instead of “s” could fit in a minibus. However, this trio went from busking in New York’s subways to performing in legit overground venues with a manic, infectious sound that shoots urgent energy through weary travelers and club patrons alike. Using baritone sax, trumpet, and drums, Too Many Zooz harness the bustle and brio—and some of the griminess—of the Big Apple’s public-transit situation into songs that put a Russell Westbrook–like spring in your step. Too Many Zooz are like a reductionist Infernal Noise Brigade, but with a stronger interest in jazz and hiphop; check the cover of Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” for proof. DAVE SEGAL


An Intimate Evening with Bettye LaVette
Like Mavis Staples and the late Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, Bettye LaVette proves that advanced age—she’s been in the music biz for 56 years—is no barrier to maintaining quality control in the vocal-performance department. Her Tina Turner-esque rasp serves as a vibrant conduit for soul and slow-burning passion. She has a penchant for covering classic-rock artists (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, the Who), ingeniously rearranging these familiar tunes and imbuing them with a hard-won soulfulness. What LaVette does isn’t exactly jazz, but it is very classy and enjoyable, and her burnished voice should sound amazing at Benaroya Hall. DAVE SEGAL


AJR started as a DIY trio of brothers, making music informed by their familial bond. Their energetic electro-pop has amassed millions of views on YouTube and netted them live sets on the Today show, The X-Factor, and Kelly and Michael, among others.



Garrick Ohlsson
Known for his mastery of Chopin, Schubert, Mozart, and Beethoven, as well as his legendary win at the International Chopin Competition four decades ago, pianist Garrick Ohlsson will return to Seattle.


Blanck Mass, Helm, Steve Hauschildt
Benjamin Power's solo project Blanck Mass further refines the Übermenschen-esque electronic anthems he helped to manifest in English duo Fuck Buttons. On his own, Power polishes his towering, beat-heavy productions until they emulate Hollywood-soundtrack bombast. But at least they're not dull. A former member of Cleveland cosmic-drift trio Emeralds, Steve Hauschildt has transitioned from making compelling ambient/IDM albums for Kranky to releasing atmospheric techno for Ghostly International. Last year's Dissolvi album retains Hauschildt's knack for sparkly textures and melancholy melodies while featuring gently propulsive rhythms. Helm (England's Luke Younger) has created disorienting, enigmatic musique concrète collages for many top underground labels, but his newest LP, Chemical Flowers, is his most conventionally “musical” work—although still plenty abstract and strange. Don't miss this rare US appearance by Helm. DAVE SEGAL


Band of Skulls
English rock trio Band of Skulls exude plenty of grit, as their name suggests, but their songs feature just as many dance-y synth moments as forceful guitar solos. They'll play an all-ages show with Newcastle alt-rockers Demob Happy. 

Experience Hendrix
Notable artists—Jonny Lang, Eric Johnson, Frank Zappa's son Dweezil—will honor a Seattle-born guitar icon on the Experience Hendrix Tour.

Jon McLaughlin, Sawyer
Nashville-based singer-songwriter Jon McLaughlin, who has shared the stage with Kelly Clarkson, Adele, OneRepublic, Bon Jovi, and Duffy, will headline this time, with opening support from fellow Tennesseean Sawyer. 

Morrissey, Interpol
Sean Hughes once said that “everyone grows out of their Morrissey phase… except Morrissey.” Well, all due respect, etc., but the Wamu Theater will be filled with close to 4,000 people who beg to differ with the late Irish comedian/writer/DJ. The Morrissey phase is a complicated matter, and Morrissey himself doesn’t do much to make it easier, between the increasingly reactionary public pronouncements and the late-period music—most recently the keyboard-y “Spent the Day in Bed” (which is qg, actually)—one strains to love. And yet, the love of Morrissey is not easily renounced, because it tends to be foundational, in a way that is unique among lovers of pop music. It’s the kind of love you might feel you ought to grow out of, but then, without it, like, who would you even be? SEAN NELSON

Racoma, Wilma Laverne Miner, Whitney Ballen, Nathan Reed
Get your fix of alt-country and sunny rock with Seattle's Racoma, plus indie-folk from Missoula's Wilma Laverne Miner, sweet-voiced jams from Issaquah's Whitney Ballen, and emo rock from Nathan Reed. 

Wrabel & Billy Raffoul, Joy Oladokun
Best known for his hit song "11 Blocks" (the one that goes, "Somebody stop me / I should be going home / Somebody stop me / Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah"), Wrabel also boasts EDM collaborations with Ke$ha, Backstreet Boys, and Louis the Child. Catch him with Billy Raffoul and Joy Oladokun on his happy people sing sad songs tour. 


Taylor McFerrin
The music of Taylor McFerrin isn’t much like what you’ve heard from his dad Bobby, whose own catalog leans heavy into the vocal jazz and scat-driven spectrum, save for ’80s-era hit (and the reason you know him) “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Taylor maintains his dad’s style of effortless breeziness while exploring the realms of future-soul, post-jazz, and ambient R&B, with shades of hip-hop in the rhythms and funk in the bass lines. My turn-on was Taylor’s luscious, melody-pricked number with Robert Glasper and Thundercat, “Already There,” off 2014 debut Early Riser. He didn’t sing much then, but sophomore follow-up Love’s Last Chance, which dropped in August, reveals a casually elegant and velvety vocal that glides over classy, understated, but often ethereal grooves, the latter imbued via vintage (’70s-era) synths. LEILANI POLK



Al Di Meola
A guitarist operating at the highest level of technical proficiency for decades, Al Di Meola will dig into his obsession with Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla and a little Liverpool combo by the name of the Beatles for this date, as well as presenting choice cuts from his 40-plus years in the biz. In 1990, this former member of fusion gods Return to Forever cut an entire album of Piazzolla compositions, and it’s as floridly and nimbly gorgeous as you could imagine. With the Beatles, ADM inventively embellishes the ultra-familiar melodies with fleet-fingered filigrees, buffing these old warhorses into something fresh. You’ve never heard “I Am the Walrus” like thisDAVE SEGAL


I don’t remember what !!! frontman Nic Offer was wearing when I saw his band so many years ago at a South Florida festival, but it was probably shorts. Short shorts. Which isn’t a shock or anything—see: Florida weather—but for Offer, it is a show uniform of sorts. Maybe it’s so he can get down harder? Because the dude is a wild ball of energy onstage, with showmanship in spades. (He once told Mother Jones, “What you’re seeing up there is a 10-year-old lip-syncing in front of his mirror—just fast-forward a bit with a band and some fans to make it more of a party.”) The music is dance punk dosed with shades of disco and funk, the result is fun, sexy, and snotty with a dark pulsing undercurrent. The band’s name is apropos, as is the title of just-released eighth studio outing, Wallop, which packs a mighty get-the-fuck-down punch starting with heady dance-floor bop “Let It Change U,” and feels like it was meant to be played at 3 a.m. in some dark, fogged-out European discotheque. LEILANI POLK

Barns Courtney
Two years after the release of his debut, English singer-songwriter Barns Courtney will embark on a headlining tour to sing about the glitches of early adulthood features on his sophomore album 404.

dodie, Adam Melchor
Though she's only 23, chart-topping English singer-songwriter Dodie started releasing music on her YouTube channel, "doddleoddle," when she was 16. She'll sing about things like mental health, sexuality, and bullying on this Seattle tour stop.

Jo Passed, Laser Background, Jayomi
In a world overrun with bands trying to be the next Breeders, Jo Passed stand as one of the most interesting (although there’s more to them than that). If you’re going this route, you need to be world-class in the dynamics department, and the youthful Jo Passed have mastered the soft/hard and quiet/loud dichotomies like seasoned pros. Jo Hirabayashi sings like a blessed androgyne, and the guitar tones are perfectly balanced between sweet and sulfuric. Sub Pop picked another winner. DAVE SEGAL

Lana Del Rey
It doesn’t matter that she used to be a failed musician called Lizzy Grant (and several other names), or that her past personas looked and sang completely differently than the Lana Del Rey we see draped across posters now. And I’m not interested in the alleged fibs/ploys when it comes to her backstory and just how rich her dad might be. All that matters: Is she talented? Your stance on that voice is a personal choice (or maybe a genetic thing, like cilantro), but I find it skews too closely to the cringeyyy side of sultry. SO SULTRY, and low, but with hints of pouty dramatic baby on downers, with an arsenal of sloppy accents? Oh, and in one flimsy song about coming of age, she whispers the words “Pabst Blue Ribbon on Ice.” Gew. EMILY NOKES

WEEED, Zach Burba, somesurprises
Stranger contributor Zach Frimmel has described Bainbridge Island's WEEED as "a guided meditation interrupted with chaos." They'll be joined by fellow experimental artists Zach Burba and somesurprises. 



Boy Harsher, SPELLLING, Sharlese
Boy Harsher sound like a red neon sign reflected in a pool of water on a blacktop outside a club. Or the way a green strobe flashes around in the dark, sweaty purple inside a packed club. The Northampton-based duo’s dynamic, synth-driven tracks are moody enough to inspire you to seriously consider buying that black leather jacket you’ve been thinking about lately. Two EPs released this year—Country Girl Uncut and Careful—reveal Boy Harsher to be increasingly agile and cinematic in the way they approach their music. Listen to both “Motion” and “LA” on a night drive (or walk). JASMYNE KEIMIG

Pharmakon, Bloom Offering
Thousands of noise artists disturb America’s atmosphere at any given moment, and most of them bleed into the background hum of civilization with little distinction. However, the releases by Pharmakon (Margaret Chardiet) slice through the static spectacularly. Her tracks deliver a potent emotional payload, thanks to her dramatically poised vocal exorcisms about body terror and alienation from a sick society. From Pharmakon’s 2013 debut full-length Abandon to this year’s Devour, she’s proved that the most effective noise music commands attention through judicious and malicious use of space to create sonic horror. Aural oversaturation just induces numbness; Pharmakon realizes—like Throbbing Gristle and late-period Wolf Eyes—that seething tension is a more effective approach to jolting listeners into catharsis than artless gushes of distortion. A Pharmakon show is a transcendently blasphemous experience. DAVE SEGAL


Nacho Picasso & The Dopplegangaz, Remember Face
There are two—nay, three—things I love about Nacho Picasso. One, you can tell from his sometimes funny, sometimes perverse (sometimes both at once) rhymes that dude gives zero fucks. Two, he blithely raps about cocaine and other vices, providing an antidote to Seattle's sometimes squeaky-clean rap scene. Three, every time I hear that name, I picture Picasso eating nachos. AMBER CORTES


Vote with Vera: Kimya Dawson, Nikkita Oliver, Summer Cannibals, & More
An all-star lineup of local artists, activists, and speakers will take over Vera Project to encourage you (and young people, especially) to vote in November. The lineup includes beloved anti-folk artist Kimya Dawson, Summer Cannibals (who "fucking rule" and "play with the punishing urgency of young Superchunk," according to Sean Nelson), activist and spoken-word poet Nikkita Oliver, and other special guests.


Sabrina Claudio
Soundcloud-bred R&B singer-songwriter Sabrina Claudio will bring her vocal prowess to Seattle on her Truth Is Tour.



The New Mastersounds, the Unsinkable Heavies
A funky ass jazz band and a jazzy ass funk band with vintage vibes and a deep soul sensibility—and they’re British! The New Mastersounds are among my faves, a Leeds-spawned quartet (guitar, bass, Hammond organ, drums) that’s celebrating 20 years in 2019. They have released 20 LPs (including live, remix, and comp albums), and know how to get the feet moving, the ass shaking, and the blood pumping like it ain’t no thang. They were joined by vocalist Lamar Williams Jr. on 2019’s aptly named outing Shake It, which was also fleshed out with guests on trumpet, tenor sax, flute, and percussion, though it’ll just be the original four at their two-night stand in Seattle. LEILANI POLK


KEXP Presents: Damien Jurado, Corina Repp
Prolific Seattle singer-songwriter Damien Jurado has been active since the mid-1990s, and he currently peddles alt-folk, psychedelia, and indie-rock with a vaguely vintage quality, his distinctive vocal tones made for AM radio—soothing, supple, velvety, lightly timeworn. He’s currently backing new studio LP The Horizon Just Laughed. LEILANI POLK



Billy Cobham Crosswinds Project
Billy Cobham may be 75, but the jazz-fusion drummer who kept mind-boggling time for Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis during the latter’s most turbulent period of innovation (circa Bitches Brew, A Tribute to Jack Johnson and Get Up with It) is still going strong. Cobham’s Crosswinds Project focuses on the 1974 LP Crosswinds, a much mellower record than his phenomenal solo debut, Spectrum; for example, the Souls of Mischief sampled the ultra-chill “Heather” for their classic “93 ’Til Infinity.” But “The Pleasant Pheasant” rolls out action-packed, Latinate funk (which Eric B. & Rakim sampled for “Juice [Know the Ledge]”), and much of the album occupies a rarefied space where virtuosity intersects with dramatic dynamics and sophisticated emotion. The great Randy Brecker joins Cobham on trumpet for this tour. DAVE SEGAL



Daniel Nørgren
Swedish singer-songwriter Daniel Norgren will bring his lovely, melancholy piano melodies and wispy vocals to the Seattle stage.


Depth: Carl Craig
Don’t tell the mythologizers of the Belleville Three, but I think second-wave Detroit techno DJ/producer Carl Craig’s output has been more interesting than Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson’s. Which may be a controversial claim, but I think Craig has released more interesting and varied music under myriad aliases (Paperclip People, Innerzone Orchestra, 69, Psyche, BFC, etc.) over the last 30 years than his more revered predecessors—who are great, don't get me wrong. Craig has taken his Motor City elders’ blueprints to even farther reaches of techno’s interstellar metropolis. Enter his elegant, expansive universe and leave this world behind, for at least one night. DAVE SEGAL


Charli XCX, Brooke Candy
Essex-raised chart-topper Charli XCX, who got her start on MySpace in 2008, will make you dance after an opening set from Brooke Candy.

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin
Almost universally recognized as one of the greatest horror-film soundtracks ever, Suspiria captures Italian prog-rock ghouls Goblin at an ominous peak. Keyboardist Claudio Simonetti has splintered off from the group's other original members, bringing players from the cinematically adept band Daemonia on this tour. Regardless of personnel, you can be assured that the music will exude visceral injections of terror, ingenious passages of suspense, sophisticated freakouts, and some corkscrewed funk. Even divorced from director Dario Argento's imagery, the Suspiria score possesses the power to chill and ripple your blood. Tonight's set will also include material from other facets of Goblin's fertile, febrile catalog. DAVE SEGAL

Jerry Paper, Baja Boy
Jerry Paper doesn’t really seem real—like it’s all a gimmick. But what is a rock star anyway but a gimmick? In Lucas Nathan’s case, Jerry Paper is a persona, one he uses to explore the surreal side of the human experience, all while clad in a silk robe and dancing around the stage. Paper creates the kind of delicate, trippy, jazzy pop music in the vein of Homeshake or Jakob Ogawa, but with a dash of the genuinely strange, along the lines of Connan Mockasin. His most recent release, Like a Baby, finds Paper right in the sweet spot of weirdo pop and jazz. JASMYNE KEIMIG

Juan Wauters
Juan Wauters’s music makes me feel like I’m in a film about the simplest and most beautiful things—fishing, sunbathing, being in love. The Queens-by-way-of-Uruguay crooner—who also sings in the (currently inactive) Beets—released his first solo album in four years, La Onda de Juan Pablo (also his first in Spanish), in January. It’s a sort of diary documenting his travels across Latin America. He followed that up with Introducing Juan Pablo in May, which flips between English and Spanish but still maintains its homemade, DIY, folky quality. Wauters’s live performances are anti-performances in a sense, and include a lot of audience participation. JASMYNE KEIMIG

Mallrat, Allday
Rising Australian pop artist Mallrat, whose sincere lyrics about teenhood and dogs are highly underrated, will grace Seattle on her North American Tour, taking the stage after Aussie rapper Allday.

Tegan and Sara
Being a queer teen is rough, and there are no rubrics and very few examples of representation to follow, so coming across my older sister’s CD copy of So Jealous was an important moment in my adolescence. Tegan and Sara’s razor-sharp and almost feverishly relatable pop that centered queer experience was the first of its kind in my life and was exactly what I needed at the time. Even now, 13 years later, it still resonates heavily with me. KIM SELLING

Versing, Webdriver Torso, Donormaal
Three very different Seattle stars will share a bill: indie-rockers Versing (dubbed "one of the city's freshest rock bands" by Dave Segal), the postapocalyptic Webdriver Torso (who take their name from a "creepy Google-generated YouTube account," as Jasmyne Keimig has mentioned), and genre-bending rapper DoNormaal (whose sophomore album Third Daughter "was like a ray of light beaming in from some other planet," also per Keimig). 



Warner Bros. Studios Presents Bugs Bunny at the Symphony 30th Anniversary Edition
If you watched the Looney Tunes cartoons as a child, you probably have their music imprinted on your brain. This 30th anniversary program with Seattle Symphony and guest conductor George Daugherty celebrates the most famous characters (Bugs Bunny, obviously, but also Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote, and Road Runner) with screen projections while the symphony plays the series’ original scores, which touches on classics like The Rabbit of Seville and Rhapsody Rabbit plus fresh, new Warner Bros. 3D theatrical shorts. Get ready to have your nostalgia tapped. LEILANI POLK


Earshot Jazz Festival 2019
Earshot Jazz Festival, an annual month-long examination and celebration of the art form, includes over 50 concerts featuring acts both local and (inter)national, old and young. This year's docket includes big names like Cécile McLorin Salvant, Chucho Valdés, Chick Corea Trio with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Myra Melford, Kiki Valera, Tyshawn Sorey, Makaya McCraven, and many more.



NGHTMRE + SLANDER, Seven Lions, The Glitch Mob
Big-time LA electronic DJs Nghtmre and Slander will team up with Seven Lions and the Glitch Mob for an epic tour.


All right, show of hands: Who first heard Jidenna on Netflix’s Luke Cage? The Wisconsin MC and singer made the most of the show’s live musical guest segment with a minimal rendition of his song “Long Live the Chief.” That tune, the highlight of his debut album, The Chief, goes harder than his otherwise tropical-pop oeuvre. A Janelle Monáe protégé, he pulls both styles off: His earlier single “Classic Man” made waves in 2015, as did his uniquely aristocratic fashion sense. Whether spitting bars or singing Auto-Tuned choruses, Jidenna’s appeal lies in his seemingly endless well of charisma. Few artists sound so self-assured this early in their careers. JOSEPH SCHAEFER


Rainier Beer's R Day 2019
Join Artist Home and the Georgetown Merchants Association for a celebration of a tried-and-true Northwest standby, Rainier Beer, with live music from Red Fang, Wild Powwers, and Chong the Nomad. They promise a rowdy community mini-fest with plenty of Rainier to drink. This event will also double as a benefit for the Georgetown Merchants Association.



The Growlers
The surfy, synth-heavy, garagey sound of the Growlers immediately propels you to a bright and sandy beach. The group has been likened to a West Coast version of the Strokes, and it’s easy to see why—lead singer Brooks Nielsen sounds more than a little like Julian Casablancas. Also the band is signed to Casablancas’s Cult Records label. In any case, the Growlers’ version of garage-cum-psychedelia-cum-rock isn’t tired at all. In fact, it’s a little sexy. On their most recent release, Casual Acquaintances, “Last Cabaret” is downright slinky, while “Heaven in Hell” is dusted with reverbed guitar as Nielsen’s smoky voice sails over it all. JASMYNE KEIMIG

Oh Sees, Prettiest Eyes
There's nothing novel about Oh Sees, but over 40 albums, EPs, and singles in 22 years, they've cycled through numerous styles with panache and passion. Thanks to Dwyer's doggedness and prodigious songwriting nous, Oh Sees have become paradigmatic 21st-century rockers—great synthesizers and energizers of rock's multifarious modes. Effortlessly diverse and dynamic, their songs pour out of Dwyer like the sweat he excretes during their galvanizing concerts. DAVE SEGAL



Keb' Mo' Solo
Four-time Grammy-winning blues artist Keb' Mo'—whose '60s upbringing serves his contemporary protest songs well—will do his thing.


Kishi Bashi
The fourth and latest album from Kaoru Ishibashi (aka Kishi Bashi) is bright, poignant, heartfelt, and infused with a sense of hope, even during its more melancholic moments. From the breezy, acoustic-guitar-picked opening of “Penny Rabbit and Summer Bear” with its Harry Nilsson “Everybody's Talkin'” feel, to the sweeping symphonics and forlorn beauty of “Summer of '42,” to the twangy fiddle-rousing banjo-plucked closer “Annie, Heart Thief of the Sea,” Omoiyari is a stunner that remains uplifting despite its bleak inspiration: the WWII internment of Japanese Americans. It’s also a bit of a departure from Kishi Bashi's previous efforts, folkier while conversely more finely composed and orchestrated, as the Berklee-trained musician (who sings and plays violin primarily, but also guitar and keys) brought in a band and some chamber players to back him up (normally he records mostly solo). Kishi Bashi sold out his last date here in June and has upgraded to roomier digs for his return. LEILANI POLK


Composed of twin brothers Daniel and David and their sister Julia, NYC trio Bailen will come to town toting three-part harmonies, woozy guitars, and distinctive drums.