Seattle 17: Best Shows of August
What are the top 17 best shows to check out in August in Seattle? Check out the list below to find out.
AUGUST 3 – Stephen Steinbrink at The Crocodile
Stephen Steinbrink was born in 1988 in a non-descript stucco hospital franchise in the conservative Phoenix suburb of Mesa, AZ. He grew up and learned to play guitar to deal with living an improvised and experimental existence throughout his teens and twenties, being nowhere and recording incessantly. His eights LPs of pop songs have been released in Japan, Europe, and North America, and has performed in dozens of countries around the world. As a session player, he has collaborated with Girlpool, Dear Nora, Broken Water, AJJ, Flying Circles, Ever Ending Kicks, and LAKE. He is currently floating around the western USA: from Phoenix to Olympia, WA to his current spot in Oakland, CA. His latest release, Anagrams, is a front-to-back blissful breeze of pop songs that encourage the listener to hum along and capture his infectious melodies. Steinbrink will be supporting Pinegrove at their performance at The Crocodile on Thursday, August 3rd. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 4 – Helio Sequence at Seattle Center
Beaverton, Oregon’s The Helio Sequence consists of vocalist-guitarist Brandon Summers and drummer-keyboardist Benjamin Weikel. Summers and Weikel formed The Helio Sequence in 1999, and has released three albums on Sub Pop, two on the Portland-based label Cavity Search, and a self-released EP. For their 2015 self-titled album The Helio Sequence, the band revamped the process in which they created their music. They wrote 26 songs, which they sent to friends. They then asked their friends to list their favorite ten songs and by the end of June 2014, arrived at the list of ten songs that they chose for the album. The album received generally favorable reviews, with it being in constant rotation in my CD player for the majority of last year. The Helio Sequence will be performing at CATM: Concerts at the Mural at the Seattle Center on Friday, August 4th with Summer Cannibals and Cosmos. Click here for more information.
AUGUST 6 – The Rocketboys at Tractor Tavern
Mainstays of the Austin, Texas music scene for nearly a decade, anthemic indie rock band The Rocketboys have steadily built a loyal following with the release of two LPs, a handful of EPs, and by performing hundreds of live shows. Their dynamic, expansive songs often outsize the clubs in which they're performed and garnered The New York Times apt description, "... sounds like an amped up Death Cab for Cutie with Coldplay-style melodies.” The last year has brought many career-defining moments, including working with Grammy-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli, cracking the worldwide iTunes charts with single "Viva Voce," and two tours both opening for and backing Thrice-frontman Dustin Kensrue. Their music has always provided a snapshot of the conflicts and hopes of its members - finding one's voice, brotherhood, faith, death, and the relationship between artist and audience. Finishing touches are now being placed on The Rocketboys' third full-length album which will be released in 2017. You can catch The Rocketboys supporting The Whistles & the Bells on Sunday, August 6th at Tractor Tavern. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 8 – Dungen at The Crocodile
Dungen frontman Gustav Ejstes has been making music for nearly twenty years—at first for himself, then eventually and inevitably for all of us. As a teenager in rural Sweden, he became obsessed with hip-hop and sampling. Digging through crates and searching for obscure source material provided him with an informal education in ‘60s pop and psychedelia, and soon he learned to play the bits and pieces he was sampling. He took up guitar and bass, drums and keyboard and even flute, and then took to his grandmother’s basement to put it all on tape. When Ejstes recorded his first album, he released it in 2001 under the name Dungen, which means “The Grove”— a nod to his village upbringing or perhaps a deeper reference to American folk songs like “Shady Grove.” While his music has routinely garnered comparisons to acts like Love, Pink Floyd, the Electric Prunes, and Os Mutantes, he has always emphasized a strong sense of songcraft. The music has deep roots in the past, but it blooms in the present. With 2004’s breakout Ta Det Lugnt Dungen garnered an avid fanbase outside of Scandinavia. Only on the road did Dungen blossom into a full band, with a rotation of musicians joining Ejstes onstage and eventually coalescing into a fully democratic band that includes Reine Fiske on guitar, Mattias Gustavsson on bass, and Johan Holmegard on drums. Starting with 2007’s Tio Bitar and 2009’s 4, the band members helped Ejstes realize his own vision while adding flourishes of their own. As a result, Dungen grew into something bigger and more formidable: one of the best and most consistently inventive psych rock bands in the world. Now with three more releases -- 2010’s Skit I Allt, 2015’s Allas Sak, and 2017’s Haxan – Dungen will be bringing their experimental psych wonder to the Crocodile on Tuesday, August 8th with Wolf People. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 8 – Belle & Sebastian at Paramount Theatre
Belle and Sebastian are a Scottish band formed in Glasgow in January 1996. Led by Stuart Murdoch, the band has released 9 albums to date. Much of their work had been released on Jeepster Records, but they are now signed to Rough Trade Records in the United Kingdom and Matador Records in the United States. Though often praised by critics, Belle and Sebastian have enjoyed only limited commercial success. In 2014, the band returned to the studio after four years, recording in Atlanta, Georgia for their ninth studio album, along with announcing tour dates for various festivals and concerts across the world during 2014. Their ninth album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance was released in 2015. Their song “There's Too Much Love” forms much of the soundtrack for the Brazilian film The Way He Looks, about a blind, gay teenage boy and his friends, released in 2014. With nine studio albums in the past twenty years, Belle and Sebastian prove to be one of the most consistent indie rock bands of our time. Belle and Sebastian will be performing on Tuesday, August 8th at the Paramount Theatre with support from Big Thief. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 8 – Alex Napping at Timbre Room
Austin-based quartet Alex Napping draws from the deeply personal and the sonically groovy to create storytelling with a beat. Founded in 2013, the group includes lead singer and guitarist Alex Cohen, guitarist Adrian Sebastian Haynes, bassist Tomas Garcia-Olano, and drummer Andrew Stevens. In 2014, the band released their debut album, This Is Not A Bedroom, on Punctum Records. With a guitar-focused sound, this first release reflects nostalgia for early romance and self-discovery, drawing from collective conversations about youth and its limitations. As an expansion of the themes found in Bedroom, Alex Napping released Trembles Part I & II in 2016, a pair of expressive singles hinging on a short story composed by Cohen. Mise En Place, the band's sophomore full-length, weaves together the uncertainty of adulthood with a personal desire to establish existential structure. It also marks the band's first release with San Francisco-based Father/Daughter Records. Revolving around a formative relationship, this album tells the story of Cohen's conflicting roles as both person and partner while highlighting a sophisticated, dimensional sound from the band at large. In Mise En Place, arrangements take center stage, overwhelming the guitar-centric sound that had dominated their early releases. Alex Napping performs at Timbre Room on Tuesday, August 8th with Hoop and Goat Reward. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 10 – Temples at Chop Suey
For Temples, melodies seem to come effortlessly. The band achieved acclaim with its debut album Sun Structures, a Top 10 U.K. debut named Rough Trade's "Album of the Year." All the elements people loved with that record remain intact on its second album Volcano but this time around, there's a noticeable evolution presented from the outset. There are sun-dazed numbers and lysergic dream-pop songs and those where synth and mellotron interweave to beguiling effect. Entirely self-produced and written by all four members of the band, Volcano is the sound of Temples squaring up to its potential. With a brand new record out in the atmosphere, Temples is performing at Chop Suey on Thursday, August 10th with My Goodness. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 13 – Margaret Glaspy at The Crocodile
Emotions and Math is not simply the name of Margaret Glaspy's new debut album. That expression drills right to the heart of the New York singer-songwriter's proper introduction, a mission statement both artistic and personal. On its surface, the title track talks about being a touring musician and figuring out how to see your partner, looking at the calendar and calculating how you're going to spend time together. But Emotions and Math, which ATO Records released on June 17th, also sums up an epiphany she had while making the record. As introductions go, these twelve songs waste no time in cutting close to the bone. This is a young artist with something to say, one who has found her voice, as both singer and songwriter, after years venturing down a crooked path. After cutting her teeth in New York and Boston, where she was a touring musician and played in other people's bands, Emotions and Math signals an assured new direction for Glaspy, who self-produced the album, framing her revealing ruminations in shards of jagged guitar rock. She's a fierce believer in the power of specifics to tell universal truths, to capture emotions we've all felt but don't necessarily hear reflected in pop music. Some truths are uglier than others, but Glaspy never backs down. Catch Margaret Glaspy at The Crocodile with Liza Anne on Sunday, August 13th. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 14 – Gordi at Barboza
Sophie Payten’s – AKA Gordi’s - first foray into songwriting came in the form of performances at her school’s weekly chapel. She’d tell her friends they were written by other artists to ensure they gave honest feedback – though given she was pulling lines from One Tree Hill for lyrics about experiences she was yet to actually have, that feedback wasn’t always glowing. It wasn’t until she started writing about what was happening around her, the friendships she was building and, as is inevitable in the tumult of growing up, breaking, that the chrysalis of the music she’s making now – a brooding, multi-layered blend of electronica and folk, with lyrics that tend to avoid well-trodden paths – began to form. “I often find that writing about platonic relationships,” she says, “can be a great deal more powerful than writing about romantic ones.” The ramifications of loss ripple throughout the album, which the 24-year-old wrote and recorded in Wisconsin, Reykjavik, Los Angeles, New York and Sydney during snatched moments while finishing a six year long medicine degree and international touring commitments. Payten produced two of the tracks herself, and co-produced the rest alongside Tim Anderson (Solange, Banks, Halsey), Ben McCarthy, Ali Chant (Perfume Genius, PJ Harvey) and Alex Somers (Sigur Ros). Writing music, in fact, is the way Gordi lifts herself out of the Reservoir. Don’t miss Gordi at The Barboza on Monday, August 14th. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 18 & 19 – Sylvan Esso at Neptune Theatre
Sylvan Esso's sophomore album, What Now, is the sound of a band truly fulfilling the potential and promise of their debut. An album that feels urgent and relevant to this particular time in history, What Now asks where we go as a culture when standing at what feels like a precipice. Everything has evolved - the production is bolder, the vocals are more intense, the melodies are more irresistible, and the songs shine that much brighter. However, it is also a record that was made in 2016 - which means it is inherently grappling with the chaos of a country coming undone, the voices of two people nestled in studios around the country who were bemused by what they looked out and saw. It's an album that is both political and personal, and blurs the line between the two - What Now describes the inevitable low that comes after every high, fulfillment tempered by the knowledge that there is no clearly defined conclusion. It's a record about falling in love and learning that it won't save you; about the over sharing of information and the fine line between self-awareness and narcissism; about meeting one's own personal successes but feeling the fizzling embers of the afterglow rather than the roar of achievement; about the crushing realization that no progress can ever feel permanent. It is an album that finds its strength in its own duality. But at its core, What Now is an album of the finest songs this band has ever written- produced masterfully, sang fearlessly- to articulate our collective undercurrents of anxiety and joy. Performing for two nights, you can catch Sylvan Esso on either Friday, August 18th or Saturday, August 19th at the Neptune Theatre with Dana Buoy. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 19 – Washed Out at The Showbox
Washed Out’s Ernest Greene has been busy being lazy. After releasing his first two extended plays in 2009, signing to Sub Pop and releasing his debut album Within and Without in 2011, releasing his sophomore album Paracosm in 2013, and featuring his song “Feel It All Around” for the TV show Portlandia, Washed Out took some time off to focus on his next release: the visual representation of his music with an ambitious, collaborative artistic visual album, Mister Mellow. Throughout the album, you can find themes of boredom, laziness, complete apathy; is it a quarter-life crisis or just an excuse to never grow up? This is the world that Washed Out, conjures up on Mister Mellow. For many millennials, life can be overblown and over-dramatized to the point of absurdity. Their ways of distracting themselves from the insecurities they face on a daily basis are just as absurd, from social media and fantasy to drugs and music. Mister Mellow, Washed Out's first fully immersive multimedia experience, playfully guides the listener through the highs and lows of this often ridiculous struggle, and shines a light on the humor in this paradox — how we can be so bored and unhappy in what is often a very privileged, contented life? This theme isn’t entirely new to Washed Out: Greene started exploring way back in 2009 on the Life of Leisure EP; but the new visual album, which he conceived and spent two years creating, provides a fresh, modern perspective, musically and thematically. On Mister Mellow, Washed Out steers clear of emotion to empathize with the minutiae of the world around him. Though Mister Mellow is an intensely personal album, its ideas and observations speak to the lived experience of so many young adults, an experience that we come to see as both funny and sad. Washed Out will be performing on Saturday, August 19th at The Showbox. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 19 – MEW at Neumos
Mew frontman and vocalist Jonas Bjerre has worked on the projections for the band’s live shows since their early days. Usually, the Danish trio finish an album and Bjerre gets to work on the visuals. For their seventh record, though, the singer decided to turn things upside down, working on the visuals first and seeing if they informed the music. The resultant record feels like a culmination for one of rock’s most ambitious and inventive groups: Visuals is where Bjerre and his bandmates, bassist Johan Wohlert and drummer Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen, join the dots of a career that has spanned over two decades. “We do everything on this album ourselves,” says Bjerre. “We produced it ourselves, I did the artwork, I’m doing the visuals. ‘Visuals’ felt like a fitting title. I like the idea that each song has a visual aspect to it somehow.” Visuals is Mew at their most compact, their chemistry at its most potent. With only one song over five minutes, it’s their most concise album. Bjerre says there was no need for a grand, overarching concept. Each song on Visuals represents its own little chapter and story: nothing needed to be overly long. “Each album is like a collection of thoughts and ideas that fit the time we’re in,” he says. “They’re like little diary entries, except they’re a little bit more veiled perhaps. To me, albums are memories of times in my life.” Twenty years into their career, Mew have the irrepressible ebullience of a band on their debut album. Visuals feels like the beginning of a new chapter. Mew will perform at Neumos on Saturday, August 19th with Monakr. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 20 – Kevin Morby at Tractor Tavern
Full of listless wanderlust, City Music is a collection inspired by and devoted to the metropolitan experience across America and beyond by a songwriter cast from his own mold. As Kevin Morby puts it, "It is a mix-tape, a fever dream, a love letter dedicated to those cities that I cannot get rid of, to those cities that are all inside of me." His fourth album, City Music works as a counterpart to Morby's acclaimed 2016 release Singing Saw, an autobiographical set that reflected the solitude and landscape in which it was recorded. It was imagined as "an old bookshelf with a young Bob and Joni staring back at me, blank and timeless. They live here, in this left side of my brain, smoking cigarettes and playing acoustic guitars while lying on an unmade bed." And now follows City Music, the yang to its yin, the heads to its tails. It is a collection crafted using the other side of its creator's brain, the jumping off point perhaps best once again encapsulated by an image. Morby rose to prominence as bassist in Woods, with who he recorded seven albums on Woodsist Records (Kurt Vile, The Oh Sees, Real Estate) while also forming The Babies with Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls. Two albums and a clutch of classic singles with the latter followed. Morby's 2013 debut solo work Harlem River was an homage to New York and featured contributions from artists including Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley (White Fence), while 2014's Still Life garnered universal critical praise. Don’t miss Kevin Morby when he performs on Sunday, August 20th at Tractor Tavern with Shannon Lay. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 23 – Emby Alexander at Lo-Fi
For the last two years, Phoenix indie giants Emby Alexander have stood out as a staple of the central Arizona's eclectic DIY music scene. Members Michael Alexander (voice/producer), Kyle Grabski (bass), and Austin Harshman (samples/guitar) met in college studying audio engineering, while current members Jorge Valdez (guitar), and Jeremy Lentz (percussion) joined later. Their last two EPs were released through UK label Bigo and Twigetti, their hit single "Drag The Long Way Home" reaching the #1 slot on Wellington, New Zealand's Radioactive FM. Emby Alexander, who have been likened to Talking Heads, The Beach Boys, Van Dyke Parks, Broken Social Scene, The Smiths, Vampire Weekend, and David Bowie, have worked with various visual artists, including painter Eric Kasper and director Trevvor Riley to combine the visual with the sonic. For their first two EPs, they released a video for each song. The band plans to put Phoenix's eclectic music scene on the map with extensive tours throughout the Southwest, including a stop at The Lo-Fi on August 23rd with Austin Harshman’s solo project and Lizzy Rose. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 24 – Planes on Paper at The Crocodile
As a one year-old project, Planes on Paper was already receiving high praise from a nearly endless list of media outlets across the country: The Seattle Times, American Songwriter Magazine, KEXP Seattle, WNYU New York, The Revue, Ear To The Ground, and The Stranger, to name just a few. Now three years into the band, the praise continues, and the songwriting duo is drawing crowds on both coasts of the US as well as playing some noteworthy festivals, all without yet releasing a full-length album; that unconventional path speaks volumes about the strength of Planes on Paper’s live performances. Planes on Paper’s new album Edge Markings was recorded at Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, CA (My Morning Jacket, Feist, Band of Horses) by engineer Scott McDowell (The Head & The Heart, Feist, The California Honeydrops) and a small number of friends and musicians. Often during recording, Jen and Navid found themselves completely alone in the studio, a familiar setting for the two, who most often write in the isolation of rural Washington State. The song “Television,” recorded by just the duo, highlights the effectiveness of their writing and voices alone. That isolation was punctuated by visits from their friends, Faustine Hudson (Damien Jurado, The Maldives, The Grizzled Mighty) joining on percussion, Josiah Johnson (The Head & The Heart) providing moral support and sometimes groceries, and Matty Gervais (also The Head & The Heart) visiting via phone and email to offer fresh ears and production advice. A very small team, with some help from The Golden Gate String Quartet, crafted Edge Markings, a 10-song record that displays the simultaneously mellow and powerful dynamic Planes on Paper’s live sets have become known for. Described as, “a cohesive, stark showcase of pure, unadulterated song craft,” they are a show not to be missed. Planes on Paper will perform at The Crocodile on Thursday, August 24th with Tall Tall Trees and Ritchie Young. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 26 – Dent May at Central Saloon
Dent May - self-described hotel bar lounge singer and aspiring daytime TV talk show host - has been charming his way into the hearts of music fans since the release of his debut album The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele on Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label in 2009. The Mississippi-born, Los Angeles-based songwriter, performer, and Dolly Parton enthusiast has since released two more acclaimed records, Do Things (2012) and Warm Blanket. His latest album, Across the Multiverse, is an interstellar voyage of mythic proportions. "Don't wanna move to Southern California / I wasn't really meant for LA..." So sang Dent May once upon a time, now he's eating those words with a side of avocado toast in his new Los Angeles bungalow. What made the lifelong Mississippi boy pull up stakes and head west? "No one looks at you funny if you wear a tuxedo to the supermarket." What he means is he moved there to shake up his surroundings, clear his head, and write the most accomplished record of his young career, the magical mystery tour de force Across the Multiverse. Following the lead of musical-polymaths-with-LA-ties before him like Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, and Harry Nilsson, Dent's style on Across the Multiverse will be familiar to fans of his previous work. Yet there's something more refined about this collection; stately strings mingle with boogie piano like old friends. Synths weave a celestial backdrop throughout. Every verse, bridge and chorus is in its right place, giving it the unmistakable feel of a true songwriting craftsman at work. Lyrically Dent has never been sharper, musing on themes like modern romance, existential dread, and the distance to the moon as he searches for meaning among the infinite scrolling feeds of our 21st century augmented reality. See Dent May perform at the Central Saloon with iji on Saturday, August 26th. Click here for tickets.
AUGUST 26 – Frankie Cosmos at The Crocodile
Originally the solo project of prolific New York City-based songwriter Greta Kline, Frankie Cosmos has blossomed into a four-piece band including David Maine, Lauren Martin, and Luke Pyenson. The first studio release as Frankie Cosmos, Zentropy (Double Double Whammy), garnered wide acclaim upon its release. Recorded as a two-piece with Aaron Maine on drums, Frankie Cosmos began performing live as a three-piece with Aaron’s brother David on bass, and later as a four-piece with Gabrielle Smith on keyboard. The next studio release, 2015’s Fit Me In EP (Bayonet), combined Kline’s honest, lyrically-driven songwriting with Maine’s affinity for synth-driven production. The group’s most recent release is the critically-lauded Next Thing (2016, Bayonet), which has been praised for memorable lyrics that are both clever and concise, deeply personal and widely relatable; beautiful three-part vocal harmonies that enhance catchy pop melodies; and increasingly sophisticated instrumental arrangements that reflect a rapidly maturing band continuing to grow. The band’s live show, honed during extensive touring of North America, Europe, Oceania and Japan, has also received glowing feedback for its mix of energy, intimacy and levity. Don’t miss Frankie Cosmos on Saturday, August 26th at The Crocodile. Click here for tickets.