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A Seattle Arts Primer

A cultural cheat sheet of the best art walks, Broadway-bound plays and musicals, required reading from local authors, and trends in music including a mixtape of Seattle sounds.

By Seth Sommerfeld August 21, 2015 Published in the September 2015 issue of Seattle Met

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Clockwise from left: Damien Jurado, THEESatisfaction, Odesza, Lemolo, Tacocat (middle), Shabazz Palaces, Chastity Belt, Rocky Votolato

Photos courtesy Steve Gullick, King Texas, Tonje Thilesen, Amber Zbitnoff Knecht, Kelly O, Conner Lyons, Angel Ceballos, Patrick O’Brien-Smith

The 5 Most Important Trends in the Seattle Music Scene

Otherworldly Hip-Hop

The city’s defining hip-hop sound isn’t Macklemore, it’s the racially revolutionary swirling space trip created by members of the Black Constellation collective:  Shabazz PalacesTHEESatisfaction, OCnotes, and producer Erik Blood

Riotous Girls

From the buzzy bored frustrations of  Chastity Belt to  Tacocat’s blissful pop punk, feminist rallying cries, women rule the rock scene. Groups like Deep Sea DiverLemolo, Wimps, and Childbirth add to a rich roar of female voices.

The Old Guard

The influential old guard of the Seattle singer-­songwriter scene may not be showy, but artists like Damien Jurado, David Bazan, and Rocky ­Votolato consistently craft moving music. Try to catch them at a living room show.

Electronic Boogaloo

As the EDM subculture has boomed, Seattle’s electronic scene has grown thanks to hometown stars  Odesza and the Decibel Festival, which presents myriad styles and isn’t attended only by kids on molly. 

West Coast, Fest Coast

Cram in all the Seattle sound you can at music festivals. Sasquatch!, Doe Bay, and Timber! offer tuneful camping escapes, while Bumbershoot and Capitol Hill Block Party bring the music to an urban setting.

⇒  For a mixtape of the new sounds of Seattle, including tracks from the bands listed here, go check out our Spotify playlist

Big Plays Start Here

Why make a trip to New York City when you can see shows here first? The city has become a hotbed for new works destined for the Big Apple’s stages. The 5th Avenue Theatre has showcased musicals like Aladdin, Hairspray, and The Wedding Singer, before their Broadway debuts. And Seattle’s deep stable of masterful local playwrights, like Pulitzer and Tony winner Robert Schenkkan, Yussef El-Guindi, and Cheryl L. West, often test their latest dramatic creations at spots like Seattle Rep and ACT Theatre.

Required Reading

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Sherman Alexie

In novels, short stories, and poetry, Alexie tackles Native American experience with stories that are often as uproariously funny as they are personal and emotionally compelling. Read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Maria Semple

No one skewers Seattle’s elite tech class like Semple, whose comedic tour de force Where’d You Go, Bernadette? captures motherly bourgeois burnout with delicious wit. Read Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

G. Willow Wilson

The comic book writer behind Air has earned a national spotlight for reinventing Ms. Marvel as a Pakistani-­American Muslim teen. Read Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal

David Shields 

A man of ideas who fires them off at a frenetic clip—whether it’s NBA racism or the positives of plagiarism—he’s always challenging his readers. Read Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

Neal Stephenson

Seattle’s sci-fi king taps heavily into a postcyberpunk aesthetic to tell dense tales of code breaking and virtual reality littered with satiric humor. Read Snow Crash


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