Most of the time Alda Agustiano has spent at festivals in the Chinatown–International District has been working as a volunteer or in her family’s Bumbu Truck, which serves Indonesian street food like satay and lumpia. But this Saturday at the second C–ID Block Party, DJing and performing under her Chong the Nomad moniker, she’s on the poster among the headliners—her name below Prometheus Brown (of Blue Scholars) and Bambu.
Agustiano has had a hell of a year. Perhaps it kicked off with her Love Memo EP, a melancholy glitchy bit of indie EDM. Or her set at Capitol Hill Block Party 2018, during which she busted out a ukulele. Or when she was on the cover of The Stranger in November with the headline, “Chong the Nomad Is About to Blow Up the Music Scene.” Certainly by the time The Seattle Times critics poll voted Love Memo the fifth best local album of the year, and KEXP's Kevin Cole named her part of Seattle’s future on NPR, and Death Cab for Cutie asked her to remix their song “When We Drive,” she’d reached the sort of critical mass that counts as bona fide buzz.
I mentioned that Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard had just sung a hook on the new Chance the Rapper album, too. “My partner sent that to me and my jaw just dropped,” she said with a sort of amused awe. “The bridge between me and Chance the Rapper is not that far anymore.”
But since she started getting so much local and national attention, Agustiano’s sound has taken a new turn. Love Memo was nearly all instrumental. Last week she released “Would You Need Me,” her latest in a string of excellent singles this year that have announced her not only as a beat-maker but a strong pop songwriter. It's both beautiful and engagingly experimental, as ready for a dance floor as an attentive headphone listen.
“I heard a great quote recently,” she says of her new songs. “Someone told me that if you find confidence in vulnerability, then you’re good to go. You find success really fast that way when you make art.”
For the moment she’s happy to return to a Seattle stage after two months of playing shows outside of the city, and to be playing at the revived C–ID Block Party (the last one was in 2016). This year’s runs from 3pm to 9pm and includes a screening of Crazy Rich Asians at Hing Hay Park, food from Melissa Miranda (Musang Seattle) and Chera Amlag (Hood Famous Bakeshop), a “Boozy Boba” beer garden from East Trading Company, a bar scavenger hunt, and an imported car show.
Agustiano is excited for the blending of cultures and for the chance to play a free, all-ages show—since most of hers have an age limit. Does she worry at all about the main stage being set up under I-5 on King Street? “That might be loud. But my music is loud.”
Chinatown-International District Block Party
Aug 3, 900 S King St, Free