Aaron Fowler’s work, showing at SAM, disrupts the borders between painting and sculpture.

Books & Talks

Charlton McIlwain

Dec 2 To New York University Steinhardt professor Charlton McIlwain, the rise of online racial activism runs back further than we think. His new book, Black Software: The Internet and Racial Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter, delves into the history of race and technology from the 1960s to now. McIlwain covers the work toward diversity, the internet’s black pioneers, and how the government and tech companies leveraged their power to suppress African Americans. Town Hall, $5

Jeff VanderMeer

Dec 6 Author of the beloved apocalyptic Southern Reach trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer is both a writer and editor of so-called “weird fiction” (think Haruki Murakami or Franz Kafka). His latest novel, Dead Astronauts, takes place in a City where a Company looms. If that sounds banally devoid of particulars, well, the book also contains a homeless woman haunted by a demon and a time-traveling “messianic fox.” Elliott Bay Book
Company, Free

Classical & More


Dec 5–8 In 2016, Ahamefule J. Oluo, the trumpeter from local jazz-punk band Industrial Revelation, premiered his show Now I’m Fine—a blend of music, storytelling, and jokes. Now he returns with a sort of sequel. Susan, a ranging profile of his mother, explores her life—a white American who married a Nigerian chief, who then left her. But it also digs into how Oluo made his own way to Nigeria to find the family still there. On the Boards, $28–$75


Trevor Noah

Dec 13 It’s surprising that Trevor Noah has sustained a stand-up comedy career alongside hosting The Daily Show for the last four years, releasing two Netflix specials and now taking to the road with his Loud and Clear tour. Even more surprising is that he’s consistently funny—as adept at voices and storytelling as he is at demonstrating the similarities between sad toddlers and trap rappers or explicating his friend’s opinion that “nothing says America like tacos.” Tacoma Dome, $39–$95


Schoolboy Q

Dec 1 While his friend and onetime hype-man Kendrick Lamar has only escalated in ferocity, LA rapper Schoolboy Q has relaxed a bit. His new album, Crash Talk, comes slathered with bass, weighted with aggression, but over these beats—even on wild singles—Schoolboy’s raps seem out for a stroll. No matter. Except for a few qualitative soft spots on this record, he’s still a gifted MC to walk beside. WaMu Theater, $46 

Mount Eerie

Dec 3 On Phil Elverum’s last two studio records, A Crow Looked at Me and Now Only, he reckoned with his wife’s death in spare, broken folk—less standard albums than intimate documents of grief. Now the Anacortes musician, who plays as Mount Eerie, has a new record. Lost Wisdom Pt. 2 still finds Elverum and singer Julie Doiron grappling with uncertainty, but among the clearest signs that the record is colored with hope is its quiet, beautiful musicality. Neptune Theatre, $19

Angel Olsen

Dec 11 Angel Olsen has created two versions of her latest set of songs. One, a stripped back acoustic piece recorded in Anacortes (drawn there, perhaps, by Mount Eerie) she’ll release next year. The other, All Mirrors, arrived in October as a roaring, cinematic antithesis. A 12-piece string section soars, synths blush, and she moves between strange, sparkling pop and stretches of gothic gravitas—her voice, as always, strong and tremulous. Moore Theatre, $30 

New Year’s Eve Meow Meow

Dec 31 Few contemporary artists come better suited for a New Year’s Eve bash—which here involves a show, champagne, and late-night dancing—than Meow Meow. She sings and performs as if Liza Minnelli’s Cabaret character got some tips from Édith Piaf, then raced forward through history, grabbing up a few decades worth of slinking show tunes and winking camp on her way to some glittering present. Benaroya Hall, $58–$128 


Next Fest NW 2019

Dec 12–15 Fittingly for an annual festival focused on experimental, local contemporary dance pieces, this year’s Next Fest NW theme is Ritual and Rebellion. Curators aim to help artists stretch their works beyond the festival’s four days, a process grounded in axiom: The best way to know you’re moving forward is keeping an eye on the past. Velocity Dance Center, $20 


Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

Dec 31–Jan 5 After 289 Broadway performances, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical—which charts the singer’s tumultuous rise from Boston childhood to disco queen—has embarked on its first tour. At the Paramount, expect enough glitz on stage, and in the soundtrack, to give the venue’s gilded climes a hard run for their money, honey. Paramount Theatre, $30–$100

Visual Art

Samantha Scherer

Dec 7–Mar 8 In her new exhibition, These Are Their Stories, local artist Samantha Scherer paints images of Law and Order victims in black watercolor on stained paper. The show’s 35 images ask us not only to see how we consume murder as narrative titillation, but to consider how we process it in repetition, personally, culturally, daily. Henry Art Gallery, $10

Aaron Fowler

Dec 13–June 28 Every other year, Seattle Art Museum awards the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize to a black artist less than a decade into a promising career. This year’s recipient, Aaron Fowler, creates work in which a necklace might spill from a portrait onto the floor. He’s a mixed-media artist, but that language reads flat for work that so gleefully disrupts standard boundaries between painting and sculpture. Seattle Art Museum, $30

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