Best Bets: Seattle’s City Arts Festival 2012

seattle city arts festival 2012

Seattle’s third-annual City Arts Festival returns to the Emerald City next weekend from October 17-20. You can check out the full line-up and pick-up tickets for the festival as well.

By: Tom Roth, Anna Roth & Nick Peterson


David Byrne with St. Vincent

Walk into any bookstore, and you’re likely to be greeted by “How Music Works” by David Byrne. Outwardly, the title looks as if it were published by Apple, with a boxy yet sleek white cover, and bold black lettering. However, the inside yields not circuitry and patent-protected designs, but Byrne’s musings on the meaning and method of recording, performing, and listening to music. According to Byrne, “the ‘aging rocker bio’ is a crowded shelf” dispelling any notion that “How Music Works” is a memoir. Instead, the former frontman of the Talking Heads shows us that old dogs can in fact learn new tricks.

One of these new tricks is Byrne’s partnership with art rocker, Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent. The fruit of this collaboration is September’s album Love This Giant. Since its release, the two have travelled the US, promoting the release. Musicfest NW attendees can catch David Byrne and St. Vincent performing many of the tracks off the new album at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater. This is a hot-ticket show. Arrive early as the concert forecast predicts a full-house. Watch the video for “Who” and check out their live performance on Fallon.


Ghostland Observatory

With the minimalism of their latest album, Codename: Rondo¸ Ghostland Observatory raised critical eyebrows – some claiming that the “simple” and “fun” direction the group had taken failed to be good, or even funny pop music. But others love the new album, calling the album fresh and inventive. It’s certain that the style of Codename: Rondo is simpler than their previous albums. Thomas Turner seems to have opted for more subtle keyboard effects and symmetrical percussion, making the tracks cleaner, which allows Aaron Kyle Behrens’ lyrics to be better understood – the subtle humor doesn’t get lost in an excess of synth.

But with Codename: Rondo two years out of the gate and a full schedule of tour dates ahead, Ghostland Observatory doesn’t need to worry about less-than-impressed critics. Their fan base has been increasing since the band’s formation in 2003, with festival appearances at Lollapalooza, Bonaroo, Coachella, and a headlining act in their home state of Texas at Austin City Limits. Their shows have taken lighting to the next level, incorporating mirrors and lasers, and with a venue, like the Laser Dome on Thursday night, how could the show not be mind-blowing, if not at least retina-stimulating? If you miss them Thursday night, try again on Friday, where they’ll be at the Showbox SoDo with local artists Sports and Keyboard Kid, as well as Australian group Gold Fields. Don’t miss Friday.


Blind Pilot

In a story some Northwest musicians only dream of, Blind Pilot rode their bicycles to success. In 2008, the duo of Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski completed a bike tour from Bellingham, Washington to San Diego, California, performing at more than 24 venues along the way, towing their instruments in customized trailers.

By 2009, they had added four more members and six new instruments. This fleshed out their sound, giving the folk-rock group a fuller, more studio sculpted sound. They opened for bands such as Gomez, The Hold Steady, and The Counting Crows in Europe, and have played various festivals around Colorado.

Based out of Portland and hailing originally from Astoria, Oregon, the band’s music is heavily influenced by Northwest bands like The Decemberists and Death Cab for Cutie. Nebeker finds inspiration in the gorgeous scenery around his home, and the band appreciates the good fortune they have in a supportive community of musicians in Portland.

See Blind Pilot at the Showbox at the Market on Friday, with guests Point Juncture, WA, The Soft Hills and Tom Eddy.

Finn Riggins

The Boise trio composing Finn Riggins has been at it well over a decade and has–by my count–five full lengths out to date. Additionally, they’ve logged in their fair share of tours around this fair nation, including a heavy mileage count this year. Moreover, they will be playing at the Treefort Festival Showcase. Finn Riggins’ member Eric Gilbert directs that festival and thus I’d expect this show(case) to be one of the finer events at City Arts.

If you’re not familiar with Finn Riggins, you can stream/download their latest album release Benchwarmers, watch their video for “Plural” or the incredibly-awesome, 8-bit, Nintendo style video for “Big News“. They play Friday at 4PM at Crocodile.

Hot Bodies in Motion

Speaking of Treefort Festival, Seattle’s own Hot Bodies in Motion put on a hell of a show at the 2012 inaugural run of the festival. While Seattle’s in the full thralls of a soul-revival scene featuring the catchy work of Allen Stone and Pickwick, Hot Bodies has made a name for themselves this year. Playing another impassioned set at Capitol Hill Block Party this summer and releasing their “That Darkness” video, they’re gathering steam for the release of their sophomore album. Jump that gun and hear the new songs before the rest of us!



DeVotchKa hardly needs introduction, with over a decade of musical experience, including six years of international fame. They have headlined music festivals like Coachella and Sasquatch! and have provided music featured in indie movies like Little Miss Sunshine and Everything is Illuminated.

The little band from Denver wasn’t always so successful, but once they got a break with KCRW on a morning radio show, ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic,’ they hit the ground running. They were picked up for Little Miss Sunshine after Valerie Faris and Jonathan Davis heard them that morning, and with the success of the film, they achieved international acclaim. They also toured Europe, which is now an annual stop for the band.

While it’s easy to hear the influence that early collaborators Calexico and Gogol Bordello had on the band, DeVotchKa remains singular in their style. Nick Urata’s haunting vocals soar over theremin, drums, and driving piano riffs in songs like “All the Sand in All The Sea” from their newest album, 100 Lovers. “How It Ends”, from their earlier work, features a mournful Eastern European sound, incorporating acoustic guitar, accordion, and chill-inducing strings. Their newest album is the strongest yet, the band having spent a year carefully crafting each track.

Fans of DeVotchKa can enjoy amped up instrumentals at the band’s City Arts performance, as they will be performing Saturday at The Moore with the Seattle Rock Orchestra.