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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 8, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 23
Upstream Music Fest + Summit: My 10 favorite acts from the 3-day festival
Arts & Entertainment
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Upstream Music Fest + Summit: My 10 favorite acts from the 3-day festival

by Paul Torres - SGN Contributing Writer

UPSTREAM MUSIC FEST + SUMMIT
PIONEER SQUARE
June 1-3


The second year of Seattle's Upstream Music Fest + Summit was another wild and fun musical odyssey. Over the course of three days (most acts played at night) a cross-section of different acts performed a variety of music styles. Some acts crisscrossed more than one style in just their sets. Famed musicians Krist Novoselic as a guest curator and indie super legend Wayne Coyne from Flaming Lips showed their well-earned and music prowess, but never outshone new and upcoming talent.

In random order, here is my rundown of my ten favorite acts that I saw at Upstream 2018:

The Brodcast
SUNDAY
Starbucks Stage at the Ninety

The Brodcast are a lively young group who utterly master the stage with a male/female rap duet reminiscent of early-2000s California pop-rap sounds, the good ones. Golden moments included the very friendly lead vocalist inviting the crowd at the Starbucks Stage at the Ninety venue (in the Pioneer Park plaza) to gather around an imaginary campfire. There was a sonic glow of upbeat rhythms from the talented crew an equally talented lead vocalist playing truly positive sounds.

Terror/Cactus
SUNDAY
The Lower Quarters at 13 Coins

Terror/Cactus is a masked trio of musicians who spill out mad South American beats and power guitar chords. Their unique brand of hallucination electronica mixed with earthy ethnic vibes is transcendent. When the guitarist struck chords under shimmering lights it was at once frightening (especially with his mask on) and breathtaking, but you keep grooving, because you want these dark beats to never see the day.

Amen Viana
SATURDAY
Deschutes Stage at J & M Café

With an alluring blend of reggae, jazz, rap, and rock Amen Viana is not the second coming, but the third and the fourth of blessed musicianship and entertainment. This act was curated by One Vibe Africa. This band's live presentation, with its charismatic lead orchestrator Amen Viana, enthralled the packed room and never let down the congregation. By the end of their sweaty set tunes, you wanted more music. I guess that's what their website is for!

American Nudism
FRIDAY
Axis 2

Another act that mixes sounds and genres from around the world to create something exciting, American Nudism meets the challenge of coming up with something super appealing. They successfully mix hard rock, driving beats, and synth into danceable music. This Seattle band can really shake the floors of Axis 2, as many bands did last year (must be the old Pioneer Square foundations). The lead singer spits and spews punk-like vocals as the crowd goes mad. They were a great first night act with revved up raw energy powered by their fine-tuned talent.

Nuela Charles
FRIDAY
Canada House at Quality Athletics

Nuela Charles is a powerhouse performer from Canada who belts out airy 1960s inspired R&B rock songs. She captivated the Quality Athletics crowd, a Canadian themed bar and grill with sports on the TVs. Not even the games could take people's eyes off her mesmerizing set. She's the piano bar vocalist, but with a rock band sound. Another blended genre band that is not a pastiche, but pure fun-night-out vibes for all around along with the beer!

Aaron J
FRIDAY
Trinity Nightclub

As a master of beats, Aaron J is a newcomer, but has a spotlight on that begs you to follow. His brand of highly energetic hip-hop tears up the floor and moves you beyond the walls. With a sheen of metal toughness to his music, he is a must-see wherever he plays next. He is out of Tacoma and like that city to the south his ferocious music clamors for well-deserved attention.

Flaming Lips
SUNDAY
Amazon Music Stage

Iconic indie rock band Flaming Lips' theatrical and circus inspired shows are legendary. They didn't let down their fans this night. Lead singer Wayne Coyne knows what it means to be a showman: whether it's being carried around the crowd on a unicorn or rolling across the crowd inside a plastic ball. It's their music that's their trademark. Especially with the crowd pleasing psychedelic classic 'Do You Realize??' sung under an inflatable rainbow with Coyne donning a king's crown and looking regal, wise, and like a true rock god. 'Do you realize,' Coyne beams, 'that you have the most beautiful face.' It's puts you in their magical world on a cool and gloomy Sunday Seattle evening.

Caela Bailey
FRIDAY
Zocalo

She's a mighty blend of camp and country, a bit Dolly, a bit Reba, and a pinch of Winona with a groovy bent. She's Caela Bailey! She brought down the barn, well bar, on Friday evening. She's a pleasurable blend of punk and western music. She even did a nifty cove of Nirvana's 'Come as You Are' that replaced Kurt's gnarly growls with her sassy purrs. And it worked amazingly! Yeehoo! She was fab!

Cut Copy
SUNDAY
KEXP Stage

Cut Copy hail from Australia and are true electronic musicians from that era. In them I hear New Order, but they are truly innovative with their sweet and suave melodies with layers of beautiful wavy synths. They played outdoors on Sunday and it felt like an intimate and dark club (it was a rather gray evening). You can groove and move in place or get out on the lawn and dance away to rhythm, to the beat.

Jawbreaker
SATURDAY
Amazon Music Stage

Punk legend Jawbreaker reformed recently, but they seem as raw and real as they did in their 1980s heyday. A time when punk music reigned in its purest form: a cold, wet club lit up by a few light bulbs smelling like blood and beer. They were and now are more of the more expressive ilk of punk bands, hence being able to bring a sneer to your smile or a tear to your eye. It was pleasing seeing them live in black and blue.

Other great acts included coffee shop band Cold Comfort, R&B star Miguel, hip hop artist Sol, rocker Kyle Craft, rapper SUPERDUPERKYLE, and hip hop's Aramis who rounded out Friday night at Trinity.

This year's lineup was outstanding in keeping true with its artistic vision: curating music as art and revealing how or what it says about today's society. What is that? It's a mix or a blend of many ideas confronting each other in ways we never thought possible. Sometimes it's scary, sometimes it's beautiful and sometimes it's just spectacular. As Wayne Coyne from Flaming Lips sings, '...You realize the sun doesn't go down / it's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.' Now, that's some refreshingly real news.

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