Five to watch at City Arts Fest

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Allen Stone :: Photo by Jason Tang

The second annual Heineken City Arts Fest will take over more than a dozen venues throughout Seattle beginning Thursday for a three-day party that boasts more than 60 events featuring music, visual art, film and dance.

The festival’s headliners alone make the festival noteworthy with organizers bringing in big names for fans of the Pitchfork persuasion (Built to Spill, Ryan Adams, Crystal Castles, Robyn, the Hold Steady), but City Arts Fest also does an excellent job of spotlighting some of the brightest upcoming talent that the Northwest has to offer. And while the big names and the festival’s impressive undercard (Male Bonding, Shabazz Palaces, Long Winters, Blackalicious, Ozomatli) make the price of a $69 wristband well worth the purchase, there are plenty of performances by lesser-known artists that need to be on your radar. Here are five of those performances.

Allen Stone (headlining the Triple Door Oct. 20)

Allen Stone’s star is on the rise. He’s a golden blonde soul crooner from a small eastern Washington town who wins over crowds everywhere he performs. His backing band includes the rhythm section of Raphael Saadiq’s band and he’s fresh off the release of a new album.  Oh, and he’s making is national television debut on Conan Oct. 26. Catch this burgeoning star at City Arts Fest so you can say you saw him before he made it big.

The Helio Sequence (Headlining Pacific Science Center Laser Dome Oct. 21)

City Arts Fest features a trio of shows that take place at the Pacific Science Center’s Laser Dome. During these shows a band will perform while a custom laser show is displayed on the walls and ceiling of the venue. Portland’s electro, pop-rock duo, the Helio Sequence, makes music that’s perfect for a Laser Dome setting.  During its set the band will perform selections from its upcoming album as well as songs from its back catalog, making this a must-see performance.

Culture Club: Factory (FRED Wildlife Refuge. Oct. 21)

What happens when you take dozens of local hip-hop figures, put their names into a hat and randomly pull those names out of said hat to create one-off Seattle hip-hop supergroups? Well, Culture Club: Factory is what happens. Not only does this event put together several artists who have never worked together before, but it also tasks them with creating a unique song for the occasion. Some of the combinations include: Rik Rude with Malice Sweet and 10.4Rog, Terry Radjaw with Neema, Hollis and Crispy and Katie Kate with Luck One and Bean One. If you love Seattle hip-hop, or even if you’re just curious about the local hip-hop scene and want to learn more, Culture Club: Factory is where you’ll want to be on Oct. 21.

Shelby Earl (Opening for the Felice Brothers at the Crocodile Oct. 20)

Shelby Earl is one of the most underrated voices in the local Americana scene. She packs an impressive set of pipes and her emotional and heartfelt songs will stay with you long after a single listen. Shelby’s debut record, Burn the Boats, is being reissued by Local 638 Records Nov. 1 and this City Arts Fest set will showcase plenty of material from that excellent album.

Hot Bodies in Motion (opening for Mudhoney Oct. 22 @ Neumos)

Hot Bodies In Motion might be the closest thing Seattle has to a pop-sensation and they have Taylor Lautner to thank for that distinction. Chances are thousands of teenage girls have heard their funky boogie track “Under My Skin” and that’s because it is included on the soundtrack to the film Abduction. The band released its debut EP Old Habits back in January and at the time I called it one of my favorite discoveries of the year. Nine months later and that statement is still true.

Of course those are just a few of the excellent locals who will be performing throughout town as part of CAF 2011. Here are 10 more locals who get the Guerrilla Candy seal of approval that I strongly recommend penciling in on your City Arts Fest itinerary: Katie Kate, Whalebones, Theoretics, Kris Orlowski, Tea Cozies, Cobirds Unite, Don’t Talk to the Cops, Noah Gunderson, Pickwick, Smokey Brights.

Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 14 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut.com and others and was the founder and editor of defunct music site Ear Candy.