Birds of a feather: 10 City Arts Fest recommendations

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The third annual City Arts Fest kicks off this week and with it comes four days of shows, big and small, spread across the city. Like almost every music festival, City Arts Fest offers up a ridiculously great amount of talent with dozens of acts to choose from which can make it difficult to plan your festival itinerary. But don’t worry, as with every festival, Guerrilla Candy is here to help you sort through the 100 or so acts playing City Arts Fest. Here are five non-locals worth checking out as well as their local counterparts. Sort of like a RIYL preview (that’s music blogger jargon for recommended if you like) with locals that pair up well some of the bigger names on City Art Fest’s bill. Think of them as musical birds of a feather if you will.

Brother Ali at Neumos Oct. 17 (see also: The Physics at Showbox SoDo Oct. 18) 

Not only is Brother Ali one of the most thoughtful and conscientious rappers in the game, he’s also an engaging performer who gives his all every time he picks up a microphone. As an added bonus, Brother Ali’s latest album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, is one of the best hip-hop albums of the year and Guerrilla Candy favorite Grynch is opening the show.

On the local front, if you like Brother Ali you should check out The Physics at Showbox SoDo, a group I’ve been raving about for quite some time. The added bonus to catching their set is that the group is opening for Mos Def, so you’ll be getting plenty of quality hip-hop in SoDo.

Howlin’ Rain at Barboza Oct. 19 (see also: Reignwolf at the Laserdome Oct. 19)

Howlin’ Rain is one of the greatest American rock bands making music today. But don’t take my word for it, take the word of some guy named Rick Rubin. He produced the group’s latest record, The Russian Wilds, and it’s a sprawling psych-garage masterpiece. The video above gets you caught up a bit on Howlin’ Rain’s career in case you aren’t familiar with the Bay Area group. Supporting Holwin’ Rain at Barboza are Guerrilla Candy favorites The Fox and the Law so you’ll be getting a double dose of rock ‘n’ roll bliss.

The local recommendation here takes things from one type of rain (Howlin’ Rain to be more specific) to another sort of reign in Reignwolf. Jordan Cook, a.k.a. Reignwolf, has been owning the local rock scene all year with his blues-metal magic so you can expect plenty of loud, face-melting riffs at this show. Oh, and did I mention there will be lasers? Yes, expect lasers, lots and lots of lasers.

Omar-Rodriguez Lopez at the Triple Door Oct. 19 (see also: Hounds of the Wild Hunt at Barboza Oct. 20) 

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, founding member of At The Drive-In and one-half of the founding force of The Mars Volta, is a prolific and talented musician. How prolific? This year’s Octopus Kool Aid is his 22nd solo album. How talented? Did you just read the part where I said he founded both ATDI and The Mars Volta? Unfortunately Omar doesn’t seem to like Seattle all too much, or to phrase things more accurately, he hasn’t had many positive experiences with Seattle crowds recently. The previous two times The Mars Volta performed in Washington state involved  TMV storming off the stage because a bottle of urine was thrown at the stage and TMV getting slammed in the local media for allegedly throwing a cymbal in the crowd and attempting to steal a photographer’s camera. Omar’s CAF performance will be at the Triple Door, a rather more civil environment, so hopefully things will go a bit more smoothly.

I haven’t spent much time with Omar’s solo catalog but if I had to pick a local playing CAF to  match him up with it would definitely be Hounds of the Wild Hunt. Like The Mars Volta, and by association I’m assuming Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Hounds of the Wild Hunt are a band that can be both melodic and punishing and their latest album, El Mago, is excellent.

Two Door Cinema Club at Showbox at the Market Oct. 20 (see also: Throw Me The Statue at the Crocodile Oct. 18)

The last time the Irish lads in Two Door Cinema Club came through town they were a part of 107.7 The End’s Deck the Hall Ball along with the likes of Young the Giant and Death Cab for Cutie. They ended up being the sleeper highlight on a bill that also included massive sets from both Mumford and Sons and the then white-hot Foster the People, so their return to Seattle is worth checking out.

Throw Me The Statue doesn’t play many local shows nowadays, which is likely because TMTS principal Scott Reitherman spent some time living in California recently. Their power-pop prowess will be on display at the Crocodile with a bill that also features Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Tomten and headliner Gold Leaves. 

Ghostland Obersvatory at Showbox SoDo Oct. 19 (see also: The New Law at Neumos Oct. 18) 

Ghostland Observatory is performing twice during City Arts Fest, once at the Laserdome and once at Showbox SoDo. Typically I’m a fan of smaller, more intimate venues which would point me in the direction of recommending the Laserdome show, but the SoDo concer will be the better of the two events and the reason why is simple. The Showbox SoDo’s cavernous space and warehouse-like vibe is the perfect fit for Ghostland Observatory’s fancy, laser-fueled, rave-lite music. And while the Laserdome is a pretty special place to see any show, a Ghostland set has more lasers than a Dr. Evil hideout so you won’t be missing much in the laser department.

The New Law is a local group I just discovered while writing this so I don’t know much about them, but I do like what little of their music I’ve heard. They describe their music on their BandCamp page as “… instrumental music featuring organic and synthetic hip hop beats combined with evolving soundscapes, dreamlike sax, dusty samples, soaring synths, and pulsing drum machines.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? Be sure to check them out at Neumos opening for EOTO. 

Tickets for City Arts Fest are on sale now and can be purchased here.

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, and others and was the founder and editor of defunct music site Ear Candy.