Technically speaking, summer doesn’t begin until the Summer Solstice on the 20th. That said, Seattle recently experienced a straight week of sun and I’ve already been told by two separate individuals that my shorts are inappropriately short, so for all intents and purposes, SUMMER IS HERE!
Summer in Seattle is always a golden season. For roughly three months, the clouds part and the sun pours down on the pallid butts at Denny Blaine. The water sparkles and the pavement radiates heat and the cold brew flows. It’s a magical time. After a historically gloomy winter (we shattered a 122-year-old record for rainfall), a few months of sun and warmth feel almost essential.
And there’s another reason to love summer: the music. The season plays host to a veritable fortune of block parties, festivals, concerts, releases, dance parties, patio soirees, wacko art events, exhibitions, house shows and street performances. But as wonderful as it can be, the deluge of music happenings can be overwhelming. Never fear though! We here at Jetspace have put together a list of queer summer music highlights to help you navigate your summer.
Taylar Elizza Beth’s Fresh Cut Flowers EP – out now!
Taylar Elizza Beth is a quiet storm. TEB, the nom de musique of White Center’s Taylar White has maintained a profile in the Seattle hip-hop/DIY scene for the past few years, but her latest release, Fresh Cut Flowers, definitively establishes her as one of the most distinctive voices of the city’s current musical renaissance. The sounds of FCF exist within the continuum of Seattle’s premiere hip-hop (expansive, introspective, formally inventive) without ever once coming off as derivative. White’s whispery verses, her most arresting tool, coil and strike o’er top beats by a who’s-who of young Seattle producers as she makes her way down unexpected paths. “Let’s just for a moment, let’s enjoy it, let’s have sex” she incants on “High and Haunted,” all afterparty wooziness and weed smoke. There’s something to be said for an artist who can explore those kinds of tensions without ever seeming to raise her voice.
Block Party at the Station – June 17
Capitol Hill Block Party and Bumbershoot be damned. The real must-see festival is Beacon Hill’s Block Party at the Station, which substitutes obnoxious corporate sponsorships and obscene ticket prices for – get this – an actual sense of community. Plus it’s free! In a city that seems hell-bent on ignoring its mounting pile of economic and racial injustices, an event that amplifies the voices of POC, queers and young people seems increasingly vital. Plus, the lineup, which highlights the hip-hop heritage of South Seattle, is always a great place to find your next local obsession.
SassyBlack’s New Black Swing – June 23
If there is a person in this town who serves it as consistently as SassyBlack, I have yet to find her. The singing half of THEESatisfaction has struck out on her own after that group’s demise, and she seems intent on making it to even more fertile and kaleidoscopic locales. Both of the tracks currently available point towards a jazzier, more percussive sound on New Black Swing, the title of which references new jack swing, a genre of 90s dance-fusion music. Recently, more and more artists have made move to reclaim the subversive and intellectual legacy of dance music – particularly the club music invented by artists and DJs of color. I can think of few people more suitable for that task than SassyBlack.
Sheer Mag Album – July 14
Part of Sheer Mag’s charm has always derived from their incongruity, from their sound – a punk-informed take on 60s and 70s rock, anchored by lead singer Christina Halladay’s howling and aggressively feminine vocal delivery – to their massive critical acclaim predicated on three scrappy, lo-fi EPs. It’s always a feat when a band is able to make distinctly vintage references without sounding like a re-hash, but somehow Sheer Mag have always managed it. Therefore, the arrival of their debut, Need to Feel Your Love, feels at once exciting and strange. A real album? Without tape hiss?? And discernible lyrics???? Can the appeal of Sheer Mag – and I ask this in all seriousness – withstand such an assault? I’m crossing my fingers.
T-Rextasy with Emma Lee Toyoda and Hardly Boys @ Chop Suey – July 20
Will. You. Look. At. That. Lineup. T-Rextasty, the standard bearers of glittery, hyper-verbal pop punk, team up Emma Lee Toyoda, Seattle’s own purveyors of aching folk-pop, and Hardly Boys, the garage band of your technicolor dreams, for what is sure to be an evening of cute, queer, all-ages fun. My well of adjectives is running dry, but you get what I’m saying. GO SEE THEM!
Capitol Hill Block Party – July 21-23
Ok, ok. I know what you’re going to say. BLOCK PARTY? Get out of here you capitalist pig! How could a festival that so blatantly sold its soul to our corporate overlords long ago be an event for the regular, ragtag queers out there? But dear, irate reader, I regret to inform you that this year’s lineup is actually kind of…great? And as representation in mainstream, big-tent music festivals go, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. Due to radius clause bullshit, his year’s Block Party will be basically your only chance to see Perfume Genius in the immediate future, plus Lizzo, Austra, Noname, Mykki Blanco, Cherry Glazerr, Diet Cig, Prom Queen, and Sashay, among others (presumably). Maybe forking over your money to our capitalist overlords won’t be so bad this time?
Downtown Town Boys’ The Cost of Living – August 11
I’ll plead guilty to the music writer habit of trying to justify everything I like as culturally necessary. Carly Rae Jepson? Vital! The White Stripes? Wow, so necessary! And can you even IMAGINE where we’d be without Chaka Khan’s collected discography?? Because I simply cannot! That said, there are a handful of bands working who make music that legitimately seems invaluable. Case in point: Downtown Boys. The Providence five-piece write furious, full-throttle punk music with deeply political themes – race and class and borders, just to name a few salient examples. Their next record, entitled The Cost of Living, comes out on Sub Pop this summer and promises to present more of Downtown Boys’ righteous fury with slightly more polish (the album was produced by Guy Picciotto of Fugazi). God knows they didn’t have to look far for material.
Beth Ditto’s Fake Sugar and performance @ The End Summer Camp, August 12-13
The year 2012 left two Gossip-related wholes in my heart. It was the year Gossip Girl ended (XOXO Blair!) but it also marked the last recorded output from Beth Ditto and Gossip, the band that propelled her to fame. The band’s last album, A Joyful Noise, marked the completion of their transformation from a blues-y punk outfit to a full-blown dance-pop event. Through all of it, Ditto and her impressive voice seemed to be the linchpin around which the band rotated. Now, after a hiatus that found her designing a clothing line, getting married, pissing off haters, and generally living her best life – if Instagram is to be believed – Ditto has returned with her solo debut, Fake Sugar. Additionally, she’ll be performing as part of 107.7 The End’s Summer Camp festival in Redmond in August. Ditto is famous for her live show, so it’ll be worth it to venture into the wilderness of the ‘burbs. Fake Sugar is out June 16.