Sophia Barkalakis’ Top 20 Pacific Northwest Shows of 2017

As 2017 comes to an end we look back at some of the most memorable shows of the year. There were so many to choose from and below are the ones which impressed the most out of the 256 bands I saw live. We witnessed performances by huge acts who came through town but also discovered great local talent forming from the incredible music scene in our city. It was not an easy task but here is my top 20 from 2017.

20. Austra

February 14, Crocodile

The band founded by Katie Austra Stelmanis in 2009 played an intimate show at the Crocodile on Valentine’s Day and it was the one of the most memorable performances of the year. The lights perfectly danced with the music and the sold out crowd was completely mesmerized by the long airy dress Stelmanis was flowing around in, creating a magic scene. Supporting their 3rd album Future Politics the band took over the space and kept everyone intrigued the entire time.


19. Sofi Tukker

April 28, Crocodile

The duo was one of my favorite new discoveries of the year, one I still talk about when people ask me. I didn’t know much about them besides their hit “Drinkee,” but their show quickly became unforgettable. It turned into a dance party and their energy was so contagious, it was hard not to have a good time. The duo moved around constantly interacting with fans and made sure you knew they were in control. This is a group you have to catch live to understand what the hype is about. When they came back for Bumbershoot I suggested that people included them in their schedule and everyone was as impressed as I was.

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18. Jenn Champion

November 11, Neumos

Champion announced that she would be leaving Seattle for LA this year but not before playing one last show at Neumos. The concert would be dedicated to her album Cool Choices and would be played in sequence. This is one of my favorite records released in the last few years and I couldn’t wait for the night to come. The packed venue stood around and slowly hummed the melodies as Champion poured her heart out. Hearing “Pacific” live was a highlight of the night as most of us stood in silence to hear her voice carry us.

17. Devils Hunt Me Down

August 11, Crocodile

Another great local band that has been on the rise over the past year. Their performance at the Croc was full of energy, adrenaline, headbanging, and everything you wished for in a rock show. Matt Bentley, Christopher Bicknell, Callum Dickson, and Ian Sides take the stage and utterly dominate every second of it. The band released three wonderful EPs this year In Medias Res I, II, and III, and they are all incredible. Their next show is at Nettie Fest December 29th at Substation, and we suggest being there for it.

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16. Apocalyptica

September 22, Moore

This year marked Apocalyptica’s 20th year anniversary of releasing their first album of Metallica covers by four cellos. This concert became so intense people were out of their seats singing the lyrics as the group played their cellos. It was quite incredible to see how powerful music can become without lyrics and how the four of them controlled every second of it. It was an unique experience to catch these guys, especially playing some of my favorite songs.

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15. Sundries

February 18, Sunset

We saw the Sundries multiple times this year and enjoyed every single one but this was our favorite one. The sold out Sunset show was for their “Do You Feel Safe” EP release, and every second felt perfect. Sadie Ava’s melodic voice always draws you into her lyrics and you honestly don’t want to go anywhere else.  It is easy to become a fan of theirs from song one and to keep coming back to see them play again. They are one of our favorite local acts and you shouldn’t miss them, their next live show is at the Tractor on January 5th.

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14. Gorillaz

September 30, Key Arena

The Scorpions were playing the same night and I had decided to go to that show. Last minute though I changed my mind, mostly due to the fact that I’d never seen the Gorillaz and went to the Key Arena instead. As a teenager I was obsessed with Damon Albarn and Blur and really liked this side project. Their show was infused with amazing visuals, talented musicians, and they even had Jehnny Beth of Savages on tour for their “We Got The Power” collaboration. I’m glad I finally caught them live and heard an amazing rendition of my favorite “El Mañana.”

13. Franz Ferdinand

December 4, Showbox Market

When the Scottish rock band announced tour dates with the Killers we were thrilled to see them add a solo Seattle show. It’s been a while since the band stopped through town and we couldn’t wait to see them play live. The sold out Market waited in anticipation and when Alex Kapranos stepped onstage they rejoiced singing every single word with him. They know exactly how to rock out a place, energizing every inch of the room with their long solos and catchy riffs. Their fifth album, Always Ascending, will be out early 2018 and we can’t wait for them to stop by again.

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12. Japanese Breakfast

September 27, Crocodile

There was a lot of noise around Michelle Zauner’s solo project after her debut and when she announced a Seattle date I was thrilled. Catching her at such a small venue was perfect for capturing the intensity of her music. She willingly displays so much pain, so much coping with loss, but also so much hope. There is a lot of emotion being projected in the room it’s hard not to feel it when you’re part of the show.

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Photo courtesy of Peter Dervin

11. U2

May 14, Century Link Stadium

Every time I’ve seen these legends they have put on an amazing show. They are always pushing their creative boundaries, giving the fans something to remember. This time around they were celebrating the 30th year anniversary of their critical “Joshua Tree” release. The 200ft wide video screen displayed visuals provided by Anton Corbijn, who was the original photographer, capturing the aura and essence of the album. Hearing the record in its entirety was incredible and once more these guys proved just how worth it they are.

10. Sylvan Esso

August 18-19, Neptune

After their highly acclaimed debut in 2014 the duo was back at it supporting their sophomore What Now record. The soothing vocals of Amelia Meath perfectly paired by the production of Nick Sanborn took over the Neptune for two sold out shows. We were there for both of them and it was worth it both nights. The intense lighting design of Zach Sternberg brought the room to life as everyone danced their worries away.

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9. The National

November 29, Paramount

This show was one of my favorites because I was completely mesmerized walking into the Paramount. Singer Matt Berninger was so charismatic throughout the performance he caught me by surprise. His enchanting, peaceful, and demanding aura reflected flawlessly through the music. The stage was equipped with three large video monitors that displayed an array of colors grasping the audience’s attention throughout the night. If I could describe the mood in a song it would be, “I Need My Girl,” over and over again.

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8. Coldplay

September 29, BC Place

Scared of taking a chance with the Seattle rain I decided to catch them in Vancouver to make sure I was covered. It had been more than five years that the Northwest had gotten a stop by the successful pop band and I was excited to see them once again. Their Head Full of Dreams tour was the most colorful yet, showcasing their huge stadium production which kept you constantly intrigued. Even though this was a huge show it made my list because there were moments that Chris Martin made it feel as if he was just singing directly to you. That is one of his greatest talents as an artist, pulling you in even in the largest space.

7. Radiohead

April 8, Key Arena

We know Thom Yorke plays whatever he feels like, sometimes skipping some of favorite songs from their catalog but when you really reflect back, it doesn’t really matter. Everything about this night was absolute magic and it easily topped my list. The show sold out in a matter of seconds and for the lucky fans who attended, the setlist was worth the long wait of the band’s return. “Lotus Flower” still pops in my head as one of my favorite moments this year and it is undeniable that the band still has incredible chemistry. They always deliver more than expected and it is always unexpected, and that’s what makes them legends.

6. Slowdive

October 25, Neptune

If I had to label one show as pure magic from this year, Slowdive would win. Their ambient, dream pop sound paired with intriguing visuals completely transported the crowd to another place. Rachel Goswell’s voice soothed every muscle in your body and you couldn’t help but stand there feeling yourself floating. The English rock band who dismantled in 1995, reunited in 2014, giving fans another chance to hear them play live again. No one missed their chance in Seattle and no one had a single regret.

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5. The xx

April 26, WAMU Theater

This was one of the most anticipated performances of the year and it did not disappoint. The trio came through town supporting their latest “I See You,” and gave us a night to remember. Everything from the production, the lights, the dancing, the sound, and the songs were perfectly aligned reminding us of how much we missed them. Even though the venue was large they made it feel intimate, especially when Romy Croft stood on stage alone for a heart bearing “Performance.”

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4. Alt-J

October 12, WAMU Theater

The indie rock trio was in town in support of their latest, Relaxer, and left everyone talking about their incredible sound and production. I was lucky enough to catch a smaller version at Lollapalooza Paris so I knew this was going to be an amazing show. These guys put as much effort in their stage design as they do in their music and both impact the live experience. I still think of the night ending with “Fitzpleasure,” and the intense lights dancing perfectly to every beat.

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3. Depeche Mode

October 21, Key Arena

Every time I see this band I’m utterly taken by the power of Dave Gahan’s stage presence. This man is well into his fifties and he doesn’t miss a beat. His confidence can be felt in every corner of the venue and it only leaves fans wanting more. The legends who were touring their latest release, Spirit, proved once again why they are still around and why they refuse to become a nostalgia band. Their setlist is filled with old favorites but also with new songs that inspire so many of the same emotions to resurrect. They push their artistic limits incorporating current issues into their older material through visuals and new arrangements giving it a fresh look.

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2. Roger Waters

June 24, Tacoma Dome

I didn’t really know what to expect walking into the Tacoma Dome for this concert but one thing is for sure, I left another person. Pink Floyd was an essential soundtrack to my youth and I always felt so drawn to their sound. Waters brought so much of that to his live performance. He played everything we wanted to hear from Pink Floyd and he brought back every emotion, as if it were the first time hearing it. The set was perfectly accompanied by impressive visuals and art, including the display of the iconic rainbow through the triangle, which was created in the middle of the arena. The lead singers of Lucius were Water’s backup singers for the tour and this felt like the perfect blend of old and new. I still can’t believe I heard “Wish You Were Here” live, that alone is a top list memory.

1. Guns N’ Roses

September 3, The Gorge

I was out of town last year when GNR played in Seattle after reuniting and I didn’t think they would come through again. When they announced a show at the Gorge as part of their Not In This Lifetime tour, I wasn’t going to miss it. Many fans had been waiting a long time to catch the band live and it was worth it. Axl Rose still sounded good and after touring for a while he seemed to be in better shape putting on a great show. Slash still shredded hard, not missing a single guitar beat, satisfying all our teenage fantasies. They played over three hours to an adoring crowd who couldn’t believe they were actually in front of them.

Locals to watch: Naked Giants, Sloucher, Moon Palace, My Goodness, Fauna Shade, Star Anna, Porter Ray, J GRGRY, Duke Evers, Moon Palace, Black Tones, Acid Tongue, Lemolo, Sera Cahoone.

Shows that almost made the list: Milo Greene, Trentemøller, Kyle Craft, Bleached, The Damned, Green Day, Lady Gaga, San Fermin, Bishop Briggs, Metallica, K.Flay, Fleet Foxes, Tove Lo, Arcade Fire, Youngblood, The Lumineers, Bleachers, LP, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Against Me!, La Femme, Slothrust, Kate Tempest.

Check out more photos HERE.

Sophia Barkalakis

Music is probably the most important part of her life. Sophia is constantly searching for new material, old and new. Always looking forward to the next live show she can attend, ready to immerse herself in the sound. "There is something so magical about attending a live show that you cannot possibly feel from a recording itself that makes it worth going to", she says. She also says she's lucky to be able to combine her passion for music with her obsession of capturing moments. She finds that being able to look at a photograph and be transported to that second of your life is indescribable and she's so grateful for all those great moments.

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