Sophia Barkalakis’ Top 20 Pacific Northwest Shows of 2018

As another year comes to an end it’s time to reflect on all the incredible performances I was lucky to be a part of in 2018. I caught 262 sets this year and picking just 20 acts feels like the most impossible task but as I revisit my list I try to focus on more than just the tunes. I thought about the way it felt standing in the crowd and on the charisma each person projected. I’m also trying my best not to pick someone I’ve listed in the past years in order to perhaps help you discover someone you don’t already know about. That being said my favorites included Mitski, Christine and the Queens, Chvrches, and the extraordinary fairy Florence and The Machine, but it would be unfair to include them again.

Below is my top 20 of 2018

20. Parisalexa

July 21, Capitol Hill Block Party

I noticed Parisalexa during Sasquatch and I caught her at every festival around town this year and it still wasn’t enough. The young star was one of my favorite local discoveries this past year. Her voice is powerful and has the ability to pull you in and once you are there it’s hard to look away. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for her as she keeps chasing her dream and developing her talent.

19. Donna Missal

November 9, Neptune

I always have a tremendous amount of respect when I hear that an opener was just as good as the headliner, so when Missal returned to Seattle with Sir Sly and Joywave I made sure I went early enough to see her set. The debut, This Time, is an endless showcase of raw emotion and vulnerability and that is exactly what she brings to her live set. She started the night with “Girl” and the audience fell silent to hear the words she was singing. The songwriter seamlessly moved from side to side laying down her feelings making it all so familiar and understanding.

18. Ever So Android

August 25, Crocodile

Even though ESA moved to LA a few years ago we still consider them local artists and we were thrilled to catch them at the Crocodile. They were promoting their Castles EP release and the show reminded us of why we miss them so much. Hope Simpson is pure punk rock expression that has you glued to every move she is making and Drew Murray is equally creating a platform where everyone can be drawn in and participate freely. The fierce duo is a must see live when in town.

17. Prism Bitch

November 17, Sunset – Freakout Fest

I did not expect to be so surprised by the last band I would catch at this year’s event but I was completely enamored. The Sunset was packed and as I made my way to the front I noticed they were all wearing matching Adidas jumpsuits in different colors. There was so much going on it was hard to focus on one band member, as each of them was creating a riot. Most of my attention shifted between singer/bassist, Lauren Poole, and singer/guitarist Lilah Rose, who was constantly engaging with the crowd. Rose ended the set on the floor, surrounded by fans, as she still played her guitar, while insanity continued taking place on the stage.

16. Kolars

December 9, Neptune

The duo have succeeded in releasing an energetic debut record that blends many different genres and have wrapped it all into a visually intriguing live performance. Guitarist/vocalist Rob Kolar and tap dancing drummer Lauren Brown have created something that you probably haven’t seen before. The high energy live performance is loud, passionate, and has all the elements of greatness. If you ever see them play you will not forget them and that is not easy to accomplish these days. Who tap dances while playing on a standing drum kit and can still charm the whole room?

15. Fucked and Bound

August 18, Mercer x Summit Block Party

I knew Lisa Mungo from her work in He Whose Ox is Gored but had never seen her as lead in FNB until this sunny block party on the hill. This was a special moment because the band had setup in a back alley between storage units which made it even more punk rock than it was. The crowd went wild the whole time and Mungo led them into pure bliss with her powerful art. This is a band you must catch live when you can because their performance is on another level.

14. Tash Sultana

May 25, Sasquatch

The talented singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was on the top of my artists to catch this year and the meeting occurred during the final Sasquatch Festival. Sultana performs alone on stage controlling each musical aspect by themselves and still has time to interact with the audience and charm them. The fact that they hadn’t even released a full length record yet and were selling out world tours speak volumes of the talent they possess. They completely pull you into their psychedelic rock vortex and it’s hard not to feel blissfully mesmerized.

13. Jean-Michel Jarre

April 18, Paramount

This show remains in my mind as the best lighting design I saw this year. And I saw a lot of great lighting designs. The legendary electronic pioneer brought his show to the Paramount and everything from the beats, to the lights was flawless. He plays laser harp as part of the show, who even thought of doing that and making it work? It had been years since Jarre played in the US and I was thrilled that I would finally get the chance to hear him live and it was well worth the wait.

12. Cherry Glazerr

September 1, Bumbershoot

I had heard many great things about CG and it was all proven real when I finally caught them at the Mural Stage. Front woman Clementine Creevy is completely into every moment, feeding off drummer Tabor Allen, and bassist Devin O’Brien. Their chemistry has you wondering where the music will take you and you gladly follow them along the path of pure joy. They return on March 7th once their third record Stuffed & Ready, is out and we can’t wait to see them again and check out the next progression in their music.

11. Billie Eilish

October 24, Market

The rise of the talented teenager this year has been impressive and I was extremely curious to check her show out. It was one of the few all-ages shows I attended this year and it really made me appreciate fans a lot more. Seeing everyone on the floor absolutely lose their minds and showing such adoration was one of the best moments from this year. Eilish is an amazing performer that is successfully matching so many people’s emotions and she deserves the praise she’s received. She hasn’t even released a full length yet and she’s selling out headlining tours, that says enough.

10. Oh Sees

October 6, Neumos

There was no preparation before this show and I did not realize just how wild things would get at Neumos. In a little bit different of a setup, lead vocalist John Dwyer stands on the right side as not one but two drummers are posted in the middle. As soon as the first song started, the audience started to mosh and crowdsurf and it didn’t stop until the end. This was an incredible wave of energy passed by the band to every last person attending the show and it was impressive to witness.

9. Little Dragon

June 1, Upstream


It had been a few years since I caught LD and it was the perfect place and time to be at Upstream. The festival’s second year was all sunshine in early June and it was great to walk around discovering some new acts and seeing some favorites. Lead singer Yukimi Nagano was even more magical than I remember her and despite her size, Little Dragon had everyone staring at her. You can’t help but slip into this mystical relaxation while wanting to dance along as well.

8. St.Vincent

September 10, Key Arena

Annie Clark dazzled fans throughout the year supporting her phenomenal record Masseduction as a headliner and then jumped on tour with Florence and The Machine. We were not going to complain about it as seeing her live is always a treat. She has evolved her music in such a way that keeps you appreciating her talent more and more and curious to where it will take you next time. You can’t take your eyes off of her no matter how big the crowd is and she bleeds out words that describe all of your angst.

7. Monsterwatch

November 18, Freakout Fest

I got really into Monsterwatch this year and saw them a few times around town but this one was my favorite yet. Conor Byrne Pub in Ballard was full and every single person participated in the show. Frontman John Spinney holds nothing back as he joins the fans for moshing and crowdsurfing at each of their shows transferring his energy all around. It is absolute mayhem and everyone is enjoying every second of it wondering how this is happening. They are at the top of my locals list this year and if you don’t have plans on New Year’s you should be at the Screwdriver which will be a great way to ring in 2019.

6. Dream Wife

October 6, Barboza

After the release of their eponymous debut this year the Swedish trio embarked on a sold out headlining tour in the States. They have been labeled by many music publications as one of the best new bands with jaw-dropping live performances and I couldn’t agree more. Seeing them at Barboza felt so exclusive, knowing that this would probably be the smallest venue I get to seen them in. There is something so captivating about lead singer Rakel Mjöll interacting with the audience making everyone feel like they belong. Guitarist Alice Go and bassist Bella Podpadec are equally displaying their talents not only as musicians but as raw performers.

5. Perfume Genius

May 27, Sasquatch

No Shape was one of the most talked about records last year and it was time for me to catch Perfume Genius live again. Seattle-based artist Mike Hadreas took the Big Foot stage and even though it was bright out he transformed day into night creating all the stars above. His movements were as seamless as his on-stage persona that is absolutely captivating. There is just something about him that you can’t describe but you know it’s magical when you witness him live.

4. K.Flay

January 19, Showbox Market

After the release of her sophomore record Every Where Is Some Where, K.Flay picked up a lot of heat and kicking off the year with the Grammy award nominee was proof of why. The sold out Showbox was glued to the stage as she dominated the floor during her set. You could feel the room shift when “Blood in the Cut,” and “Black Wave” were performed as she powerfully commanded the room. The energy was unmatched by another artist during the rest of the year and it still holds a special place in 2018.

3. Boygenius

November 24, Moore

The supergroup formed by the talented Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus was in town as part of a individually billed show at the Moore. After each of them played their solo sets though they all came to the stage and played their whole eponymous EP for us. This was a true delight to an already amazing musical night I had been a part of. It is hard not be in awe of the tremendous talent each possesses as they all released critically acclaimed records in the last year and even had time to create a breathtaking collaborative work together. The lyrics pierce through your heart and you question all the relationship decisions you ever made. I call that great success.

2. Black Pistol Fire

March 3, Showbox Market

The rock duo was opening for another favorite, ZZ Ward, and a lot of my friends emphasized to get there early enough for the openers. I’m glad I listened to them as these guys quickly took a top spot on my favorite’s list and became one of my most played bands. The chemistry between singer/guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer Eric Owen was so intense my hands were shaking while I was trying to snap pictures of them. The band’s live show was incredible to watch and there was not a single person in the room that left unimpressed.

1. Shame

October 10, Crocodile

This was the year of Shame. Songs of Praise was one of our favorite releases of 2018 and when I got to see them live at the legendary Croc everything came together. This is pure British rock and seeing these guys performing made it come alive. Lead singer Charlie Steen had the place eating out of the palm of his hand and did it without asking. He commanded the crowd to follow him and the madness created was incredible. He stood on top of people, he crowdsurfed, he went into the middle and sang and didn’t lose a single person in the process. While he was doing all of this, the rest of the band was following along on stage. Most memorably, Eddie Green doing back flips while still holding his guitar. Pure bliss.

Check out additional photos from these shows and many, many more on Facebook 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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