Sophia Barkalakis’ Top 20 Pacific Northwest Shows of 2019

This was the last year of the decade and it almost feels surreal to think back on all the great artists we were introduced to and the many we had to lose. This year had a lot of memorable shows and it’s always so hard to choose just 20 of them. Again I tried to focus on introducing people as well as including any larger acts that still made me feel like an excited teenager. This year found the Seattle music scene more vibrant than ever and in addition to the locals on the list below, I took in performances by many of my favorites like Monsterwatch, Smokey Brights, Spirit Award, Razor Clam, Actionesse, Bearaxe, Lemolo, The Grizzled Mighty, Naked Giants, Jenn Champion, Thunderpussy, Belva, All Star Opera, Mary Lambert and many more.

Below are my top 20 picks for the year.

20. Frankie and the Witch Fingers

November 16, Tractor

We had the chance to catch the band for the first time at this year’s Freakout Records Festival in Ballard and it was one of our top sets. They played at the Tractor Tavern and the crowd went absolutely wild in the small space which made it feel even more intense than it would be in a larger venue. The way Dylan Sizemore constantly moves around the stage is contagious to everyone near him. Their latest full-length Zam is out now, give it a listen.

19. The Black Tones

July 19, Neumos

We’ve been proud supporters of this local rock band for a few years but it felt like 2019 was a very good one for them. The release of their latest record, Cobain and Cornbread, brought a lot of deserved critical praise and it looks like twins Eva and Cedric Walker are headed in the right direction. They play this Friday at Neumos in what seems to be a very promising show with many friends, including Dark Smith and Afrocop. Make sure to give them a listen and go to their show!

18. Moon Palace

September 20, Clock-Out Lounge

It feels like every time we see a performance by this local band we appreciate their talent a little bit more. The release of this year’s full-length, Shadowcast, showcased their music maturity and brought more great music our way. You can easily sit in front of twins Cat Biell, Carrie Biell, Jude Miquile and Darcey Zoller and get lost for the night. Their ethereal melodies and seamless harmonies pull you right in and you follow them until the end.

17. Miya Folick

November 6, SoDo

We caught Folick at one of our favorite shows this year alongside other favorites, Bishop Briggs and Jax Anderson. She dropped out of NYU and moved back home and learned to play guitar in order to express herself. Her raw words and music make you feel a little less alone in your loneliness. Her honesty about pain and angst make it easy to be a part of her world. We can’t stop listening to her record, Premonitions, and her beautiful cover of Death Cab’s, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.”

16.  Wrabel

October 1, Columbia City Theater

Probably one of the most intimate shows this year was at the Columbia City Theater for the multi-talented musician, Wrabel. He was just fresh from tour with mega superstar P!nk and once he came to the stage it was easy to see why she’s taken such a liking to him. He played the piano most of the night alone and everyone fell silent as he poured his heart out in front of us. His voice is captivating and his stripped down personality make him feel like he could be your best friend.

15. King Princess

April 26, Market

We caught the rising star in April this year at her packed show at Showbox Market and we were impressed with her confidence and ability to fill the space. Her debut record, Cheap Queen, was one of this year’s best releases and we can’t wait for the next show coming up in January. She’s in absolute control of her emotions and is a breath of fresh air in the industry. Her music has found a strong following because it’s easy to relate to the matters we all struggle with in life.

14. Gogol Bordello

May 26, Neptune

Who has ever gone to a show with these gipsy punks and had a complaint? It was so distracting to be in the pit for this one as there was so much going on at the same time. All of the band members are frantically moving around and trying to keep up seems next to impossible. Main man Eugene Hutz is dripping sweat within the first few songs demanding nothing but absolute attention and chaos. If you want to blow off some steam then this should be your go-to event. We love the anarchist vibe we feel when we are a part of one of these shows.

13. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

August 18, Paramount

The band known for their incredible live performances gave Seattleites a night to remember at the Paramount Theater. This year they released not one but two records, one of them being Infest The Rats’ Nest, which saw the band exploring with thrash metal. The fact that their records showcase such an array of different genres is insane but the fact that they can pull it off is more impressive. Stu Mackenzie tirelessly dances around the floor showing us just how many times he can high kick and how much his tongue can be seen. They know how to put on a great live performance for sure.

12. MØ

January 29, SoDo

“Do you recall, not long ago,” how MØ appeared on the scene and co-wrote one of the biggest dance hits of 2015? She showed us that she was not someone we would be forgetting and her sophomore album, Forever Neverland, proved that much. Her sold out gig at Showbox SoDo was filled with devoted fans ready to hear the new tunes and dance to her upbeat songs. She performed between two stages and brought LPX as her opener for the night. We danced a lot that night and she was the perfect conductor to direct us.

11. Tycho

September 8, Paramount

The show at the Paramount was one of our favorite productions of this year. Not only does Tycho have incredible musical talent, he’s an amazing visual and creative artist. His set was paired with attention captivating visual content and we couldn’t take our eyes off the large monitor in the background. This was a perfect way to see one of our favorite artists as both hearing and visual senses were fully satisfied. His fifth album, Weather, is one of our favorite releases of the year.

10. Robyn

March 1, Paramount

It feels like we waited a long time to see this incredible singer live in our city. Robyn is a legendary artist and her collaboration with Royksopp is one of my all-time favorites. The sold-out Paramount show supporting her Honey tour was a lasting feel good memory. The Swedish pop star who came onto the scene in 1995 still captivated her adoring audience and everyone left excited. She still puts on a refreshing show and her music continues to be honest and powerful.

9. Nick Cave

October 11, Moore

This was the most emotional show I attended this year hands down. I didn’t know what to expect when I heard that Nick Cave was playing songs on his piano solo and then taking questions from the audience. This night turned very personal for everyone and Cave was not scared to answer questions that brought up painful topics. It was raw and very real, making it feel like we were much closer to him than reality.

8. Banks

September 25, SoDo

Along with the release of her third album, III, Banks announced a tour stop in Seattle which we were thrilled about, since the only other time I’ve seen her was Pemberton Festival (RIP). The artist stepped on the stage and owned every second she stood there. Accompanied by two dancers, the performance became a twisted piece of art perfectly matching her music. The lights paraded in harmony throughout the night making the whole experience a well-organized design.

7. LP

April 22, SoDo

After the postponement of the original show in February Laura Pergolizzi returned to a sold out Showbox SoDo and everyone was thrilled to be there. Her Heart to Mouth tour was as impressive as her endless talent and it’s not a surprise she’s on people’s favorite list. You sometimes look at her and wish you could feel emotions as intensely as she does. Her voice cracks as she lets herself feel the words she’s so honestly written.

6. The Rolling Stones

August 14, Century Link Field

There is not much we could say about The Rolling Stones that hasn’t been said before but this show was so grand. The pioneers of rock who have been around for so many decades still find a way to bring you back to their world. It was incredible to witness the energy projected into Century Link Field by the legendary members. The mega screens and huge stage helped realize that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And they really shouldn’t.

5. Idles

May 28, Neumos

The British punk band played Neumos and the whole set felt like a riot. Lead singer Joe Talbot was orchestrating it all with his constant movement and intense stage persona. People were crowd surfing the entire time and every second that passed we felt more alive. The band is known for their impeccable live shows and being part of one was absolutely thrilling. This is a band you want to see live!

4. Lizzo

April 28, SoDo

No one can deny the power of Queen Lizzo in 2019. We had seen her a few times before but this year the whole world was finally paying attention and she exploded. Her third record, Cuz I Love You, would bring her closer to her wildest dreams and to one of the best shows of 2019 for us. Melissa Jefferson is a fierce leader onstage promoting emotional empowerment, honesty, self-love, acceptance, and being a boss. No one can complain about that and everyone wants to be free to be who they truly are. We have needed someone like her for a while and this year we finally found her.

3. Yann Tiersen

May 13, Moore

The French composer stopped by the Moore in the spring and gave one of the best performances of the year. Everything about this night felt so seamless, even though nothing about it was. The carefully crafted songs along with Tiersen’s appetite for human connection through his chords were very clear to everyone. The show took us through many emotions as he and his band experimented with various instruments. Getting to hear “Comptine d’un autre été : L’Après-midi” live was a highlight of my music life.

2. Thom Yorke

October 20, Paramount

The Radiohead frontman performed to a sold out Paramount crowd promoting his latest solo project, Anima. I was already a huge Yorke fan from before but this night with him felt very intimate. He moved around and closed his eyes making you feel that he was reliving the pain and suffering of what was. There is no doubt that he is one of the most captivating artists around and seeing him live only proves this. The LED screens added to the whole mood creating a space where the music and visuals could co-exist to tell the magnificent story.

1. FKA twigs

November 4, Moore

This was the year we found and fell in absolute love with FKA twigs and experiencing her artistry live was almost life changing. Tahliah Barnett took over the Moore Theater as part of her Magdalene tour and her fans were treated with ecstasy every step of the way. This was not a concert, it was a slowly painted masterpiece with twigs as the creator. It had multiple layers being peeled away with every song, dancers, different forms of expression, highs, lows, and twigs in the center of it all. We were in awe of the world she crafted for us to be a part of and we’ll never be the same after it.

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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