When you think of certain musical cities—Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco—big-name acts likely come to mind. In another musical oasis, those who think of Seattle, Washington likely think of Brandi Carlile, the grunge groups, Macklemore, Ayron Jones, Death Cab for Cutie, Car Seat Headrest, Allen Stone, and Sir Mix A Lot.
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But what about groups that haven’t yet become household names?
Often, when people travel from city to city for work or fun, they want to know who the groups are in town they might be able to lay eyes on. Who might be playing a show at a decent venue while they’re in town? Well, we wanted to help those who took a jaunt over to the Emerald City know whom to keep an ear out for.
Featuring the theatrical and booming voiced Molly Sides, this rock quartet just recently got off tour with Bush and Alice in Chains. They also have a new tour slated with AIC co-founder, Jerry Cantrell, and his solo project. With Sides belting out the vocals, at times doing splits on stage, and lead guitar player, Whitney Petty, shredding the six-string, this group is bold, brash, and brave.
2. Tres Leches
A bilingual group that switches instruments, Tres Leches is another band that recently got off the road (with The Joy Formidable). Fronted by Alaia D’Alessandro and Ulises Mariscal, the group electrifies with laser-focused power, like a video game character that stored up their energy for the perfectly placed punch. The band recently signed Devil in the Woods and their newest LP, the 2022 offering, Fósil, is not to be missed.
3. Shaina Shepherd
A voice like the tornado that took Dorothy from black and white into color, Shaina Shepherd is one of the most fascinating artists in the Emerald City. She could blow down a house made of bricks and she can stun even the most discerning audience. Lately, she’s worked with giants in the city from Sub Pop Records to Duff McKagan. And what she does next is on everyone’s mind.
4. Warren Dunes
The beach band in a city without (real) beaches, Warren Dunes is the ray of sunshine that represents the best of family. They’re such a tightly knit group that even their houseplant, Doug, has a seat at the table. Warren Dunes, which has been releasing Christmas singles over the past two months, also recently released a new single in conduction with the sparkling water company, Topo Chico. The band’s 2021 album, Welcome to Warren Dunes, is a local classic.
5. The Black Tones
Founded by twin siblings, Eva and Cedric Walker, The Black Tones’ 2019 album, Cobain & Cornbread, took the city by storm. Since then, they’ve worked with Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, shot a Hendrix cover for the MLS team, the Seattle Sounders, and played opening day for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Eva is also a DJ at the local radio station, KEXP. Their latest release, “The End of Everything,” dropped via Sub Pop Records.
6. Deep Sea Diver
One of the catchiest bands you’ll ever hear, Deep Sea Diver is fronted by Jessica Dobson, who is as talented a guitar player as there is in the Pacific Northwest, or beyond. She makes earworm songs that buzz. In 2021, the band released its latest album, the infectious Impossible Weight. We hope there isn’t another wait until more. But Dobson, ever a master of her craft, knows when the time is right and when to strike with song.
7. Travis Thompson
Not only is he a versatile, nimble rapper, but he was also a featured actor on the hit television show Reservoir Dogs this year. Thompson, who burst onto the scene with a featured verse on Macklemore’s 2017 album, Gemini, has grown to become one of the most sought-after artists in the region. He’s a multi-talented vocalist who has the ear of his generation. He’s the kind of artist that when you look up in 10 years, he will have his own school or country named after him.
TeZATalks is a magnet for your metallic eyes. She’s the flame to your moth-wing ears. She’s frenetic and composed, explosive and serene. Equipped with a slew of dancers often at her side, she knows how to pierce the sonic heart with lyrics and uplift the sonic soul with performance. Keep a watch for her in 2023 and, well, beyond.
9. Chong the Nomad
Chong the Nomad could come into your home on a random Tuesday afternoon, put her cellphone up to a few pots and pans, and 30 seconds of the television show you watched last, and go back home with the recordings and turn them into a song that would melt your very sense of expectation. She’s a wizard, a chef, an alchemist. She’s worked often (and opened for) the likes of Death Cab for Cutie. These days, she’s in the middle of a tour with Grammy-nominee Hollis. To put it simply, she’s the tops.
10. Tomo Nakayama
Seattle’s Tomo Nakayama puts on a white sport coat. He enters the room, salt and pepper hair coiffed perfectly. Like David Byrne walking onto the stage to record Stop Making Sense, Nakayama presses play on a device he’s prepared. The beat begins. His head begins to sway subtly. Then he sings. Dulcet tones like doves hanging and then rocketing forward in spring with winged propulsion. Nakayama is a treasure. He can do this anywhere.
11. Black Ends
With one of the most unique sounds in all of rock music, Black Ends is a self-described “gunk pop” band. Their songs are sludgy and magical. Fronted by Nicolle Swims, the trio is a powerhouse in the local scene and is likely only to grow bigger with future releases. Catch them now or be prepared to shell out big bucks to do so in the future.
Photo courtesy Tres Leches