Upstream Music Fest + Summit returns for a second year June 1-3, showcasing Northwest artists, who make up the bulk of the 200-plus acts performing at more than 15 locations throughout the weekend. Here's who to see.
After thousands of curious music fans flooded Pioneer Square for the inaugural Upstream Music Fest + Summit last year, the sprawling club-hopping festival returns June 1-3 for a second go-round. Bankrolled by uber rich techie Paul Allen, the fest aims to showcase Northwest artists, who make up the bulk of the 200-plus acts performing at more than 15 locations throughout the weekend.
Whether you’ve been tracking the region’s music scene for years or you’re one of the newbies looking for an entry point, there’s a lot to discover. Here’s a day-by-day primer to help you get started.
Friday, June 1
After a Showbox SoDo date this February, the R&B/pop singer returns to Seattle as the biggest name to play Upstream in its young history. 9:30 p.m., Sound Lot: Amazon Music main stage
The goth-tinged indie-pop singer (and onetime Seattleite) brings her hauntingly operatic compositions to a small Friday VIP showcase before tackling one of the two main Sound Lot stages Saturday. 5:30 p.m. Friday, Little London Plane (VIP only); 6 p.m. Saturday, Sound Lot: KEXP stage
If you haven’t seen:
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- Seattle musician Bill Rieflin of King Crimson, R.E.M. dies at 59
- Exploring streaming options? Here are the pros and cons of many of them.
- 'Clueless' is 25? As if! Why this sparkling rom-com is a ray of sunshine in these troubled times.
- Now streaming: Harley Quinn film 'Birds of Prey,' 'The Way Back,' 'Onward,' '1917,' 'Ozark' and more
- Pearl Jam releases its most striking album in 20 years with 'Gigaton'
One of Seattle’s biggest rappers not named Macklemore, Sol combines socially conscious and playful bars with earwormy hooks and pop sensibilities (not unlike a certain famous emcee). 11 p.m., Axis 1
With a booming voice that could fill a cathedral, the Washington soul powerhouse is a local fixture who shifted to a sparser sound after splitting with her former ace backing band, the True Loves (who funk up one of the main stages on Sunday). 8:45 p.m., Lower Quarters at 13 Coins
Get to know:
On the verge of dropping her second strong EP of the year (“FLEXA” due June 8), Redmond’s 19-year-old R&B prodigy is poised for a breakout. Following the soulful “Bloom” EP, Paris returns with even more swagger, her voice refined beyond her years and wielding hooks Post Malone might crib (“Ballin’”) without the Auto-Tune crutch. 10 p.m., Axis 1
Marina and the Dreamboats
Accidental discovery is part of Upstream’s charm, including the buskers around Pioneer Square. But you might make a point to catch this soul-jazz troupe, led by bassist/vocalist Marina Christopher — named Earshot’s emerging artist of the year in 2017 — busking outside Starbucks on Occidental Avenue. 6 p.m., Starbucks Occidental
Standout showcase: Sub Pop
Would Seattle’s renowned tastemaking indie label steer you wrong? Sub Pop (and imprint Hardly Art) take over the hotel event space normally home to weddings and stuffy corporate shindigs with performances from bizarro noise-punk assailants So Pitted, Kyle Craft, Colleen Green and dreamy Northwest staples the Helio Sequence. 8 p.m., Embassy Suites Ballroom
Saturday, June 2
The post-hardcore heroes are back, bruising as ever, with their first studio album in 14 years (issued via Sub Pop) and are one of the most exciting non-native acts gracing Upstream this year. 3:30 p.m., Little London Plane (VIP); 8:15 p.m., Sound Lot: KEXP stage
Another comeback swing score, the pop-punks often hailed as emo’s godfathers close out the main stage, potentially unifying fans old enough to lament Green Day going “mainstream” and those who found them through their disciples. 9:30 p.m., Sound Lot: Amazon Music main stage
If you haven’t seen:
Skerik Band with Thione Diop
Sax-squealing freakazoid Skerik has been defying and cross-pollinating genres with too many projects to count for decades, alongside first-rate players from Seattle and beyond. Joined tonight by Senegalese percussionist Thione Diop, the Skerik Band draws from across his variegated catalog. 11:45 p.m., Zocalo / Heineken Hacienda
In case you’ve been living under a poke restaurant (or in another city) the past few years, the surfy pop-punks are one of Seattle’s biggest indie-rock exports in recent years. 1 p.m., Little London Plane (VIP); 5 p.m., Sound Lot: Amazon Music main stage
Get to know:
The scruffy grunge-pop quintet has been around for a few years, but dropped its first full-length, “Plastic Cough,” last year, melding ’90s slacker rock riffs with delicate indie-pop melodies. 8:15 p.m., Axis 1
This Tacoma emcee/painter quietly released one of the best local hip-hop albums of the year. Across his “Channel Surfing” LP, Porter interchangeably splashes his grimy, go-hard lyricism and schizophrenic, voice-cracking bars over trap-informed beats. 11 p.m., Comedy Underground
Standout showcase: One Vibe Africa
While there’s no shortage of PNW talent at Upstream, the team behind Seattle’s Madaraka Festival, which helps fund the local group’s cultural youth programs in Kenya, recruited intercontinental talent, including brass band Nairobi Horns Project, Kenyan reggae singer Nazizi, Nigerian Afro-soul singer Aramide and dancehall-inflected singer Samini from Ghana. 7:30 p.m., Deschutes Stage at J&M Café
Sunday, June 3
The Flaming Lips
The psych-rock staples are indie-rock’s consummate festival band, whether making it rain confetti or deploying an army of “Wizard of Oz” dancers. Plus, Wayne Coyne’s hamster-ball theatrics are delightful if you haven’t seen it 12 times already. 9:30 p.m., Sound Lot: Amazon Music main stage
The Tennessee-reared singer-songwriter brings her roots amalgam to the big stage, with bluesy toe-tappers, stripped-down folk numbers and soothing soul ballads. 3:30 p.m., Little London Plane (VIP); 7 p.m. Amazon Music main stage
If you haven’t seen:
Local vets blend IDM-informed synthscapes with simple, poignant guitar leads and Kristin Henry’s airy vocals in their cerebral strain of electro-pop. It’s dance party music made for sunset hot-air-balloon rides. 9 p.m., Comedy Underground
Fresh off her Sprite/LeBron bump, the Bay Area emcee brings her bouncy, hyphy- and G-funk-informed raps to Upstream. One of the more compelling reasons to hang around late Sunday. 11 p.m., Buttnick stage at 109 Washington
Get to know:
Arty post-punk trio swivels from snarling to free-wheeling, sharing vocal duties along the ride while barely staying on the rails. 8:30 p.m., Central Saloon
Kung Foo Grip
This Seattle duo’s equally comfortable delivering chirpy, hook-happy jams and bow-throwing bombast amid their amped live show. 10:15 p.m., Axis 2
Standout showcase: Kate Becker’s 25 years of all-ages shows
A longtime steward of the local all-ages scene at Redmond’s Old Fire House, Becker (now director of Seattle’s Office of Film and Music) got rowdy Northwest bastions Murder City Devils to play a rare show, not to mention reunion gigs from ’00s slowcore troupe Asahi and the Green. 7 p.m., Axis 1
Upstream Music Fest + Summit, June 1-3, locations throughout Pioneer Square, $70-$675 (Summit only: $25), upstreammusicfest.com