Authors: Haley Parsons & Emma Weaver
Upstream’s second year was one to remember. From the diverse array of headliners to the showcase of fantastic PNW artists, there was something for everyone! Here are some of my favorites from the three-day festival.
Charlotte Day Wilson opened up the festival at the Sound Lot with her smooth, lush voice and jazz influences. The independent singer-songwriter from Toronto told tales of heartbreak and healing with an icy-cool tone. She demanded the attention of early Upstreamers and set the stage for more incredible acts to come. – HP
Seeing Little Dragon let me relive my high school years, as I heard the songs that serenaded high school dance parties where I wore incredibly ripped jeans and turtleneck crop tops. As soon as I heard Little Dragon perform, I remembered the glittery, cheerful sounds within their music. Yukimi Nagano, the lead singer, was wearing one of her well known bold and bright outfits, and dancing in her well known abstract way. She seemed so happy, and even appreciative, to be in Seattle, at Upstream. She ran across the stage, throwing out wild dance moves, and playing songs that got everyone up on their feet. The entire crowd was filled with dancing fans. Even during their lower, chiller sounds, the crowd still managed to establish a steady movement to each melody and rhythm. They played songs such as “High” and “Shuffle a Dream”, which were performed so wonderfully.-EW
Alec Shaw, a Seattle native was joined by a six-piece backing band on the Starbucks stage and the group managed to fill the room with the sounds of brass and Shaw’s well-trained voice. Shaw’s newest single, “Fool’s Gold” was the highlight of the set and showcased his ability as a singer-songwriter to add elements of indie-rock and funk to create a classic pop song.– HP
Alec Shaw was an incredibly cute medley of instruments and vocals. Alec Shaw was accompanied by a trombone and trumpet player, who both had amazing solos, which sealed the deal for me. Alec’s voice was gentle and sweet, but there were moments when he took the center stage and full on embraced his vocal power. From Renton, Washington, Alec Shaw played a very refreshing, unique take on rock ’n roll. The music had a little bit of this and a little bit of that… whether a song was more soulful, or more of a rock n roll sound, the entire performance demonstrated the overall ability to immerse yourself onto the wide musical spectrum. Their music screams sonic diversity.-EW
Strawberry Mountain never fail to put on a good show. I still find it a little jarring to see them playing outside of living rooms, but in a good way. I’m proud of the Sound Off! contestants’ ability to get a crowd of people who have probably never heard of them before moving. They put on a fun synth-pop show and played some tracks from their hot new release, She Exploded Into Color.– HP
Never have I seen such power radiate off the stage! Zola Jesus never ceases to surprise me with her beautiful, yet haunting songs. Her performance at Upstream brought chills to my spine and introduced us all into her own creative processes and creations. Her songs are clearly a representation of her life and what she has been exposed to, therefore they bleed such raw truth and substance. Zola Jesus sang some of her older songs such as “Dangerous Days”, but also new material off her most recent album Okovi, such as song “Witness”. Her stage presence is so unique to her, as she thrashed her body around the stage, screaming beautifully into the microphone. The entire audience was in a trance, as they swayed back and forth underneath the beaming sun. Zola Jesus was accompanied by a violinist on stage, a guitar player, and a synth machine. Each instrument played with a warped, scratchy resonance that paired really well with Zola Jesus’s deep, powerful voice. While her voice was powerful, it was also gentle, especially in her song “Witness”. She created the perfect performance of a chilling, beautiful avant-garde sound, that captured the substance within loss, life, and love.-EW
Great Grandpa put on one of the best shows I saw all weekend. Every time I see them I want to cry at the end of the show because of the amount of emotion they put into their performances. They played to a packed room and covered the audience in bubbles and color. Lead singer Alex Menne has an unrivaled ability to connect with her audience through music. At one point she stepped off stage and sang the end of “Favorite Show” in the middle of the audience. Bands like Great Grandpa are what make live music so special because they commit to putting on a good show.– HP
Daniel Pak, who currently lives in Seattle but was raised in Oahu, was a change of pace for me that turned out to be a fun switch up from my usual taste. His pop-reggae sound was influenced by growing up on an island and jamming on the beach with friends. He made the Main Stage feel like a drum circle around a bonfire and I found his positivity to be contagious.– HP
Cut Copy ere the best choice to play before the Flaming Lips. The Australian electronic-pop band got the crowd to let loose and dance. Again, they weren’t necessarily a band I would see under any other circumstances, but they surpassed my expectations. Frontman Dan Whitford knew just the right thing to break the ice between himself and the crowd. Everyone there thoroughly enjoyed themselves.– HP
Closing out the festival were The Flaming Lips. A band that everyone should see at least once for a variety of reasons. The first being the music, The Flaming Lips have songs about battling robots and a cover of “Space Odyssey” that will knock your socks off with their psychedelic sounds. The second reason to seem them is the visuals. The entire show was like being puked on by a unicorn. I was immersed in glitter and rainbows from start to finish and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. Finally, the atmosphere overall is one so full of love and positivity, it took the pain and suffering out of being alive for about an hour and a half. Seeing The Flaming Lips is like taking a trip to somewhere strangely magical and I take my hat off to Upstream for booking them.– HP
Where do I even begin with this performance? The Flaming Lips put on such a breath taking, stunning, inspiring performance at Upstream. Not only did they exude such raw talent, but a genuine appreciation, love, and respect for all of us (the fans) as well. As I waited for them to take the stage, I heard people talk about their overall love for The Flaming Lips. Some people only came to Upstream for them… Once they took the stage front and center, the crowd erupted into a constant woo, yay, and I love you- those were all the sounds screamed from the crowd, and let me tell ya, it was so surreal. The Flaming Lips played some of their hits such as “Do You Realize??” and “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”, but they also played more low-key songs which was really amazing. They even covered David Bowie, which officially sealed the deal. Throughout the entire show, Wayne, the lead singer, brought out a pink inflatable robot, “Fuck Yeah Seattle” balloons, glitter, and a faux horse as a chariot to carry himself all throughout the crowd, which turned into a big, heaping, smushed mix of pure joy!! I have never been so impressed with a show. They proved, 100%, that they still have it, and will have it for a long, long time. The Flaming lips possess such a surreal, yet genuine ability to make everyone unite and share their joy. One of the best parts of the shows, was the utter reciprocity of appreciation and happiness. A crowd full of strangers came together, danced together, and sang together. It was truly inspiring and powerful, and this was because of The Flaming Lips’s true sonic power and clarity.-EW
See ya next year, Upstream!
HALEY PARSONS | Hi Paul Allen | KXSU Music Reporter
EMMA WEAVER | KXSU Music Reporter