Talk about a seven-day stretch that, forecast-wise, looks like it’s going to be more depressing than the cover art for Echo & the Bunnyman’s Heaven Up Here. On the uplifting side of things in this inaugural edition of Five Shows To See This Week, you’ve not only got music, but music from folks who understand that, sometimes, the struggle is real.
At the Biltmore on Friday (November 10)
In a 2017 Straight interview for her enchanting debut record, Emotions and Math, California-born Margaret Glaspy proved understandably reticent to pull back the curtain on her songwriting, somewhat cryptically stating, “I think sometimes people would be surprised as to where songs come from. It’s not always personal, but it’s not always impersonal.” That provides a great framework for coming at her third album, Echo the Diamond, the first lines of which are the pretty much perfect: “I’ve rolled around this earth a few times over/But never have I seen something so absurd.” Later, when she sings, “You’re such a mystery to me” in “Act Natural”, we might rightly say the same about her as an artist. Echo the Diamond draws on everything synapses-frying, indie-punk to slow-burn, anti-blues to last-call country. The showstopper is “Memories”, which devastatingly starts with, “Memories feel like a disease/Or some kind of bad infection/Spreading in all directions.” Glaspy has allowed this about the song: “'Memories’ was probably the most challenging song for me to track; the take you hear is the only one I was able to get through completely,” she says. “It was a level of vulnerability I’d never gotten to on record, and it holds a special place in my heart now. Even though it’s about a very specific loss for me, it seems to ricochet in different ways for anyone who hears it now.” What’s the song really about? The answer is simple: whatever you need it to be.
At Rogers Arena on Friday (November 10)
It’s not only the stuff of local legend—it’s a show that everyone claims they were at, even though almost everyone in town was not. Back in 2014, future mega-star Travis Scott played Vancouver’s Waldorf Hotel on his way up on New Year’s Eve. Sweet DaBaby Jesus, how times have changed. Today, with the Astroworld tragedy officially behind him (he was found not guilty in the deaths of concertgoers earlier this year), the Houston MC heads to the home of the Canucks as part of the Circus Maximus tour for this year’s Utopia. Looking to get an altered-states head start on the night? Ask yourself what Scott would do, the answer going something like this: “I just poured a 8 in a liter/Throw some Jolly Ranchers in make it sweeter.”
At the WISE Hall on Friday (November 10)
To have grown up in the Pacific Northwest is to equate Seattle as a place where guitar bands have always ruled, from the punishing grunge of Nirvana and Soundgarden to the gorgeous indie-folk of Fleet Foxes to the dark-forests metal of Queensrÿche. For past decade, Polyrhythmics have been makig a case that not every act in the Emerald City is conditioned to aim for what Lemmy Kilmister might describe as “everything louder than everyone else.” In other words, unlike many of the groups that have made Seattle famous, you can actually dance to the band’s designed-to-intoxicate mix of Afrobeat funk, world-music blues, and mushroom-trip jazz. Added bonus, as the group heads up the I-5 to celebrate the release of its new full-length Filter System, Polyrhythmics play the WISE Hall, which has one of best dance floors in the city. You will be moving to “Fly Trap”, because sometimes resistance is futile.
At the Orpheum on Sunday (November 12)
Think about all the great female bands that never quite made it over the hump. For every Go-Gos, Bangles, and boygenius, there’s been a hundred brilliant acts—the Donnas, Babes in Toyland, Sahara Hot Nights, 7 Year Bitch, Tribe 8, 10 Days Late, cub, and Bratmobile—that never got beyond grinding it out on the club circuit. The Straight has loved The Beaches' world-beating blend of double-crunch pop, glitter-bomb punk, and glammy new wave ever since 2019’s The Professional. (That’s partly because a little self-deprecation goes a long way, the band’s irresistible “T-Shirt” doing just that with the lyrics “I’m not sexy/Itty Bitty Titty Committee.”) A half-decade late, with the band’s latest Blame My Ex, The Beaches continue to make an ascent most acts—Canadian, all-female, or otherwise—only dream of, playing the ever-regal Orpheum. Inspirational? Hell yes.
Ms. Lauryn Hill
At Rogers Arena on Sunday (November 12)
Not to in any way downplay what stands as a timeless record, but man what a strange story. After walking away from the Fugees in the late-’90s, Lauren Hill released one of the biggest records in history, with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill as loved by the critics as it was by the CD-purchasing public. And then nothing but crickets for those hoping for a follow-up to a classic that asked some big questions about race and humanity while fusing hip-hop, reggae, soul, and R&B. Now, a quarter-century later, Miseducation fans get the chance to relieve the magic with the album’s 25th anniversary tour, with Hill also reuniting on the night with the Fugees. Yes, you can go home again.