KEXP’s Top Ten Picks for Decibel Festival 2013

Kicking off this Wednesday, September 25th is the 10th annual Decibel Festival!

First off, congratulations to Decibel’s founder/director Sean Horton and the dB crew for bringing this festival into double digits. Continuing to grow and amaze each year into a well-oiled, world-class electronic music and arts event, the 5-day festival has become a massive reason Seattle is viewed upon as an epicenter for forward-thinking electronic music.

Now spread out over the Capitol Hill, Belltown, Downtown, and SoDo neighborhoods, with each day offering anywhere from six to 10+ unique showcases, the festival transforms Seattle into a music lover’s paradise. While I encourage you to head over to Decibel Festival’s informative website to learn about this year’s program, here are 10 hand-picked aspects of this year’s festival that I’m most excited to share with you and personally check out:

01. Hyperdub Showcase w/ DJ Spinn, Kode9, Ikonika at Crocodile // Wednesday, September 25th

UK-based label Hyperdub Records is run by DJ/producer Kode9, responsible for sharing Burial’s music with the world, and hands-down one of my favorite electronic imprints of the last 7 years. Kode9 will be bringing two standout artists from his current roster and putting their diverse, cutting-edge beats on full display during the opening night of the festival. DJ Spinn has replaced DJ Rashad on the Hyperdub Showcase bill due to injuries DJ Rashad sustained in a recent car accident. Speedy recovery to DJ Rashad! Rashad’s labelmate and frequent collaborator DJ Spinn is a strong replacement that should bring equally proper juke/footwork styles to the night. Ikonika slyly dropped one the slickest electronic LPs of the year with her retro/future-slanted Aerotropolis, while Kode9′s live DJ sets are both sonically and philosophically on-point.

02. Resident Advisor Showcase w/ Actress, Lapalux, Natasha Kmeto, Ghost Feet at Crocodile // Thursday, September 26th

Enigmatic UK sonic wizard/producer Actress was supposed to play last year’s Decibel Festival but had to cancel last-second, leaving a lot of eager fans super bummed. Will he make it through this year? I certainly hope so. This showcase would mark the live Seattle debuts for both Actress and fellow UK-based beat chemist Lapalux, creator of textured, sexy, woozy beats and the man responsible for arguably the best late-night beats album of the year in the form of his debut full-length record Nostalchic on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. Pacific Northwest talents and Dropping Gems artists Natasha Kmeto and Ghost Feet open the show and should continue to prove why people are looking to the PNW and Portland-based label Dropping Gems as bubbling hubs for innovative beats.

03. Optical Showcases at Nordstrom Recital Hall // Thursday, September 26th & Friday, September 27th

Optical Showcases are Decibel Festival’s not-so-secret way to bliss-out and regenerate following a late night’s journey on the dancefloor that might leave you hurting a bit in the morning. Held at a pair of the city’s most comfortable and beautiful venues (Nordstrom Recital Hall for two evenings, Triple Door for two evenings) and enhancing the live experience with a greater focus on accompanying visual performances, Optical Showcases may blow your mind, make you feel new emotions, or gently lull you into a necessary power nap. The first of the two Optical Showcases at Benaroya’s Nordstrom Recital Hall will feature a collaborative-themed night of musical chairs between Hauschka, Peter Broderick, and Oliveray. The second night provides the “if-you-gotta-pick-one” Optical option with performances by Iceland’s Olafur Arnalds and Decibel Festival 2012 highlight Nils Frahm.

04. Nicolas Jaar & Friends at Showbox SoDo // Friday, September 27th

It’s hard to deny Nicolas Jaar‘s talent and confidence. Dude is really good, everything he releases is top-quality and feels special, doesn’t matter whether it’s a full-length album, a DJ mix, random stand-alone singles, mysterious EPs, or his head-turning remixes. While his demand is sky high, his rare tour schedule adds to the mystique. His live show is reputed to be next-level, which comes as little surprise, and his long-awaited Seattle debut comes with the massive asterisk of being held in the hit-and-miss environment of Showbox SoDo. Will SoDo transport Nico’s gorgeous lullabies, sensual groovers, and immaculate layers adequately? Triumphantly? Depressingly?

05. Big, unique acts at The Showbox at the Market

Shabazz Palaces, Helio Sequence, THEESatisfaction // Thursday, September 26th
XXYYXX, Machinedrum, Giraffage // Friday, September 27th
Lorde // Saturday, September 28th (Early)
The Orb // Saturday, September 28th (Late)

The Showbox at the Market has long been a personal favorite venue of mine: gorgeous space, consistently good sound, nice vantage points, cozy atmosphere. These days it’s rare for a premier electronic show to be hosted at The Market, but this year’s Decibel Festival is offering multiple shows that embody a wide spectrum of styles, ages, and vibes. These should all be very special shows for vastly different reasons.

06. Two Finales!

A testament to dB’s stacked, world-class programming, this year they’re throwing two finales (a first!) to give attendees a difficult/awesome decision of where to dance away the festival’s final night. Fortunately, they’re at near-by venues to allow convenient movement between each club’s respective dancefloors. Neumo’s -- the traditional venue for past dB Finales -- plays host to a grip of playful dancefloor acts, highlighted by super fun(ky) DJ duo Tiger & Woods and innovative NYC bass/house trio Archie Pelago. Just down the block, Q Nightclub will place Art Department, Mano Le Tough, and Maxxi Soundsystem in charge of the ultra club’s immaculate sound system. Either option (or both!) should be a glorious option to close out the festival in high spirits.

07. Hush Hush Showcase w/ Cyril Hahn, Ryan Hemsworth at Crocodile // Saturday, September 28th

Conflict of interest: Hush Hush is the label I’ve been running since Spring 2012. It’s with much honor that Hush Hush is hosting a showcase at this year’s festival featuring some good friends and respected colleagues. Hush Hush-affiliated artists Domokos, DJAO, and Kid Smpl will open the night, sharing their warm, textured, nocturnal sounds in the lush confines of the Crocodile before handing the reigns over to international artists Henry Krinkle, Ryan Hemsworth, and Cyril Hahn. Krinkle and Hahn have skyrocketed into the electronic world through their lush, sleek remixes and this will be both emerging artist’s first time in Seattle. Ryan Hemsworth returns to the Crocodile where earlier this year he stormed through a head-spinning DJ set that struck a brilliant balance between tear-inducing beauty and giggle-inducing fun. This showcase promises emotional beats of many different flavors and tempos.

08. Afterhours Showcases at Neumo’s and Q // Thursday, September 26th through Saturday, Saturday 28th

Barring the opening and closing nights, Decibel Festival helps refashion Seattle (late) nightlife into an insomniac’s dream, bringing together world-class DJs to rock your body from 2am until the wee hours of 6am. During these hours, Seattle feels like a European metropolis, where it’s not always easy to pack it in as it approaches typical closing hours, something Seattlites are prone to do the other 360 days of the year. Conveniently hosting each night’s dual Afterhours Showcases between Neumo’s and Q Nightclub, and free to dB pass holders for the first time in the festival’s history, this year’s Afterhours looks to be the strongest yet, with legends (Green Velvet vs. Cajmere, Thomas Fehlmann, John Tejada, Derrick Carter, Max Cooper, Speedy J, Derek Palaslaiko, Jimmy Edgar, DJ Funk) saddling up alongside some of the brightest up-and-coming DJs (Ben UFO, Pearson Sound, Kyle Hall) as well as relatively new acts from seasoned veterans (JETS aka Machinedrum and Jimmy Edgar).

09. Boat Parties // Friday, September 27th through Sunday, September 29th

In all my years of attending Decibel Festival, I have yet to hop on a boat and dance on the deck during their raved-about Boat Parties. Maybe 2013 is when all that changes. This year there’ll be three opportunities to spend a feel-good afternoon (1:30pm-5:30pm) on either scenic Lake Washington or Lake Union. Each party features two stellar DJs and each Boat Party DJ will be performing additional nighttime sets during the festival, so if you’re freaking out about possibly missing one of your favorite DJs due to the festival’s stacked late-night scheduling, this is a prime chance to see a world-class DJ spin during the day, in the sun, within a supremely unique environment.

10. Conferences // Wednesday, September 25th through Friday, September 27th

Not afraid to get righteous while getting nerdy, Decibel Festival has been hosting an extensive Conference schedule intended to enlighten, provoke, and intrigue music makers and music fans of all types. The conferences will once again be held at the Broadway Performance Hall on SCCC’s campus, scheduled during typical school week hours, and features panels led by some of the most innovative electronic producers and authorities in the electronic music world. Extra bonus, every conference is FREE for all and provides an informative space for budding electronic producers to learn tricks of the trade, fans to learn more about the music their putting into their ears on a daily basis, and so much more. Complete information on this year’s Conference schedule here.

Hope to see you there!

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