KEXP Suggests: Sound Off! Semi-Finals #2 at the MoPOP Museum 2/16

Local Music, KEXP Suggests
Written by Annie Zaleski

For 17 years, MoPOP’s Sound Off! has highlighted the best up-and-coming musicians in the region. Our track record is excellent: This annual competition, which brings together the best under-21 artists in the area, has been a launching pad for groups such as The Lonely Forest, Naked Giants, and Manatee Commune.

The premise of Sound Off! is simple: Each Friday night in February, four competitors will gather for a concert at MoPOP. One band will advance to the finals, which take place on Saturday, March 3. (As an added bonus, KEXP’s Audioasis will be broadcasting live from that main event!)

On Friday, February 9, Strawberry Mountain won the first semi-final round. The 2018 event continues tonight, Friday, February 16th, with our second round of semi-finalists: Micaiah Sawyer, NËSTRÄ, Sam Foster, and Step Dads. Here's some info on what to expect:

Photos courtesy of MoPOP Museum 

Micaiah Sawyer

“I really want to be able to relate to people, as well as let them know that even though we’re struggling, there’s something there over the hill,” the Olympia-based, blues-folk songwriter tells MoPOP. That certainty and optimism shine through on Sawyer’s Rest EP, which provides a showcase for her evocative acoustic guitar playing and smoky voice, and on an inventive YouTube take on a classic rock staple, Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son.”


Hailing from Lynwood, Washington, NËSTRÄ has lofty goals. "I want to change how R&B is perceived," the 19-year-old tells MoPOP, noting that he wants to accomplish this by using live bands and fusing disparate styles. "My goal is to create a genre." Judging by the seductive new single "11:11," which combines slinky finger-snaps, Quiet Storm-inspired programming, and hypnotic vocals, NËSTRÄ is well on his way there. Expect a new EP, dubbed N Ü N Ö, soon.

Sam Foster

Sam Foster — whose latest record, OCD, recalls Jeff Buckley's ethereal folk and John Mayer's bluesy rock — isn't exaggerating when he says that music saved his life. "Starting early in my high school years, I started using music as a way to cope with my increasingly severe OCD," the Issaquah-based songwriter reveals to MoPOP. "This was really a godsend for me. I wouldn’t be here without [music]… It’s a great release. And it’s a great way to make meaning of pain that seems meaningless at the time."

Step Dads

Step Dads are no strangers to Seattle: Three-fourths of the band did VERA Project, EMP, and STG summer camps growing up. Now based in Bellingham, Washington, the quartet favor garage-pop with a decided surf-rock (and melodic indie) bent. "There’s so much crazy stuff going on in the world," says Nate Kahn to MoPOP. "It’s 2018. I mean, come on, let’s just rock and roll together for a little bit."

Tickets to tonight’s show are $14 for the general public, $10 for students with ID, $9 for MoPOP Members, and $5 for Teen Tix Members. (Online tickets available here.) Doors are at 7:00 PM with the show starting at 8:00 PM.

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