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2023 Concerts At The Mural Dynamic Return

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

On Aug. 17, 2023, Veronica and Valarie, sisters and band members of La Fonda, perform for a dancing crowd at the Amphitheater for KEXP’s Concerts At The Mural series. (Photo/GZR Photography)

Basked in the evening August sun, attendees of the Concerts at the Mural are scattered across the warm grass of the Mural Amphitheater, waiting patiently for the first evening act of the musical series.

The free all-ages event, organized by the music radio station KEXP, has been on hiatus since 2020. But it has returned this year with a full lineup of prominent artists, both nationwide and local. This year, KEXP collaborated with the University of Washington Graduate Schools Office of Public Lectures to organize a series of speaker lectures open to the public from 2023-2024. The two entities' relationship came to fruition due to their shared goal of creating an accessible avenue for individuals seeking music and informative spaces.

For three consecutive Thursdays, artists such as Baby Rose, Jessy Lanza, and Deep Sea Diver graced the podium with their distinctive music sets for an hour, much to the elation of attendees, who cheered the artists through each musical number. As each Thursday rolled around, the crowds grew to the point where the whole gathering space of the amphitheater was packed by the final day.

“A big focus this year was finding a way to bring a historic and beloved community event back to campus,” said McKenna Haley, Community Engagement Manager for KEXP. “We wanted to find a way to just sort of bring back the integrity of the series and also try a few different things since it had been a while since we had planned a Concerts at the Mural series.”

One of those changes included scheduling the events for Thursday, when Concerts at the Murals had always taken place on Friday since 2009. Haley explains the cultural shift during the pandemic in how people now view Thursday as the new Friday. This is what drew Haley and her engagement team to utilize the date and to see if Thursdays are favorable to attendees.

For Thursday, Aug. 3rd, DJ Supreme La Rock, the local and elite DJ from Seattle, opened that evening's event with a meld of dubstep beats and distinguishable notes of hip-hop. Next, Zari Alexandria stepped onto the stage, greeting the crowd with a large smile as the sun shone down on her. Before jumping into her set, the 20-year-old singer and songwriter began with a land acknowledgment and expressed her gratitude to the Duwamish tribe. The singer pulled her ukulele close to her and began strumming away into her first song, "Tough Lessons". In between sets, Alexandria shared with the crowd a story that was a main inspiration for her song, "Gullible", in which a crush had led on the singer. When the relationship had no chance of going anywhere, the singer ranted to a YouTube live-stream about her situation, which garnered 3 million views.

Alexandria draws out an impressive vocal note during her Aug. 3, 2023 performance. (Photo/GZR Photography)

“There [are] some times where I’m like, ‘I just need a therapy moment’, [it’s] the best way to just let my emotions out,” said Alexandria. “I was holding in my emotions for a month, and I was like, I need to get this out, and after I wrote the song, I was like, ‘okay, it’s over’.”

Alexandria goes on to share that her goal is to connect with young or old individuals. Despite being young, Alexandria’s experiences around love, aging, and life speak through her lyricism for each listening individual to grasp the meaning behind each song. Through an upbeat dance beat in the background or the melody of a ukulele, Alexandria showcases a vulnerable side of herself to her listeners through her genre-fluid taste and sound of R&B, pop, and alternative.

Fans of Alexandria hold out a handmade sign declaring their adoration for the singer and songwriter. (Photo/GZR Photography).

It’s showcased in her 2022 EP ‘Congratulations, I’m Angry’, with the title of each song displaying a story itself in the ups and downs of a relationship at the brink of survival. The songwriter describes an EP as the type of music people want to blast in their car while driving late at night. Alexandria plays two songs from the EP "I’m Doin’ Fine" and "(Gotta Get) Over You" to the crowd as she belts notes of frustration, but her voice later follows with a sense of tranquility, knowing that it’s for the best. Alexandria’s upcoming EP "Do You Like My Songwriting" is set to come out on Sep. 22, 2023, and her EP single, "What You Wanted" released Sep. 15, 2023, for all to listen to.

Fast forward to Aug. 10, 2023. Daises, a duo from Olympia, Washington, stepped onto the stage with Valerie Warren, the group’s lead vocalist, wearing bright orange aviators to block off the persistent summer sun and Chris McDonnell joining her. The undertones of the recognizable tunes of a countrylike song can be heard throughout the album, with Warren’s voice putting the listener in a trance with her idyllic voice.

“It’s therapy, it’s absolutely therapy,” said Warren about creating their latest album. “This last album that we have is majorly therapy, and it is very hard for me to sing multiple songs without crying.”

Warren and McDonnell's personalities meld cohesively, with Warren serenading the crowd with her impressive vocals and McDonnell engaging the crowd with his DJ mixer and flamboyant dance moves. (Photo/GZR Photography)

There’s one specific song, "We Don’t Need Money", that the duo doesn't intend on performing in the near future due to the intense emotions and memories linked to the song for Warren and McDonell. The buoyant tunes of their alternative-pop sound don’t mask the underlying melancholy themes within the lyrics of unrequited love, hopelessness, and self-recognition. Despite that, it’s McDonell who brings the lighthearted vibes to their set as he wildly dances along to the beats booming from his mixer. Daises offers a plethora of genres within their music that are sure to keep you listening for hours on end.

Friends, couples, music lovers, and families with their kids packed the Mural Amphitheater for the final Thursday of Concerts at the Mural. After DJ Kennady Quill finished their set, the DJ introduced La Fonda, who performed brilliantly under the blazing August sun for the jubilant crowd as they performed songs from their 2023 album, "We Are Infinite". The band, which was created by two sisters, Veronica and Valarie, masterfully supports themselves through each song with Veronica on vocals, Valarie on guitar, and with the backing of their bassist Bryan Denver, guitarist Jesse Cole, and drummer Jacob Whinihan.

The group started when the Filipino-American sisters reunited after being away from each other for a significant amount of time and playing cover songs to create their own music quickly became a healing process for the sisters in recognizing their traumatic experiences as adolescents. Veronica confirms that playing music with her sister and receiving support from their friends was the greatest decision they made for their sisterhood. Their recent album is an ode to overcoming their struggle to showcase a project that reflects their relationship.

“It is so hard to be vulnerable sometimes with your art and your life. You get more no’s than yes’s in a way, and it can be a little depressing,” said Veronica. Somehow, music guided us out, and a lot of these songs saved our lives.”

Valarie rests on her back while performing a guitar solo for the crowd. (Photo/GZR Photography)

Sweats of joy bead down the faces of the performers as the set continues, with attendees, young and old, migrating to the front of the stage to begin dancing. Although Veronica and Valarie share the difficulties of growing up as women of color in an everchanging city like Seattle, their elation and dancing on stage with each other display a freeing aspect of their music for all to witness on Thursday. Despite the hardships one goes through, being unafraid of being yourself and acknowledging the people who love you will get you through the day.

“Music has a way of showing you the light even when things might be dark around you. It has this way of guiding you through pain,” said Valarie. “Can we do this? Can we look in the mirror? Can we pull ourselves out of our saddest days? The answer is yes; we absolutely can.”


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