Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Upstream Music Festival + Summit

The inaugural Upstream Music Festival + Summit was held over three days last week. It was really well organized. The website and app were detailed and easy to navigate.

We skipped the Summit portion (keynotes, discussions and workshops). That'd feel too much like work when we are interested, but not invested in the content. The man came out of a grueling work conference in this exact model, and didn't feel like sitting through another, although this would be way more fun. This is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's baby. He has a vision to have a Northwest version to South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. He pushed this with the intention to have Upstream succeed as a self-sustaining event to support local artists. Musicians are paid to perform at Upstream. In a May 11 article, GeekWire noted,

With more than 25 stages at a variety of venues and 300 artists representing diverse musical genres, Jeff Vetting, executive director of Upstream, called it “a snapshot of Pacific Northwest music in 2017.”

We had the three-day Festival pass to the many many gigs. Much happiness. There was an Amazon-branded Main Stage outdoors at CenturyLink Field; the other shows were held at various indoor venues dotted around Pioneer Square, and one free public stage at Occidental Park. Everything is within easy walking distance.

Getting the RFID bracelet and activating it (only for entry purposes) was a breeze. Queues to enter venues move fast, and for those that had hit capacity, people were properly told, and given the option to continue queuing, as they would only be let in if someone came out. There were plenty of options for food and drinks. The venues offered a limited but sufficient festival menu, and there were five food trucks too. It was just a bit of a pain having to lug the passport out to wave it at each venue, because alcohol. Grrrrr.

What fun to randomly stroll by Occidental Park and heard The Thermals from Portland. Didn't catch that on the line-up. Hopped in at the pub for singer-songwriter Louise Burns from Canada. I was thrilled to discover new-to-me Seattle band Dust Moth (whose current members are musicians from bands I do know), and The Long Winters who just released their first new song since 2006, with an unsurprising title and content 'Make America Great Again'.

The man was most thrilled to catch Helms Alee, pop-jazz ensemble Snarky Puppy which had superb musicians, and of course, his darling Dinosaur Jr. as the final show of the festival. (I asked the man, "Isn't this a band for old people and indie rock fans?" And I asked with affection and a tinge of sadness.) By the time Dinosaur Jr. came on, it was raining. But it wasn't exactly pouring. So up the ponchos and raincoats went, and people came out in the rain for the band. I had to miss Jeremy Enigk's (Sunny Day Real Estate) show for this. Grrrrrr. Overlapping sets. 😞😖

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