Freakout Festival 2017
November 17-18, 2017 in Ballard, Washington
Night 1 Recap
By Graham Isaac
“Dude, where are we headed next? Sunset or Tractor?”
A large man pounds his Rainier and slams the can on the bar at Conor Byrne, one of the four main venues at Freakout Festival in Ballard. His friend thumbs a schedule. The next band starts and I don’t hear which Ballard Avenue venue they choose.
The multi-day local music fest is in it’s fifth year and it’s growing notoriety is evident; none of the venues are empty, and many are packed. I tried to catch as many acts in the first night as possible, but with lineups stacked across the venues, catching every single act was out of the question.
Here’s what I saw:
Bombay Beach play a scuzzy-but-storied type of garage punk; think Wipers via Hot Snakes with more room for guitar freakouts. Coming after the crescendoing indie rock of Strawberry Mountain, BB’s more straight-forward slash-and-burn approach showcased the wide range of ways bands are still making loud, abrasive rock. The room filled and the crowd responded enthusiastically.
Over at The Sunset, Head Band looked and played the part of new-style hippies, playing solo-y classic rock styled jams. Long time Ballardians whose faces I know and names I’ll never learn nodded in approval. It wasn’t my thing, but they sounded good and folks seemed down.
At Hattie’s Hat, Future Shock provided one of the more truly weird performances of the evening; if I had any sort of general complaint about the fest, it’d be that it could have used a bit of a stranger, weirder vibe. It is called “Freakout” Fest, after all.
Perhaps my favorite performances of the evening happened concurrently; fortunately, sets were staggered and venues close enough I caught just enough of both Sundries’ powerful, emotive post punk and Taylar Elizza Beth‘s deft, minimal hip hop to be left wanting more of each. Taylar even garnered a request for an encore, and the back room of Hattie’s Hat saw people jumping, dancing and clapping. “Okay. I’m done for real now,” she said after finishing.
The night likewise saw a staggering of headliners; I caught a couple of Smokey Brights‘ synthy jams that felt like an illustration of Ballard’s evolution from folk/Americana haven to it’s current catch-all music and dining hub.
Over at The Tractor, My Goodness played a tuneful, energetic set that included a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How it Feels.” While it’s hard not to miss the bluesy stomp of their earlier material, the full band lineup played together excellently and showed a real knack for building towards riffs and choruses without over-telegraphing them. All in all, a good look for one of Seattle’s long-and-strong running rock bands.
The night closed out at the Sunset, where synth-thrashers CHARMS brought noise and swagger to the stage. Someone commented “It’s like if the Stranger Things music was also a metal band!” I’m sure they’d take that as a compliment.
All in all it was a solid night of tunes; as with any fest, there were bands that played at the same time on different stages that I’d wish I could have caught, but as a continuing assertion of both Seattle’s vitality as a Music Town, and Ballard’s vitality of a music hub, it was a smashing success.
See more photos from Freakout Festival 2017 on our Flickr page.