Typically the quirky little nook of the Northwest known as
Fremont is the “center of the universe.” However, for one day, the
booming, borderline upscale hood of Ballard — with all of its bars,
condos and construction sites — stole that title away from the land
known for parades of naked bicyclists and an abundance of
The occasion was Seattle Weekly’s annual REVERBfest on Saturday,
a music festival featuring 64 local bands spread out across stages
that popped up in a tea house, local shops and of course, bars.
Named after the Weekly’s music blog, the main thing distinguishing
REVERBfest from its summer counterparts that take place within city
limits (the Stranger-sponsored Capital Hill Block Party, the
mammoth of a local institution known as Bumbershoot and the
burgeoning Georgetown Music Festival) is its exclusive focus on
Reverb’s booker, Kwab Copeland (former booker of The High Dive
and Sunset), selected 64 of the brightest local acts to rock
Ballard, making the lineup feel like a musical melting pot of
what’s currently simmering in Seattle’s music scene. There was
hip hop (Greyskull, Canary Sing, Kublaki), punk (Police Teeth, The
Valkyries), singer-songwriter folk (Husbands, Love Your Wives),
hard rock (Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Emeralds), indie pop (Panda
& Angel, BOAT, Aqueduct), electro-pop (Truckasaurus, Man Plus)
and even some reunited local post-grunge (Sage). Just about every
genre of music being made in Seattle today was represented at
REVERBfest 2008. And with so much quality music happening at so
many different venues in one of the hippest neighborhoods in
Seattle, it was impossible to not find something to enjoy.
In a city where there is a well-known crop of locals already
making major splashes on the national scene (Death Cab, Modest
Mouse, Fleet Foxes), REVERBfest 2008 was a real reflection of
the current scene. None of the acts were too big (I don’t think
any of them could sell out the Showbox) and there wasn’t a
well-known local headliner (think Mudhoney, The Melvins, etc.)
attached to the bill just to sell tickets. In fact, a lot of the
acts at REVERBfest (North Twin, The Quilt, See Me River) were
smaller bands looking to make their first big splash on an eager
festival-going crowd, and many made favorable impressions.
I’m sure the lack of a larger band contributed to the cheap
ticket prices (Tickets $8 in advance, $10 day of show), but the low
ticket cost combined with the smorgasbord of local talent were part
of what made REVERBfest 2008 the best representation of what
Seattle’s music scene has to offer.
Last year’s Reverb was equally as fun, but it was also the
event’s inaugural run and you could tell a few of the kinks were
being worked out (For example, there used to be an outdoor stage,
something I’m sure organizers learned might not be such a good idea
considering REVERBfest takes place in October, a month where rain
begins to fall regularly in Seattle). This year’s event felt like
REVERBfest’s coming out party where everything seemed a little more
well organized. Bands were more concise with their sets, bartenders
were smiling, local businesses that weren’t hosting music were
participating by offering discounts of REVERBfest patrons, and
there was a VIP area for cripes sake.
Looking back on the year in local music to date, REVERBfest 2008
was definitely one of those diamonds in the rough and could have
been easily overlooked. But for those who attended (including yours
truly) this year’s installment of REVERBfest stood out as a
memorable bright spot in a year filled with radio festivals,
national events such as SP 20, Sasquatch! and the aforementioned
three fests that actually take place in Seattle.
Hopefully as the years pass and the festival continues to grow,
REVERBfest doesn’t start to take itself too seriously and lose its
intimate atmosphere and forget its seemingly organic roots. It
would be a near unforgivable act if organizers made REVERBfest
something too big for the scene that more or less created it.
But something tells me that as long as there is a thriving music
scene in Seattle to sustain a seemingly grassroots event like
REVERBfest, local musicians — who really are the heart and soul of
the festival — will keep REVERBfest in check and make sure it stays
true to its roots.
Simply put, given its location and lineup, REVERBfest 2008
felt more like a musical pub crawl soundtracked by some of the
city’s finest talent, than it did drudging a daylong music
festival. And that, my friends, is a good thing.