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Inaugural Bellingham Exit festival was a smashing success

Looking forward to seeing how multi-venue festival will grow

Fatlip of The Pharcyde looks back to the DJ during the show with his back to the crowd as a red spotlight is shined.
Fatlip of The Pharcyde looks back to the DJ Oct. 11 at the Wild Buffalo House of Music as part of the inaugural Bellingham Exit festival. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)
By Jesse Stanton CDN Contributor

Bellingham recently played host to the inaugural edition of the Bellingham Exit festival, a brand new multi-genre, multi-venue festival with high ambitions to be a major event, drawing music (and comedy and art) lovers from all around the region.

If you didn’t make it out for any of the shows, make sure to check out the photo gallery put together by Cascadia Daily News’ excellent photography team.

Considering that it was the first year, it was remarkable how smoothly most aspects of the festival went. I was impressed with the diversity and quality of the music they booked. I kept overhearing variations of, “I can’t believe (artist X) is playing here!”  

As a marker of how excited people were, I noticed lots of people in different venues dancing to the pre-show music in a way that I wouldn’t ordinarily expect. People were just that amped up! The Monday night, Oct. 9, kickoff at Make.Shift, for example, was one of the most ecstatic and raucous crowds I’ve seen at a show in a while. The art installations in the venues also mostly succeeded in the goal of transforming the familiar spaces in a way that made them feel fresh and different. 

A crowd applauds Bellingham-based Smooth Kiwi inside the purple building of Ritual Records as they are surrounded shelves of records.
A crowd applauds Bellingham-based Smooth Kiwi on Oct. 15 during a performance at Ritual Records. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

Before the festival started, I think I’d also underestimated just how magical it can be to have the opportunity to sample so many different performers. I ducked into The Shakedown on Thursday, Oct. 12 to check out the scene and see the artwork and ended up captivated by Beacon Bloom, a mostly electronic band from New Zealand, who I had never heard of and probably wouldn’t have sought out based on their description. Offering a bunch of free pop-up shows with a bunch of our best local musicians was also a great way to get out-of-town visitors to check those groups out and encourage a spirit of discovery.  

So, how could it get any better next year? One common thread I heard from some attendees was that they went to one or two concerts and didn’t necessarily feel like they were part of something bigger than that. 

The decision to sell single event tickets to all the shows was definitely a smart business move but may have kept it from building the ineffable sort of community you feel at a festival where more people are fully committed to the festival as a whole. 

Also, Saturday evening was so packed with shows, it was difficult for people to choose among them. My two-birds-with-one-stone suggestion would be to spread the Saturday shows out more into the early afternoon, and then offer a single-day pass for that day to encourage people who don’t want to commit to the whole event to at least have one day of exploration and sampling. 

The audience rocks out with their hands in the air as they yell for the band.
The audience rocks out to The HU at Mount Baker Theatre Oct. 12. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

I suspect plenty of people either didn’t want to drop $200-plus for the whole festival or didn’t have the time to make that worth it, but might spend $75 or so on a day pass to see one act they know they like and then also check out three or four other shows. 

Overall, though, I think we should count ourselves lucky to have a festival of this caliber happening right in our backyard. I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year.

One notable local release this week: rapper Mostafa made two appearances at the festival, including a great set opening for The Pharcyde. He has now headed back to Egypt, but before he left, he dropped his new album “Nvmnd.” Most of the songs had already been released as singles but it’s always nice to have them all in one place.



JESSE’S PICKS

Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood Benefit Show
7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, The Blue Room
At The Blue Room on Thursday, Nov. 2, five bands are coming together to raise money for Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood. The horn-heavy, jam-friendly affair includes several groups I’ve written about here in the past like The Problem, Miles Harris and the Deep Cuts, and Analog Brass, plus Sweetwood and headliners Atomic Affair. It’s a great example of how the younger generation of Bellingham bands is teaming up for big events and supporting the causes they believe in.

I Want It That Way: ’90s/2000s Dance Party
9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, Wild Buffalo
I was honestly never a fan of the whole boy band pop sound, but if you are then you’re absolutely going to want to be at the Wild Buffalo on Friday, Nov. 3, when Seattle’s All4Doras present a tribute to the classic ’90s boy bands, especially Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. Expect fedoras, tightly synchronized dance moves and dubious facial hair choices. The event also includes a DJ playing all your favorite ’90s/’00s hits.  

Death Valley Girls
8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, The Shakedown
On the other hand, if you want to keep the spooky season going a little longer, bust out some dark eyeliner and head to The Shakedown on Saturday, Nov. 4 to see Los Angeles band Death Valley Girls and their highly theatrical blend of psych rock, garage rock and goth.

Los Angeles band Death Valley Girls posing for a photo in a dense meadow of yellow flowers.
Los Angeles band Death Valley Girls will perform their blend of psych rock, garage rock and goth Saturday, Nov. 4 at The Shakedown. (Photo by Kelsey Hart, courtesy of Death Valley Girls)

LIVE MUSIC LISTINGS

Friday, Oct. 27

  • Aslan: 8 p.m., The Unknowns
  • Beach at Birch Bay: 6 p.m., Doug Parent
  • Birdsview: 6 p.m., Trick Myers
  • Bistro at Shuksan: 5 p.m., Thomas Harris Quartet (jazz)
  • Corner Taphouse: 7 p.m., Michael Dayvid
  • **Eagle Haven: 7 p.m., Minimum Wage (classic rock)
  • **Menace: 6:30 p.m., The Devilies (Irish folk)
  • Fireside: 7 p.m., The D’vas
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Shawn Hess (Americana)
  • Main Street: 8:30 p.m., James Micah Basnight
  • Make.Shift: 8:30 p.m., Smithers, Angel’s Egg, Beautiful Freaks (rock)
  • Majestic: 7 p.m., Mom Sport, Old Town Scouts (rock)
  • Shakedown: 9 p.m., Melancholia, Dryland, Slaghive (metal)
  • Skylark’s: 8 p.m., Vince Bigos
  • Vault: 7 p.m. Dick and Jane (acoustic covers)
  • Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., TeZATalks, Black Noise takeover, Actress, Keags b2b Ellie Wild

Saturday, Oct. 28

  • **Admiralty Lounge: 7 p.m., Badd Dogg Blues Society
  • **Beach at Birch Bay: 6 p.m., Shannagins (classic rock)
  • Birdsview: 6 p.m., Dave Hannon
  • **Boundary: 9:30 p.m., Sleepy Alligators (Grateful Dead tribute)
  • Brown Lantern: 9 p.m., Three for Silver
  • **Chair 9: ELK (funk/rock)
  • **Corner Taphouse: 7 p.m., The Dimes (rock/soul)
  • DownTime Taps: 7 p.m., Cascade Cody
  • FireHouse: 6 p.m., John Pinetree & The Yellin Degenerates (blues/folk/soul)
  • Fireside 4 p.m., Singers’ Saturday
  • **Guemes Island General Store: 6:30 p.m., Tapwater
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Spider Cult
  • Karate Church: 8 p.m., Ghorot, Chrome Ghost, Empress, Inpathos (metal)
  • Main Street: 8:30 p.m., Motown Cruisers
  • Old Edison: 8 p.m., The Walrus
  • Rockfish: 7:30 p.m., Joel Astley Band (blues)
  • Skagit Cellars: 6 p.m., Michael Dayvid
  • Stones Throw: 6 p.m., The D’vas
  • **Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., Petty or Not (Petty and Fleetwood Mac covers)
  • **Wink Wink: 6 p.m., Monstress, The Sorcerer (metal)

Sunday, Oct. 29

  • Firehouse: 4 p.m., Marco De Carvalho Trio (jazz)
  • Kulshan: 5 p.m., Decolletage (Celtic)
  • Main Street: 6 p.m., Open Mic
  • Congregation Beth Israel: 7 p.m., Old World Klezmer String Duo
  • Old Edison: 5:30 p.m., Ron Bailey & The Tangents
  • **Ritual Records: 6 p.m., Yellow, Ceras, Somerfeld (rock)
  • Wild Buffalo: 7:30 p.m., Bellingham Band Lottery (random)

Monday, Oct. 30

  • FireHouse: 3:30 p.m., Aaron Guest on piano
  • Kulshan: 6 p.m. The Hipocrats (folk)
  • Blue Room: 7 p.m., Brett Jensen’s Acoustic Jazztet

Tuesday, Oct. 31

  • **Blue Room: 8 p.m., ELK, Panda Conspiracy, Ari Joshua, more
  • Culture Cafe: 7 p.m., Open Mic
  • Menace: 7 p.m.,  Invitational Blues Jam
  • **Paws for a Beer: 5:30 p.m., Mighty Bayou Opossums (music of New Orleans)
  • **Shakedown: 8 p.m., Horror Business (Misfits tribute), Warp Detour (punk covers)

Wednesday, Nov. 1

  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Open Mic
  • Mount Baker Theatre: 7:30 p.m., Patty Griffin, Hayes Carll
  • Rockfish: 6 p.m., Whistle Lake Jazz Quartet
  • Underground Coffeehouse: 7 p.m., Kitty Obsidian (R&B/pop)

Thursday, Nov. 2

  • Admiralty Lounge: 7 p.m., Blue Collar Grass Band
  • Bistro at Shuksan: 5 p.m., High Peak Trio (jazz/funk)
  • Blue Room: 7 p.m., Atomic Affair, Miles and Ebony Harris and the Deep Cuts, The Problem, Sweetwood, Analog Brass
  • Brown Lantern: 8:30 p.m., Open Mic
  • Farmstrong: 6 p.m., Tom Buenger
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Jazz Jam
  • Shakedown: 9 p.m., GIFT, Archer Oh, Toadmortons (rock)
  • Thirsty Badger: 7 p.m., Open Mic
  • That’s What I Like: 6 p.m., JP Falcon and Friends (folk/rock)
  • Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., Marvel Years, K + Lab
  • Zeek’s: 7 p.m., Fritz and the Freeloaders (acoustic rock)

Friday, Nov. 3

  • Admiralty Lounge: 7:30 p.m., The Moving Hats (Celtic)
  • Aslan: 8 p.m. BJ Block Trio (jazz/funk)
  • Bistro at Shuksan: 5 p.m., Thomas Harris Quartet (jazz)
  • Blue Room: 8 p.m., Serafima and the Shakedowns, Where’s the Exit?, Lavenderhaze
  • Corner Taphouse: 7 p.m., Zach Michaud
  • Eagle Haven: 7 p.m., Michael Dayvid
  • Fireside: 7 p.m., Tom Sandblom
  • Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., North Country Highway
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Nathan and Jesse (jazz/folk)
  • Mount Baker Theatre: 7:30 p.m., Deb Talan (singer-songwriter)
  • Ritual Records: 6 p.m., Torch, Sam Chue
  • Shakedown: 9 p.m., Inpathos, Opponent, guests (metal)
  • Skagit Cellars: 6 p.m., India Glover (singer-songwriter)
  • Skylark’s: 8 p.m., The Problem (jazz)
  • Stones Throw: 6 p.m., High Mountain String Band (bluegrass)
  • Vault: 7 p.m., Double Trouble
  • Wink Wink: 7 p.m., The Cosmic Neighborhood, Spine Readers (rock/pop)
  • Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., All4Doras, DJ Dance Dance (90s/00s pop tribute)

Saturday, Nov. 4

  • Birdsview: 6 p.m., Ryan Doty
  • Blue Room: 8 p.m., Actress, Kitty Obsidian, Girl Parallel
  • Conway Muse: 8 p.m., Mark Dufresne Band (blues)
  • Fireside 4 p.m., Singers’ Saturday
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Lucas Warford (cabaret folk)
  • Jansen Art Center: 7:30 p.m., Gallowglass (Celtic)
  • Make.Shift: 8 p.m., Paperclip, guests (punk/hardcore)
  • Rockfish: 7:30 p.m., Polly O’Keary and the Rhythm Method (blues)
  • Shakedown: 9 p.m., Death Valley Girls, Telehealth, Spirit Award
  • Skylark’s: 8 p.m., Anissa (jazz)
  • Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., Polyrhythmics (funk)
  • Zeek’s: 7:30 p.m., Michelle D’Amour and the Love Dealers

Sunday, Nov. 5

  • Main Street: 6 p.m., Open Mic
  • Mount Baker Theatre: 3 p.m., Bellingham Symphony Orchestra
  • Old Edison: 5:30 p.m., The Davanos (classic rock)
  • Shakedown: 8 p.m., DOA, Boxcutter, Disaster Queen (punk)

** denotes Halloween-themed events


Before heading out to listen to live music, check with individual venues to make sure the event is still taking place as scheduled. 

The Beat Goes On is published online Tuesdays and in print Fridays. Email: jsbhammusic@gmail.com or Twitter: @JSBhamMusic.

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