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Bellingham Celtic Festival to fill downtown with joyful music

Weekend-long event takes an inclusive, irreverent approach

San Miguel Fraser is a duo from Spain
San Miguel Fraser is a duo from Spain
By Jesse Stanton CDN Contributor

The Bellingham Celtic Festival is back once again to take over downtown with a bounty of talented performers both local and international. From Sept. 21–24, free and ticketed performances will play at venues like The Blue Room, Boundary Bay Brewery and Honey Moon Mead & Cider. You can also sign up to take workshops from the performers, watch or join sessions (impromptu gatherings of musicians sharing traditional tunes) or even join in pub sings. 

Of course, some of the most fun events are the ones you would least expect. A big part of the joy of this festival is its creativity and eccentricity. A session just for kids? Sure, why not? A concert at the yarn shop? Absolutely. A workshop connecting the popularity of the TV show “Outlander” to recurring themes in Scottish history? I could not make this up. Head downtown that weekend and see it for yourself.

(Full disclosure: I’m playing this festival with the Moving Hats.)

I do want to tell you a little bit about three headliners in particular, but please be aware that these are just the tip of the iceberg. You will absolutely want to visit the festival’s website to make your plans in order to catch the full array of talent on display. 

San Miguel Fraser is a duo all the way from Spain, with music tracing the connections between Castillian and Celtic traditions. They’ll be hosting a session Friday night, Sept. 22 at the Culture Cafe and Saturday night, Sept. 23 at Honey Moon; teaching workshops Saturday morning at the New Prospect Theatre; and performing a concert Saturday afternoon at The Blue Room.

photo  Scottish Fish is a five-piece ensemble from Boston that does lively, intricately arranged instrumentals featuring as many as four fiddles, accompanied by piano and sometimes cello. (Photo courtesy of Bellingham Celtic Festival)  

Scottish Fish is a five-piece ensemble from Boston that does lively, intricately arranged instrumentals featuring as many as four fiddles, accompanied by piano and sometimes cello. The members met as kids going to a local Scottish fiddle camp and have continued to explore the traditional music of Scotland and Cape Breton Island as they’ve grown up. While in town they’re going to host a session at the Culture Cafe on Thursday, Sept. 21 and Saturday, Sept. 22; play a Friday night concert at The Blue Room; and teach a workshop at the New Prospect Theatre Saturday morning.

Finally, Scottish trio Talisk returns to town, having previously thrilled listeners at the Mount Baker Theatre back in November. They start with a hyper-virtuosic acoustic blend of guitar, fiddle and concertina, then mix in some electronic beats and effects. They play at The Blue Room on Saturday night. 

In other news, the eccentric power pop mavens of The Spine Readers have been releasing a steady stream of brilliant singles over the last few months. The latest is called “Wert,” and comes highly recommended for anyone who likes hooky guitar-based pop. Apparently, they are working toward an album this winter that will compile all these singles and more. 

Live music is coming back to the Old World Deli, with Bilongo appearing there on Saturday, Sept. 30. It would be great to see more happening in that space; it can be a very nice place for music. 


Skagit Bigfoot Fest has some pretty solid musical headliners this year. The event takes place on Sept. 29 and 30 at Skagit County Fairgrounds and will include Olympia country boys The Olson Bros Band, Seattle’s hard-rocking King Youngblood, and EDM trio SYLKROAD

The Shut Up and Listen podcast keeps putting out fun episodes every week with great local artists like Cat Valley, Ca$h McClane, and the Cosmic Neighborhood. The podcast format gives them the chance to dig deep on each artist’s creative process and influences. If you’re not following that yet, I would recommend checking it out on your podcast platform of choice. 


JESSE’S PICKS

A Night of Grief and Mystery
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, The Majestic
A Night of Grief and Mystery features author Steven Jenkinson and musician Gregory Hoskins with a combination of songs and storytelling, exploring mortality, spirituality and other aspects of the human condition.

Guitars And Gratitude
6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, FireHouse Arts and Events Center
A whole bunch of local musicians have taken it upon themselves to express their gratitude for the FireHouse Arts and Events Center with a benefit concert on National Gratitude Day. Performers include The D’vas, Cheryl Hodge, Sharon Mason, Havilah Rand and many others. I will take this moment to also express my gratitude for the FireHouse; it’s a wonderful place to see a show and a real asset to our community. 

photo  Havilah Rand is playing at the FireHouse Arts and Events Center at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21. (Photo courtesy of Jim Bergman)  

Make.Shift 
6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, Make.Shift
Make.Shift is hosting a strong bill of adventurous music spanning several genres. Seattle’s Hotel Vignette contributes apocalyptic synth-pop jams. Guadalajara’s No Existo combines electronic, krautrock and Mexican folk to create something wholly original. SomerFeld, a new local shoegaze group, includes many familiar members.

Martha Scanlan & Jon Neufeld
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, Mount Baker Theatre
Martha Scanlan & Jon Neufeld bring their hypnotic, enigmatic original folk songs to the Mount Baker Theatre’s smaller, more intimate Walton Theatre.


LIVE MUSIC LISTINGS

Tuesday, Sept. 12

  • Aslan: 8 p.m., Jazz Night
  • Blue Room: 8 p.m., Jam:30 (open jam night)
  • Boundary: 3 p.m., Out of the Ashes, 6 p.m., Paul Klein on piano
  • Culture Cafe: 7 p.m., Open Mic
  • Menace: 7 p.m.,  Invitational Blues Jam
  • Ramble Tamble: 9 p.m., The Elevator Club ft. CHRVNS (hip-hop)
  • Wild Buffalo: 8:30 p.m., Feral Moon, Energy Pyramid, Slag Hive

Wednesday, Sept. 13

  • Bar Cicotti: 6 p.m., Matt Eakle & Tim Volpicella  (jazz)
  • Boundary: 6 p.m., Aaron Guest on piano
  • FireHouse: 6:30 p.m., John Sheckler Quartet (jazz)
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Open Mic
  • Rockfish: 6 p.m., The Colonel
  • Stones Throw: 6 p.m., The Hipocrats

Thursday, Sept. 14

  • Bistro at Shuksan: 5 p.m., High Peak Trio
  • Boundary: 5 p.m., Robert Sarazin Blake & The Happy Hour Band; 8 p.m., Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, Mara Kaye
  • Brown Lantern: 8:30 p.m., Open Mic
  • Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., Yankee Drivers (bluegrass)
  • Gruff: 8 p.m., Tenderpile’s Smile Aisle (jazz)
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Marie, The Band (folk)
  • Kulshan Trackside: 5 p.m., Sleepy Alligators (Grateful Dead covers)
  • New Prospect Theatre: 7 p.m., Sofia Talvik (folk)
  • Thirsty Badger: 7 p.m., Open Mic
  • That’s What I Like: 6 p.m., JP Falcon and Friends (folk/rock)
  • Wild Buffalo: 8 p.m., The Cosmic Neighborhood, Pantsuitguy, Devin Luna
  • Zeeks: 7 p.m., Northside Jive Talkers (blues)

Friday, Sept. 15

  • Beach at Birch Bay: 6 p.m., Lost at Last
  • Birdsview: 6 p.m., Marcia Keester
  • Bistro at Shuksan: 5 p.m., Thomas Harris Quartet (jazz)
  • Blue Room: 9 p.m., The Stillvettas, Counterproductive, Actress (rock)
  • Boundary: 6 p.m., Bilongo w/ Sabrina Gomez (Latin jazz)
  • Fireside: 7 p.m., Harley-Rogers Duo
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Hedgewitch, West of Roan (folk)
  • Main Street: 8 p.m., Paperheart, Pure Halcyon (rock)
  • Make.Shift: 8 p.m., Cat Valley, Weep Wave, Cat Positive (rock)
  • Shakedown: 9 p.m., The Keening, Ser (gothic folk)
  • Skagit Cellars: 6 p.m., Michael Dayvid
  • Skylark’s: 5 p.m., The Song Wranglers (acoustic Americana)
  • Stone’s Throw: 6 p.m., Songwriters Showcase ft. Geof Morgan, Octavia McAloon, Ed Hoban, Lea Sklarsky
  • Vault: 7 p.m., Louis Ledford (folk)

Saturday, Sept. 16

  • Beach at Birch Bay: 3 p.m., North Sound Soul
  • Blue Room: 9 p.m., Faith In Strangers, Asterhouse, Moon Mother (rock)
  • Brown Lantern: 9 p.m., Ebb, Slack & Flood (rock/reggae/funk)
  • Conway Muse: 8 p.m., Stacy Jones Band
  • Farmstrong: 6:30 p.m., Eden
  • Fireside 4 p.m., Singers’ Saturday
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Cape Flattery, Last of the Red Hot Mamas (Americana)
  • New Prospect Theatre: 7 p.m., New PA fundraiser ft. Penny Stinkers, Free Harmony, Chad Peterson, more
  • Rockfish: 7:30 p.m., Whitewing (blues/R&B/soul)
  • Samson Estates: 4 p.m., SpaceBand (hip-hop/R&B covers)
  • Schweinhaus: 9 p.m., Hippies With Money (rock)
  • Skylark’s: 5 p.m., Phil Paige and Mark Monrean (soft rock/jazz)
  • Station 49: 4 p.m., Ten Feet Thick
  • Stones Throw: 6 p.m., Tyler Clarke
  • Underground: 9:30 p.m., SpaceBand 
  • Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., The Expendables, Bumpin’ Uglies, Claire Wright (reggae/rock)

Sunday, Sept. 17

  • Beach at Birch Bay: 3 p.m., The Replayzmentz (classic rock)
  • Bellingham Cider Co: 6:30 p.m., The Best Intentions
  • Kulshan Sunnyland: 5 p.m., Katie & Kevin (folk)
  • Main Street: 6 p.m., Open Mic
  • Old Edison: 5:30 p.m., The Davanos (classic rock/blues)
  • Shakedown: 7:30 p.m., Townes Van Zandt tribute night
  • Station 49: 3 p.m., Cascade Cody
  • Wild Buffalo: 8:30 p.m., Moon Hooch, guests

Monday, Sept. 18

  • Blue Room: 7 p.m., Tenderpile’s Smile Aisle (jazz)
  • FireHouse: 3:30 p.m., Dry Martini (jazz)
  • Kulshan: 6 p.m., Simon Llewelyn Evans (folk)

Tuesday, Sept. 19

  • Aslan: 8 p.m., Jazz Night
  • Blue Room: 8 p.m., Jam:30 (open jam night)
  • Boundary: 3 p.m., Out of the Ashes, 6 p.m., Paul Klein on piano
  • Culture Cafe: 7 p.m., Open Mic
  • Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., Open Mic
  • Majestic: 7:30 p.m., A Night of Grief & Mystery
  • Menace: 7 p.m., Invitational Blues Jam
  • Ramble Tamble: 9 p.m., The Elevator Club ft. Pascal (hip-hop)

Wednesday, Sept. 20

  • Bar Cicotti: 6 p.m., Brian Cunningham & Tom Anastacio (jazz)
  • Boundary: 6 p.m., Aaron Guest on piano
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Open Mic
  • Rockfish: 6 p.m., Zach Michaud
  • Stones Throw: 6 p.m., Song Wranglers (acoustic Americana)

Thursday, Sept. 21

  • Bistro at Shuksan: 5 p.m., High Peak Trio
  • Blue Room: 8 p.m., Rambxlr
  • Boundary: 5 p.m., Biddy On the Bench; 8 p.m., Dumpster Joe, Stone & Sue
  • Brown Lantern: 8:30 p.m., Open Mic
  • Farmstrong: 6 p.m., Chris Eger Band
  • FireHouse: 6 p.m., The D’vas, Cheryl Hodge, Sharon Mason, Bob Paltrow, Havilah Rand, Sonja Lee, Yesterday’s Dreamers, Guitars and Gratitude
  • Gruff: 8 p.m., Tenderpile’s Smile Aisle
  • Honey Moon: 5:30 p.m., The Devilies
  • Thirsty Badger: 7 p.m., Open Mic
  • That’s What I Like: 6 p.m., JP Falcon and Friends (folk/rock)
  • Zeek’s: 7 p.m., Hopnotic (jazz/funk)

Friday, Sept. 22

  • Aslan: 8 p.m., North Country Highway
  • Beach at Birch Bay: 6 p.m., Chill DeVille
  • Birdsview: 6 p.m., Wayne Hayton
  • Bistro at Shuksan: 5 p.m., Thomas Harris Quartet (jazz)
  • Blue Room: 6:30 p.m., Scottish Fish
  • Boundary: 3:30 p.m., Feddersen, Gourley & Miller; 5 p.m., Biddy On the Bench; 6:30 p.m., The Moving Hats
  • DownTime Taps: 7 p.m., Silent Cowboy
  • Fireside: 7 p.m., The D’vas
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Alex Sturbaum and Friends
  • Lincoln Theatre: 7:30 p.m., Masters of Hawaiian Music ft. George Kahumoku Jr., Led Kaapana, Jeff Peterson
  • Main Street: 8:30 p.m., Terminal Blues Express
  • Make.Shift: 8 p.m., Hotel Vignette, No Existo, Somerfeld
  • Silver Reef Casino: 8 p.m., Tag Team, Kid ‘n Play, Young MC (classic hip-hop)
  • Skylark’s: 5 p.m., Lost at Last (country/folk/rock)
  • Vault: 7 p.m., Michael Dayvid (acoustic covers)
  • Welcome Road: 6 p.m., Bison Socks

Saturday, Sept. 23

  • Beach at Birch Bay: 3 p.m., TBA
  • Blue Room: 2 p.m., San Miguel Fraser; 4:30 p.m., Jackson & Cotter; 9 p.m., Talisk
  • Birdsview: 6 p.m., Glass Heart String Choir
  • Boundary: 1 p.m., Gallowglass; 2:30 p.m. Biddy On the Bench; 4 p.m., Rosin & Reed; 5:30 p.m., Calaskan; 7 p.m., Lindsay Street
  • Conway Muse: 8 p.m., Mojo Cannon & the 13th Street Horns (blues)
  • FireHouse: 6:30 p.m., Trio Sueno (jazz/flamenco)
  • Fireside: 4 p.m., Singers’ Saturday
  • Honey Moon: 5:30 p.m., Tim Cummings
  • Main Street: 8 p.m., The Takers (hard rock covers)
  • Menace: 6 p.m., Michael Dayvid
  • Mount Baker Theatre: 7:30 p.m., Martha Scanlan & Jon Neufeld
  • New Prospect Theatre: 6:30 p.m., De-Esser, Sam Chue, Turn Key Runner
  • Northwest Yarns: noon, Kate & Baron
  • Old Edison: 8 p.m., The Dimes
  • Rockfish: 7:30 p.m., North Country Highway (country/rock)
  • Schweinhaus: 9 p.m., ELK
  • Shakedown: 9 p.m., Full Color Dream, Great Comet, Collins Beach (rock)
  • Skagit Cellars: 5 p.m., DZ
  • Skylark’s: 5 p.m., JP Falcon Band
  • Stones Throw Block Party: 1 p.m., Jasmine Greene Band; 5 p.m., Pat Mcfarland
  • Whatcom Museum: 6:30 p.m., Feddersen, Gourley & Miller
  • Swinomish Casino: 8 p.m., Hell’s Belles (AC/DC tribute)

Sunday, Sept. 24

  • Beach at Birch Bay: 3 p.m., Chris Eger Band
  • Birdsview: 4 p.m., Zach Michaud
  • Boundary: 12:30 p.m., Schmid & Guest; 2 p.m., Kate & Baron; 3:30 p.m., Countercurrent
  • Kulshan: 5 p.m., Alger Rhythms
  • Main Street: 6 p.m., Open Mic
  • Mindport: 11 a.m., Bauman & Vogt
  • Old Edison: 5:30 p.m., Ron Bailey & The Tangents
  • Station 49: 2 p.m., Michael Dayvid

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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