Signed Fest

Of labels and legacies

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When a representative of Yellingham, Bellingham’s annual DIY all-ages music festival, announced in late January that, not only would there be no festival in 2014, but also that Yellingham was on indefinite hiatus, the news was disappointing, yet not surprising.

Disappointing because in the four years of its existence, Yellingham proved itself to be a welcome and fiercely supported part of Bellingham’s music community. Disappointing because Yellingham as both an event and an entity offered more than just a dizzying array of really great bands and shows, it also achieved a level of inclusiveness rare to even mostly tight-knit music scenes such as ours.

However, the sunsetting of Yellingham did not come as a huge shock for the simple reason that, although 2013’s festival was bigger, more well-organized and more successful than ever before, organizers seemed to be feeling the fatigue of coordinating a fairly large, multi-venue, grassroots, all-volunteer music festival, no matter how beloved it might be. As well, the all-ages scene in Bellingham is more stable now than it has ever been, making now as good a time as any to take an indeterminate break.

But when Yellingham closed that door, it opened a window for someone else. And it just so happened someone was uniquely positioned to create a music festival, one that would attempt to embody some of that community spirit Yellingham so capably harnessed, while being a unique entity unto itself.

That person is Harrison Kadwit, Yellingham alum, and editor of the fledgling Signed Magazine. Although just two (soon to be three) issues old, Signed, which views the music industry through the lens of record labels rather than bands or musicians, has managed to nab interviews with Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye, Death Cab for Cutie’s Nick Harmer, Henry Rollins, Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch, Calvin Johnson, and more.

Along with plotting the particulars of the magazine’s third issue, Kadwit also decided to use the Yellingham knowhow he’d gained and his magazine’s label-based focus to plan a music festival all his own. Called Signed Fest, the event takes place April 25-27, and is an all-ages, donation-based ($5 per show) weekend of carefully culled music happening mostly at Make.Shift and the Alternative Library.

With shows taking place there all three days of the festival, Make.Shift gets the lion’s share of the Signed Fest action. Friday night’s show features Seattle’s Special Explosion (definitely a band worth keeping an eye on), Gonzo, Leatherdaddy, and more. Saturday’s show is a Hardly Arts showcase, with Grave Babies, Unnatural Helpers, and Broken Water (an Olympia band with an established Bellingham fan club) tapped to play. Come Sunday, the Make.Shift basement will be filled with the sounds of the Hague, Chunky Wonder, the Grizzled Mighty (another band Bellingham would be happy to adopt as its own), and others.

But that’s far from all Signed Fest has to offer.

Just a short stroll away from Make.Shift is the Alternative Library, where K Records and Beating a Dead Horse Records will have their musical wares on display Saturday in the form of Generifus and Posse. On Sunday, the space will play host to Barsuk’s Laura Gibson and Sub Pop artists the Rose and the Window (Rose Windows’ Chris Cheveyo and Rabia Qazi), for what I’m guessing will be one of the best of a lineup of excellent shows.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a festival that gives a nod to Yellingham without at least one house show, and Signed Fest will offer up one of those as well, with Chastity Belt, Dude York, and Wimps doing the honors on Saturday. As these things go, you’ll have to put forth a little effort to discern the exact locale because I’m not going to be the one to publically divulge and potentially spoil the party.

If all goes as planned, Signed Fest will exist at the nexus of Signed Magazine and Yellingham, occupying a space all its own in our music community. Taking into account what Kadwit’s managed to accomplish thus far, pulling this off would seem to be a given.

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