Down in the Valley

A music monopoly

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

According to Julie Andrews, if you want to hear the sound of music, you must head for the hills. However, this is the same woman who encourages people to chase their medicine with a spoonful of sugar, which doesn’t sound appetizing at all to me, so I’m thinking Julie’s advice is of the your-mileage-may-vary variety.

Because the hills hardly have a monopoly on music. For proof of that, one need only look to Skagit County, where a valley and at least one island will be alive with the sounds of summer music series, all of them free and family-friendly.

Take that, Julie Andrews.

The first stop in our Skagit sojourn is Anacortes, a thoroughly charming town that boasts a music scene that punches way above its weight and has for as long as I can remember. For instance, I don’t know very many places as small as the city on Fidalgo Island where you can attend outdoor concerts three nights of the week if you wish, but such is the case in Anacortes throughout the summer. But before we get to the weekly offerings, we must first dispense with the town’s Fourth of July celebration, Rock the Dock. The dock in question is at Seafarers’ Memorial Park, where you’ll find the standard Independence Day ingredients of fireworks, food vendors and a beer garden. But there are a lot of hours before sundown, and at this party, that time will be filled with the sweet sounds of Johnny Bulldog as well as the Walrus. They’ll help you celebrate life in a mostly free country while you still can.

However, that’s not the only time the Port of Anacortes will put Seafarers’ Park to good use, musically speaking. Their annual summer concert series begins Fri., July 5 at the scenic spot, and runs for four more Fridays thereafter. But that’s just the half of it, because the Wednesday portion of the series starts July 10, and the whole thing doesn’t wind down until the end of August. By my calculations, that’s a whole slew of concerts and, given the wide range of musical styles that will be on display, the free series offers something for everyone, adults and kids alike. After Shaggy Swift kicks it all off on July 5, they’ll be followed by Cascadia Big Band (July 10), Cherry Cherry (July 12), Mach One Jazz Orchestra (July 17), Miller Campbell (July 19), Jazz Underground (July 24), Chris Eger Band and the Powerhouse Horns (July 26), and A Town Big Band will squeak out the final concert of July on the final day of the month. With August comes Sway (Aug. 9), Folsom Prison (Aug. 16), Polecat (Aug. 23), and Joe Blue and the Roofshakers get the honor of putting a bow on the summer series on Aug. 30. Where: 601 Seafarers Way Info:

If that’s not enough free outdoor music for you—and why should it be?—you need only to saunter less than a mile from Seafarers’ Park to the Heart of Anacortes where the City of Anacortes is graciously hosting a summer series of its own, this one taking place Saturday evenings at the welcoming outdoor venue. The Naughty Blokes, no strangers to seemingly every outdoor music stage this summer, are first up, opening the series on July 6. After them will come Whitewing with the Soul Shaker Horns (July 13), Cascadia Groove (July 20), and the Yankee Drivers (July 27). While it technically may not be part of the music series, it’s probably worth mentioning that Anacortes Brewery—which provides refreshments for the music series—will throw what appears to be a fairly sizey 25th birthday party Aug. 10 at the Heart of Anacortes. Ebb, Slack and Flood, the Enthusiasts, Tom Savage Blues Band, and Old Town Tonic have all been tapped to play, and the brewery will pour the beers that have made them an area staple for the past quarter century. The Anacortes Music Project is responsible for the lineup for the Aug. 17 show, and they’ve got Nathan Reed, Greenhouse Basement, Anacortes High School Rock the Island winners Ristfut, New Uniform, and Pearl Tottenham slated to perform for your listening pleasure. The following Saturday, the all-volunteer Rick Epting Foundation, which exists to enrich the arts in Skagit County, will throw its annual fundraising gala and silent auction at the Heart of Anacortes. This year’s theme is “Celebrating 50 Years Since Woodstock,” and Janie Cribbs and the T.Rust band will provide the live soundtrack. With the end of August comes the end of the 2019 music series, and the Atlantics will be only too happy to ride off into the sunset of another summer with you. Where: 1014 Fourth St. Info:

If Anacortes is a little too bustling for you, you’ll be happy to know that La Conner has a concert series of its own and it has been underway for several weeks now. Given the town’s small footprint, odds are pretty good that the sounds of La Conner Live can be heard beyond the waterfront locale of Gilkey Square, but if you make your way there on any given Sunday between now and Labor Day weekend, you can hear for yourself. The summer’s remaining performers include Skagit Swings All Star Band (July 7), Janie Cribbs and the T.Rust Band (July 14), the Mary McPage Band (July 21), a collection of jazz bands from Skagit Valley and Bellingham (July 28), the Walrus (Aug. 4), Amigos Nobles (Aug. 11), Baby Cakes (Aug. 18), the Naughty Blokes (Aug. 25), and Mary Ellen Lykins and the CC Adams Band (Sept. 1). That’s a lot of music for a little town. Where: 103 Morris St. Info:

Skagit’s small towns don’t get all of the musical action, however. This week marks the return of the Riverwalk Concert Series in Mount Vernon. Perched, as its name suggests, on the banks of the Skagit River, the concerts aren’t just free entertainment for the whole family, but a means by which to lure folks to Riverwalk Park so they can partake of public access to the waterfront. Obviously, the City of Mount Vernon is well aware that live music is all the pied piper we need, and toward that end they’ve enlisted Zydeco Explosion (July 11), Johnny Bulldog (July 18), Pacific Twang (July 25), Brian Lee and the Orbiters (Aug. 1), Cascadia Groove (Aug. 8), Fantasy Band (Aug. 15), the Miller Campbell Band (Aug. 22), and the Chris Eger Band and the Powerhouse Horns (Aug. 29) to ply us with their siren songs. Where: 509 S. Main St. Info:

Also on the near horizon is Burlington’s concert series, dubbed Burlington Summer Nights. Like the other shows of its ilk, these are free and family-friendly, and the folks from Burlington Parks and Rec. encourage you to fetch a meal downtown before making your way to the Burlington Visitor Center Amphitheater for performers chosen to fit a particular “vibe” each week. First up is Birdsview Bluegrass (July 12), and following in their foot-stompin’ footsteps will be File Gumbo (July 19), Stacy Jones Band (July 26), Gin Gypsy (Aug. 2), Michelle Taylor Band (Aug. 9), and Lazy Acres (Aug. 16). The hills might think they’ve got the market cornered when it comes to the sound of music, but they don’t know what they’re missing. Where: 520 E. Fairhaven Ave. Info:

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