Music is Everywhere

From the streets to the sea

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

With July 4 on the horizon, I’ve been assessing my feelings with regard to this most American of occasions and have reached the conclusion that I’m into it. I’d say Independence Day is a pretty good holiday, as these things go. Aside from that one time that I took a bottle rocket to my right temple, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed July 4 and all it has to offer.

As much as I like the Fourth of July, it’s just a precursor to the (as yet unofficial) holiday that I really care about: the annual kickoff of Downtown Sounds, Bellingham’s urban outdoor music series.

But, as I mentioned last week, this area is rife with opportunities to get outdoors in the interest of seeing live music, and in the days before Downtown Sounds, a couple of other local concert series will commence their annual runs.

For instance, after a hiatus of a couple of years so that Bellingham’s most popular park could get a bit of a facelift, live music has returned to Boulevard Park—and I’m not talking about the drum circles that happen there on the regular.

Having spent the past year living in a place that overlooks the park—and observing the sea of humanity that inhabits it from sunrise until long after sunset—I am more excited than ever for the resumption of the Boulevard Park concert series. The shows begin at 7pm on four Saturdays during July and August, and if taking in a concert while watching the sunset over the bay isn’t a quintessential Bellingham outing, I don’t know what is.

Providing the soundtrack for your essential experience will be Eldridge Gravy & the Court Supreme, who will start things off on July 2 with a heavy dose of deep funk. A couple of Saturdays later comes Picoso on July 16, and it is my hope that the group of Latin dancers that I routinely pass by during my park ramblings will be in attendance strutting their rhythmic stuff. Snug Harbor will fill the evening air with the sweet sounds of homegrown funk and soul on July 30, and Maggie’s Fury will end this year’s series in Celtic style on Aug. 13.

Just a bit farther south, on Fairhaven’s Village Green, what are normally tranquil Sundays on the Southside will instead be filled with the sound of music, courtesy of Linda Fox, founder and host of the Fiddlin’ Fox concert series. Fox has been spreading her brand of musical gospel in Bellingham for more than three decades, and it’s safe to say she knows what she’s doing. This year, her lineup includes Jazz Gents (July 3), XXXXX (July 10), Alma Villegas (July 17), and Balkanarama (July 24). Dancing is not only permitted, but it is also encouraged.

And lo, we have now arrived at Downtown Sounds.

If you are one of the thousands upon thousands on top of thousands of people that have thronged the Downtown Sounds stage over the years, you are familiar with the drill. For five Wednesdays in a row beginning July 6, the hardworking, civic-minded gnomes of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership will shut down Bay Street between Bayou on Bay and the Pickford Film Center, build a stage, beer garden and other infrastructure so that at 6pm sharp, bands can take the stage and play for the aforementioned thousands. The show is free. Everyone’s invited. No-strings-attached fun for one and all. This year, the Partnership will commandeer not only Bay Street, but also the adjacent block of Prospect Street in what I can only assume is a plan for total downtown domination.

As ever, a propensity for getting people dancing in the streets is the unifying theme of the Downtown Sounds lineup, carefully chosen each year by Downtown Bellingham Partnership’s Lindsey Payne. For 2016, Payne packed the series with new faces, beginning with the Dip and the Austerman File, who will christen the street with soul on July 6. The next Wednesday, July 13, will see Marmalade and Snug Harbor, while July 20 will belong to Fruition and Vaudeville Etiquette. It wouldn’t be Downtown Sounds without a little bluegrass, which will be provided July 27 by Rabbit Wilde and Heels to the Hardwood, and hip-hop will shut things down when Lyrics Born and Mostafa Supergroup play Aug. 10.

Speaking of Rabbit Wilde, they’ll take their show just down the road when they play Mount Vernon’s Riverwalk Concert Series on Thurs., July 21. Before they get there, the Chris Eger Band (July 7) and Rivertalk (July 14) will have warmed up the scenic riverside stage, and following them will be Knut Bell and the Blue Collars (Aug. 11), Polecat (Aug. 18), and more before the series concludes on Sept. 1 with Seattle’s Jazz Underground. As with the other concert series on this not-so-short list, all of the shows are free, family-friendly and come with the mandate to bring your dancing shoes and leave your inhibitions home.

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