Little festival, big ideas


What: MiniHam

When: 10 am Fri., Jan. 27 -28

Where: Make.Shift Art Space, 306 Flora St., Tillie Lace Gallery, 1415 13th St.

Cost: $6


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Seems like everyone in Bellingham’s music scene has some sort of side hustle going on. Before becoming a full-time nightlife magnate, Shakedown and Racket owner Hollie Huthman worked at a bank by day and operated her music venue and pinball bar by night. Tyson Ballew, Make.Shift executive director, has a full-time job in addition to his nonprofit duties. Bradley Lockhart has what can only be described as a “real job” in graphic design, and in his spare time he plays in bands, designs posters, dabbles in animating music videos—and he somehow found time to research, design and promote the Bellingham flag currently flying all over town. Even I’m not immune to this phenomenon—when not executing my various Cascadia Weekly duties, I can be found selling tickets and running movie projectors at the Pickford Film Center.

Local musician Katie Gray is also no stranger to this brand of creative productivity. A few years ago, while balancing being a full-time student at Western Washington University, a part-time engineer at KUGS and a musician playing shows, she decided she just didn’t have quite enough on her plate, and so decided to start a music festival in Bellingham.

“Back when I was in school, I had friends and other musicians who were dabbling in event planning,” Gray says. “And they were kind enough to invite me to play at their events, and I just got to a point where I thought to myself, ‘I could do this!’ So I did.”

Some things really are that simple.

But Gray knew her schedule did not contain enough free hours to coordinate and execute some grand affair, and so she scaled her expectations accordingly. “I didn’t want to plan a full on festival, so I decided I’d try a mini one,” she says.

And that’s how MiniHam came to be.

When Gray planned the inaugural MiniHam a few years ago, it was a one-night-only event and she looked to her immediate circle to provide the talent. “The first year I basically invited friends,” she says. But as word got out, that circle widened and “now it’s a combination of friends I know, local musicians I like or have worked with before, and people who’ve requested to play that I haven’t met but liked their music. It’s been a great way for me to discover more music and local musicians.”

Just three years in, these days, MiniHam is small in name only.

This year’s festival takes place over two days—Fri.-Sat., Jan. 27-28—at two locations—downtown Bellingham’s Make.Shift Art Space and Fairhaven’s Tillie Lace Gallery—and features nearly 20 bands, as well as face-painters, a photo booth, tarot card readings and more. As for who plays where and when, on Friday you can choose between Rivers to Roads, Bob Fossil, Billy Ward and the Other Guys, Redwood Sol, and Keenan Ketzner at Make.Shift. At the same time, you’ll find Impressions, Casa Nova Music, Chantel Renee, and Tyson Ballew at Tillie Lace. Come Saturday, Make.Shift will play host to Judy Just Judy, Cat Valley, Modern Day Astronaut, Switch Addictions, and Momo Grace, and across town the Katie Gray Band (it is her festival, after all), Matthew Lindblad, Maddy Smith, and Wonder will perform at Tillie Grace. The only drawback to the expansion of lineups and venues is with shows happening at the same time in different places, it is impossible to see it all, so choose wisely.

Such is festival life.

Gray may have started MiniHam with little more than a good idea and a can-do attitude, but it wasn’t long before meaning and motivation became something deeper and more evolved. “I love creating an opportunity for local musicians to connect and discover each other and a place for the community to connect with them too.” she says. “Musicians/performers and an audience need each other, it’s a two-way street that benefits the community.”

The fact that her festival is happening at Make.Shift and Tillie Lace rather than at Bellingham’s more traditional music venues is intentional as well.

“It’s always been important to me to keep this event all ages,” Gray says. “I think lots of events get focused on the 20-somethings and forget that there are lots of people in the community from age 7-70 that would enjoy seeing some of the local talent, and they aren’t given as many opportunities to do so.”

It seems that for something Gray undertook with the notion it would be a smallish endeavor, MiniHam has become a little festival with big ideas. Amazing what can be accomplished with a tiny bit of spare time and a whole lot of hustle.



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