Load up the clown car
When: 8 am Fri., May. 31 -2
Where: Lookout Arts Quarry, 246 Old Hwy. 99 N.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Imagine, if you will, that someone has invited you for a weekend out of town. They entice you with a roster of regional music and the promise of a good time centered on the principles of artistic expression, inclusivity and mutual support for all involved. They wax fondly about an outdoor venue with six stages and the music, comedy, puppet shows, karaoke, yoga presentations, flow artists and more that will appear on it. They speak of a tea lounge and art installations and activities happening day and night that engage the imagination as well as the senses.
You have to admit, it sounds intriguing.
Then they load their car up with you and several friends and drive you somewhere in the vicinity of the middle of nowhere to a giant abandoned quarry where circus people live.
No, you’re not living out the beginning of what sounds like a fairly terrifying horror movie. You’re at the Bellingham Arts and Music Festival, the three-year-old event affectionately known to one and all as BAMF.
In the vein of other homegrown music festivals such as the Subdued Stringband Jamboree or Summer Meltdown, BAMF utilizes a venue in our backyard—the Lookout Arts Quarry—and leans heavily on local talent to fill its lineup. What sets BAMF slightly apart from the rest is that it places as much of an emphasis on the overall experience as it does on the entertainment. It’s almost as if BAMF organizers took each piece of a typical grassroots festival, deconstructed it and then pieced it back together to suit their unique needs.
For instance, music festivals have many things to offer, but the cost of that is often a large carbon footprint. In this region, that has organizers attempting to be as green as they can, but at BAMF a zero-waste ethos is baked into the festival’s fundamentals. That means the aforementioned carload of people wasn’t just a device used in service of my horror-movie narrative, it was also an illustration of BAMF’s “clown car” policy that says that a full car’s worth of people gets the parking fee waived for that vehicle. Composting toilets will break down the business of your business end, plentiful receptacles will contain your various forms of recycling, zero waste volunteers will make sure you pick up those earplugs you dropped, and all of it will serve as a reminder that this is a pack-in-pack-out, leave-no-trace affair.
The level of thought BAMF organizers put toward environmental concerns is echoed in the way they handle security as well. Instead of a conspicuous team of the beefiest bouncers they can find to make sure the unruliest instincts are quelled, BAMF prefers a multi-faceted, multi-tiered approach. Safety is paramount, especially at a venue like the Lookout Arts Quarry, which is why at BAMF you’ll not only find a medical tent and team, along with security workers (all trained in de-escalation techniques), but you’ll also encounter a harm-reduction team dubbed Starfl33t that will help calm people and situations that don’t necessarily require a medical remedy, along with Peacekeepers who will aid in crowd control and dole out water and earplugs to those in need.
But let’s be real: No one’s going to BAMF for the free parking, composting toilets or peacekeeping staff. They want to be entertained, and entertained they shall be.
This year’s festival takes place from Fri., May 31 through Sun., May 2, and while that span of time might be three days to nearly all of us, in BAMF math, it’s two days—because unlike most festivals, at this one, a day truly does span 24 hours that are all packed full (save for a couple of hours in the early mornings because bands want to play at 7am about as much as people want to arise at that hour to see them, which is to say not much at all) of music, comedy, workshops and more.
Day One, as it is called in BAMF parlance, runs from 3pm Fri., May 31 until 3pm Sat., June 1. What you’ll find on the event’s six stages is music from the likes of (in no particular order) Bob Fossil, Lifeless Form, Guillotine Eyes, Klefto, Heirz, Animal Inside, Jaga, Blood Capsules, Pacifix, DJ Will, Bad Saint, Hot Tap, All Star Opera, and many others. You’ll also be treated to a dedicated Gross Out Records block featuring Shimmertraps, Glitchlette, Hello I’m Sorry, Bathrobe, and Cop Talk. Karaoke, comedy, yoga, workshops and a bike jump will round out a very busy first day.
After that, you’ll get about an hour to catch your breath before Day Two—which takes place 4pm Sat., June 1 clear through 3pm Sun., June 2—fires up. On the docket are Naked Giants, Episcool, Dryland, Supermissive, Hippopotamus Hot Tub, Forest Ray, WMD, Melancholia, Hot Wax, the Kaeli Earle Trio, and a slew of others. You can also do a little yoga, sing some karaoke, take in some improv and learn about border imperialism before you pack up, recycle or otherwise account for every single thing you brought and head back to civilization.
Although I likened BAMF to the setup for a horror flick, nothing could be further from reality. Its organizers have put considerable thought into creating a sort of festival utopia in which everyone is included, anyone can engage at whatever level they wish and no one gets lost on their way to a composting toilet. Load up the clown car, hie thyself to the Lookout Arts Quarry and prepare to be BAMFed.
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