Music

The Big Weekend

Make the most of it

Attend

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What: What’s Up! Awards Show
When: 8pm Sat., Jan. 18
Cost: $5
——————————
What: Devotchka, Glass Heart String Choir
When: 7:45pm Sun., Jan 19
Cost: $25

Where: Wild Buffalo, 208 W. Holly St.
Info: http://www.wildbuffalo.net

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Like anything else, Bellingham’s music scene changes over time. Some of this has to do with musical preferences shifting between styles and genres. Some of it is the normal ebb and flow of things, the wax and wane that happens on a long enough timeline. Some of it can be attributed to simple evolution.

A cynic would say that the more things change, the more they stay the same, but I don’t share that viewpoint. I tend to believe that there are new things under the sun, as well as constants we can count on.

One of those constants: our abiding love for the Big Weekend.

The Big Weekend is one in which forces align and two or more can’t-miss shows happen one right after another. Such events call for careful budgeting, be it of time, money, real estate in one’s liver, a likely recovery period or any number of other things specific to each person who participates in the Big Weekend.

The Big Weekend generally offers prime opportunities for Bellingham’s storied music scene to show off one of its greatest and most abiding strengths: the enthusiastic and slightly unhinged audience that can—and often does—turn a good show into an unforgettable one.

Big Weekends aren’t as plentiful as they once were, but we still know how to seize the days when one comes our way. Such an opportunity will arise Jan. 18 and 19 at the Wild Buffalo, so prepare your personal Big Weekend budget accordingly.

After saying he’d never do it ever again ever, What’s Up! Magazine Editor Brent Cole revived the What’s Up! Awards—so I guess in Brent’s world, never ever is about three years or so. As one of the people who began lobbying him to bring back the annual event as soon as he told me he’d be sunsetting it, I am very pleased about its return.

Due to my long friendship with Brent, not to mention the years I spent as a What’s Up! staffer who ostensibly helped “plan” (I didn’t do anything remotely useful) the first few awards shows, I have some insight into how much work goes into the event. Enough so that I understood why he’d want to cease the undertaking, even as I was protesting it coming to an end.

So what happened to make him want to take on the task of planning another What’s Up! Awards?

“I saw something in the music scene I hadn’t seen in a while,” Brent says. “There was an excitement about the bands coming up and an excitement about people making music. It felt like the right time to bring it back.”

You’ll get zero arguments from me. Bring on the awards show.

Voting for the awards is now closed and now all that remains is to dole them out in their respective categories at Saturday’s ceremony. That task will be accomplished with many antics and much revelry, if past awards outings are any indication. Aireekah Laudert will act as host for the evening and Klefto will spin during the breaks, but the big draw of the night—other than the golden beer-can trophies—is the always-eclectic mix of bands that are tapped to play. This year’s lineup includes Dryland (now featuring more Bellingham City Council members than any other local band after the recent election of Dryland bassist Hollie Huthman), Blood Capsules, the Rhetorician, LipStitch, and Munch.

“I can’t wait to see the bands play,” Brent says, adding, “There’s been a real turnover in the music scene over the last few years, and I’m looking forward to seeing who wins.”

Those of us who tend to go a little too hard during the What’s Up! Awards will need to conserve some of that Big Weekend energy for the next night, when DeVotchKa makes another stop at the Wild Buffalo.

The four-piece ensemble has been playing shows in Bellingham since before they garnered much richly deserved acclaim for providing the soundtrack to the 2006 Oscar-winning indie film Little Miss Sunshine. They’ve involved themselves in an astonishing array of musical endeavors in the intervening years—everything from providing an original score for an obscure silent film to annual performances with the Colorado Symphony in their home state. But no matter which of their musical dreams they happen to be living out at any given moment, DeVotchKa has always taken time out to tour, and so their visits have become semi-regular over the years.

But make no mistake: Our familiarity with the band does not breed contempt. Quite the opposite, in fact. The more DeVotchKa we get, the more we seem to want.

Much of this has to do with what we get from the supremely skilled ensemble. While a concert is always a form of escapism, in DeVotchKa’s case, that escape is particularly transportive. Their ability to create music that is orchestral in its depth and richness and ability to fill a room, combined with the intimacy of their performances make for an experience and atmosphere unique to them. Few bands can transfix an audience quite like DeVotchKa, an effect I never grow tired of witnessing no matter how many times I’ve seen them cast their spell. And I’m of the opinion that every Big Weekend should end with a little magic.

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