Bellingham Arts & Music Fest

Of genius and madness


What: Bellingham Arts & Music Fest

When: Sat., May. 6 -7

Where: Lookout Arts Quarry, 246 Old Hwy 99 N.

Cost: $45


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Even though I have lived in Bellingham for more than half of my life, I continue to exist in a constant state of amazement at the things people get up to in the name of artistic expression, entertainment and community involvement.

Currently, my mind is very busy being blown by the Bellingham Arts & Music Fest (not to be confused with the Bellingham Music Film Festival or the Bellingham Festival of Music or any other of the similarly named festivals that happen here), or BAMF as it is known.

Those of you who spend less time on the internet than I do are probably blissfully unaware that BAMF is not just the innocent acronym of a first-time festival in Bellingham, but it also stands for “Bad Ass Mother Fucker.”

I can’t figure out whether I want it to be intentional or pure coincidence that the events taking place during a 24-hour period of May 6 and 7 at the Lookout Arts Quarry have been granted this particular moniker, but I’m here for it either way.

More than just a concert, BAMF is a 24-hour, wall-to-wall celebration of all things musical and artistic. Whereas most music festivals are orchestrated and organized within an inch of their lives—necessary, considering the size of both the undertaking and the expected audience—BAMF operates according to a throw-it-all-out-there-and-see-what-sticks model. That means when the first band takes the first of four stages at noon on Sat., May 6, the remaining 44 acts will make certain those stages don’t go silent until the festival ends at noon the next day.

To refresh those numbers: that’s 45 bands and other artists on four stages performing nonstop for 24 hours straight.

The last time I can recollect someone playing a concert that prolonged in these parts, it was experimental musician Zach Zinn, who performed from inside a tiny tent in the Make.Shift basement—entertaining, to be sure, but not quite on the same scale as BAMF.

Whether this is a genius idea or an act of madness (or both) remains to be seen, but BAMF certainly does not lack for musical talent enough to make this marathon seem more like a sprint. Among the diverse variety of acts tapped to play are Babe Waves, Arbour, Bob Fossil, Dog Mountain, Girl Teeth, the Dawn Bombs, Guayaba, Judy Just Judy, Mhostly Ghostly, Mr. Feelgood and the Firm Believers, the Katie Gray, the Wednesdays, Vervex, and many more, nearly all of them local.

Augmenting the music onstage will be purveyors of film and comedy, and a wander around the quarry’s expansive festival grounds will net you art installations to suss out, food vendors to partake of and a beer garden to slake your thirst—every last one of them a local as well. You can even center yourself with some morning yoga by a local teacher, if you’re so inclined.

All that emphasis on sourcing Bellingham-based talent for BAMF is hardly an accident—indeed, it is one of the festival’s central tenets. The Bellingham Arts & Music Fest’s commitment to the community that spawned it is so strong that any money profits associated with the event, should they exist, will be donated in some form to local arts organizations like Make.Shift and Bellingham Girls Rock Camp.

In short, BAMF aims to hit us all right where we live.

The idea for this unorthodox event arose, as do so many unorthodox things around here, from the minds of a pair of Fairhaven College students who decided that the best way to celebrate the arts community’s different disciplines was to take them 10 miles out of town, mash them all together and cram as many of them as possible into a one-day period.

“We believe that interconnectedness between different styles of art is important to keeping Bellingham progressive and unique,” festival organizers say in their description of BAMF. “We see musicians, painters, photographers, jewelers, flow artists, filmmakers, comedians, circus performers and special effects artists work in similar capacities often enough, but our event will feature all of them, together.”

The whole thing is a giant experiment, yes, but what could possibly go wrong?

But the format is not the only thing that makes BAMF stand out from other festivals. What also makes it unique is the site upon which it takes place. The Lookout Arts Quarry is itself an artists collective, and they embrace a decidedly environmentally inclined and inclusive ethos. That means camping is encouraged, but everyone is expected to live according to Leave No Trace principles (basically, if you bring it in, haul it out), and the entire event aims to be Zero Waste. As well, carpoolers will be offered a “Clown Car” discount if they arrive with a ride full of revelers. 

At this point, no one really knows what final form BAMF will take, but everyone figures to have a lot of fun finding out, festival organizers included. “Four stages. One 24-hour explosion of creativity and wackiness sure to be a testament to the lovable weirdness that is the City of Subdued Excitement.”

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