The Lonely Forest is a hard band to hate.
Not that I’m trying all that hard. Earnest, engaging and entertaining, these indie rockers are the definition of likeable. I’m serious. If you were to look up “likeable” in the dictionary, you’d probably find a photo of the Lonely Forest’s John Van Deusen looking like a puppy you’d really want to adopt. The kind of puppy that respects your furniture and is housetrained and comes to you already knowing how to fetch your newspaper and slippers.
Of course, you can’t really look this up in a dictionary because no one actually owns one of those outdated tomes anymore, but that doesn’t mean you have to take my word for it when it comes to this whole likeability thing.
Instead, you can simply listen to the Lonely Forest, and when you find yourself inexplicably and irresistibly drawn to them, you’ll understand what I’m trying to say. Because while he may not actually fetch your morning news and your stinky slippers for you, Van Deusen sure knows how to write a song. And some might argue being able to craft songs with the kind of deftness and surety the Lonely Forest frontman routinely displays is a better skill than anything even the most talented puppy can bring to bear. Smart, heartfelt and acutely self-aware, but never forgetful of the importance of a solid hook, Van Deusen—along with band mates Tony Ruland (guitar), Braydn Krueger (drums), and Eric Sturgeon—is in the midst of creating for himself an enviable music career.
But my respect for this band extends beyond the music they make.
To my mind, one of the things that takes this band out of the realm of mere likeability and makes them downright loveable is the fierce loyalty they’ve shown to their hometown of Anacortes. Indeed, as they’ve grown bigger and gotten more popular, the Lonely Forest’s allegiance to their origins is starting to seem less like an endearing quirk and more like a statement they are only too proud to make.
We’re all familiar with the notion of paying things forward, but the Lonely Forest, it seems, is more concerned with paying them backward, using some of the glow of the ever-increasing spotlight that envelops them to help illuminate the arts community of the tiny seaside town that spawned this band.
It is for this reason the band has signed on to headline the upcoming Catapult Music Festival in Anacortes. Catapult (which used to be called Bumberpalooza) is an event that has taken place in the small town for the past dozen years or so, and was initially intended as a way to celebrate the end of the school year and start of summer. It aims to highlight up-and-coming local bands in an all-ages setting (another thing Van Deusen has been vocal in his support of), and this year’s festival is a two-day musical extravaganza, all taking place at scenic Seafarers Park.
This is not the first time the Lonely Forest has made an appearance at Catapult (back when it was still called Bumberpalooza, that is). However, it’s an understatement to say things have certainly changed for the band since they last graced this particular stage. From touring with Death Cab for Cutie to playing with Seattle Rock Orchestra and Portugal. The Man to an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live and critical acclaim for their recently released album Arrows from the likes of NPR and NME, it’s pretty clear things are going pretty well for this band.
So well, in fact, it would be easy to make the assumption they’ve outgrown an event such as Catapult. To put it in perspective: a mere two weeks ago, the Lonely Forest played Bonnaroo to a crowd of thousands of people who’d kicked down $200-plus each for a ticket. A ticket to see the band Fri., June 22 at Catapult? $12—and Saturday’s all-day show is free. If the Lonely Forest is looking at their music career as some kind of cash grab, well, they’re doing it all wrong.
Although they’re Anacortes’ reigning musical darlings, the Lonely Forest is far from the only talent on this stacked roster. Joining them at the Friday show will be Special Explosion (handpicked by the Lonely Forest) and Cumulus (Alex Niedzialkowski, a musician who we Bellinghamsters would love to claim as our own owing to her time here, but she does, in fact, hail from Anacortes). Saturday will see more Anacortes natives and transplants, in the form of Little Elephant, Sleepy Lagoon, and BellaMaine, showing off what their town is made of, along with Kithkin, Learning Team, Cat From Hue, Us On Roofs, Candysound, and more, all of which will play for free.
In summary, while Van Deusen will not roll over and play dead or catch a Frisbee in his mouth (although I’m not sure about either of those things, as they may lie well within his skill set), he will appear with his band the Lonely Forest at Anacortes’ Catapult Festival, where you can see them play in their hometown for a fraction of what those suckers at Bonnaroo paid. I guess there really is no place like home.
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