With the kind of hyperbole that is typical of proclamations made or opinions stated via social media, a Facebook friend posted the following a few days ago with regard to the Anacortes Unknown Music Series: “If I still lived within 1,000 miles of Anacortes, I would do anything necessary to attend this amazing event, which has maybe the best lineup of anything ever.”
It’s possible this is a slight overstatement. However, it is just as possible this particular friend finds Anacortes and its arts community to be just as charming as I do.
But, back to the Unknown, as it applies to whatdoings in Anacortes.
A couple of years ago, the decision was made to sunset the decade-old What the Heck Fest in favor of a music series that would be smaller, easier to manage and could happen more than once a year. After a decade’s worth of existence, What the Heck was much-beloved, highly anticipated every year and undeniably successful. Scheduled to coincide with the town-wide celebration and garage sale known as Shipwreck Day, What the Heck saturated the small town with music both local and from parts far and wide, as well as a community dinner and other harmless community-building shenanigans.
Created by Beat Happening member, Knw-Yr-Own Records founder and all-around Anacortes magic-maker Bret Lunsford, What the Heck came about because Lunsford took a look around what was happening in the town’s music scene, wanted to shine a light on it and thought, “What the heck? Why not?” when the idea of a festival came to him. And the rest is an indelible part of Anacortes’ fertile musical history.
However, What the Heck was always a festival of a different stripe. Rather than the exclusivity that comes with bigger, more corporate festivals, What the Heck, with its low ticket prices and emphasis on community dinners and other events that would bring festival-goers together, was about inclusivity. As it evolved over the years, that emphasis remained firmly intact, but as What the Heck grew bigger and bigger (as hugely successful things tend to do), its inclusivity was never endangered, but became harder to maintain.
Plus, have you ever tried to organize such an event? Neither have I, but I imagine it must be exhausting.
So, bucking the trend that bigger is always better and growth only goes in one direction, the powers that be behind What the Heck, decided to downsize a little, hoping that what they gave up in size, they could gain in frequency.
And this is how the Anacortes Unknown Music Series came into being. Centered on a decommissioned church (dubbed the Unknown, from which the series draws its name), the series was launched last July, and its first installment featured many What the Heck Festival stalwarts and favorites. As well, the community dinner that was so important to What the Heck attendees made its way into the Unknown Series schedule as well. By all accounts, swapping one festival with a cryptic name for a music series with an equally cryptic one was an unqualified success.
Which leads us to the Anacortes Unknown Music Series, Vol. II. The theme for this iteration is “Ours,” and the events themselves take place Sat., March 23 at the Unknown. While its ownership-claiming name suggests many meanings (indeed Unknown organizers say it’s meant to “create a sense of belonging”), it coincides with an exhibition at Anchor Art Space, also called “Ours.” The community dinner remains central to the event, and the ticket price also includes the opportunity to pull up a chair at the table.
When it comes to the performers chosen for the second volume of the Unknown, ladies rule the day. Olympia’s Broken Water (a band that has made its way to Bellingham on occasion, to great acclaim) will be on hand, as will Earth cellist Lori Goldston. Genevieve Castree, one of the curators of the event, will take the stage as well, under her musical moniker O Paon (you may also recognize her as Woelv, her former name). Also on tap is Hungry Cloud Darkening’s Allyson Foster, and the duo of Kate Davidson and M. Ritchey, who call themselves Lloyd & Michael. Of course since the event has a start time of 4pm and runs until midnight (or later), this is just a sampling of what you’ll find should you choose to accept this mission and enter the Unknown.
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