Festival Review: Upstream Music Fest + Summit


Photo credit: Rod Mar

For three days, Pioneer Square went "Upstream." Over 25 stages featuring 300+ artists were spread out from CenturyLink Field to Occidental Park and beyond. In true Seattle fashion, we experienced some extremely questionable weather during Upstream Fest + Summit. But in between the clouds and downpours, we were blessed with a few fantastic sun breaks that made this fresh festival all the more special. Stages consisted of everything between humble street corners to elaborate set ups where loyal fans danced to the music of their favorite bands. This weekend I made the schlep to the main stage for amazing acts like Deep Sea Diver, Beat Connection, Flying Lotus and Shabazz Palaces, squeezed into clubs like the Comedy Underground for Thunderpussy and Dude York and watched Fauna Shade, Acid Tongue and Tangerine make the Buttnick Building and AXIS come alive. With so much quality music, vibrant people and brilliant summit speakers, I can’t help but think Upstream has found itself a permanent residence in Pioneer Square.

Seattle has always been known for an eclectic music scene, home to nearly any genre and subgenre you could think of. Upstream encapsulated this perfectly. Every kind of artist was there to represent themselves and every kind of listener was there to drink them in. One minute you could be in the Comedy Underground following Bardo:Basho down a deep house rabbit hole and the next you were dancing in the rain at the KEXP stage to the smooth sounds of COSMOS. Later you might be singing along to a beautiful “Purple Rain” cover by Ayron Jones and the Way at Flatstick Pub and then somehow end up at Elysian Fields where The Drip played that loud and fast metal music your parents hated. Experiencing as much music as possible is always what any music festival is about.

I can’t fathom the amount of time, people and paperwork it takes to make any music festival happen, let alone to craft, orchestrate and execute a brand new festival in the middle of Seattle. The first year of SXSW was unorganized and almost chaotic. Now it is one of the most popular music festivals in the country and a huge platform for emerging artists to gain exposure. Despite minor hiccups here and there, I found the atmosphere of Upstream Fest + Summit to be extremely inviting to attendees, passersby and musicians alike. Sure you needed a wristband to enter most venues but it didn’t cost anything to see incredibly talented acts like Bread & Butter, Polyrhythmics and Porter Ray at the KEXP stage. Many of the indoor venues were also visible from the street, giving anyone a chance to soak up artists they might have never seen or heard of before. What I loved most about the festival was the sense of community. Multiple times I saw artists finish a set then later found them in the crowd with me, cheering on the next act. It was clear that everyone was just thrilled to be a part of this new and exciting festival. Upstream’s mission was to promote the local music scene of Seattle, and I would like to congratulate them on a job well done. I am thankful to be a part of the first Upstream Music Fest + Summit and am already looking forward to next year.

To see more photos the Upstream's artists, click to check out our photo gallery.


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