Every November local Seattle indie record label Freakout Records holds an annual festival. Originally starting in 2013 by Guy Keltner’s desire to showcase local rock bands under the title of “Psychedelic Holiday Freakout Festival,” it’s since grown. Freakout Records then came and made the event into the “Freakout Fest” it is today.
Each year the event is held in a different neighborhood in Seattle utilizing local businesses and bars for performances. This year it came back to Ballard November 16-17th. What has become a dependable showcase of local talent grew this year as they brought in bands from around the US, Mexico, and even the UK.
Myself and another RMR writer came out for the festivities. While my fellow writer was more intent on this year’s inclusion of several hip-hop acts, my sights were set primarily on the bands. I set out Friday and Saturday night to absorb all the local acts I know and love, as well as some of the popular out of town bands.
It was a cold night in Ballard when I set out with my scarf and multiple layers ready to be elbow-deep in hearty tall-boy guzzling and hot rock-n-roll. I also came ready for the weekend with two full gram cartridges of delicious oil for my vape pens. One was a reliable Soul Assassin hybrid cartridge from Leaf Werx. The other was a crazy delicious Cookiewreck raw CO2 cart from Landrace Labs. I highly recommend either for a warming high that keeps your brain buzzing.
The first band on my line-up for Friday was Denver psych-dream-rock band, Flaural. These dudes set me into a straight up trance. No doubt from the driving drums, thumping bass, delayed guitar, catchy keyboard work, and washed-out vocals from frontman Collin Johnson (what an amazing name…) I highly recommend scoping these guys.
I was then able to run around and catch sets from my friends in Brackets who bring so many elements of technical rock and pop-punk to the table that I can’t deny my enjoyment. This came after I caught the tail-end of Chris King & The Gutterballs set in the Filson store that was both intimate and energetic. Next came a somber, yet eloquent set from the ever wonderful local star, Sassyblack at Lagunitas.
On my way to Sassyblack I made a stop at Conor Byne to scope Portland group, Roselit Bone. These folks brought an insane vibe that was emanating largely from band leader Josh McCaslin. Imagine pandrogyne cowboy, with mascara smearing as they’re shredding guitar and wailing at the top of their lungs. Combine this with a day of the dead feel while trumpets weep and you got one crazy performance.
The end of my evening was spent enjoying the witchy, scuzzy rock treatments of LA’s Death Valley Girls. Vocalist Bonnie Bloomgarden brought tangible energy to the room between captivating vocal shrieks and howls. Aside from lead guitarist Larry Schemel shredding on ZZ Top-esque riffs, the ladies on drums and bass lent support to Bloomgarden’s powerful chorus lines.
For the second evening of Freakout Fest I came ready for more powerful live music. I met up with my fellow RMR writer to chief a few blunts and scope some hip hop acts. I caught sets from Koga Shabazz, Smash Bros, and JusMoni. Each lit up the stage, but JusMoni really brought the sultry vibes that I love.
Local upbeat rockers, Biblioteka put on a great performance at Conor Byrne earlier in the night that I saw. Their new female vocalist has been a favorable addition to their sound. In that same regard Tres Leches are another killer local indie rock group that filled up Cafe Umbria with their catchy tunes.
During Porter Ray‘s dope set I unfortunately had to make a break for The Sunset to make it in to see legendary Portland rockers, The Shivas. I’ve brought up energy a lot but goddamn did this band bring the heat. They had The Sunset literally at capacity throughout their performance. I had to wait a bit for re-entry at one point but it was well worth it. These guys put on a raucously groovy performance that had people bopping and moving. They’ve been rocking stages since 2006 and have a bevy of recorded material you should check out.
After The Shivas I went over to see some of Stas Thee Boss‘s set which I found to be exquisite from her witty word-play and chill beat selection. My last stop of the night was to Conor Byrne to scope the wild vibes of local punk group, MONSTERWATCH. Holy shit did these guys have the whole bar going full-throttle. I was standing up on the benches lining the wall as the vocalist dove into the crowd and surfed around yelling into the mic. As he re-took the stage several pits broke out of happily thrashing listeners. It was a spectacle to behold.
Thank you Freakout Records for inviting RMR out for a raging time in the heart of Ballard. Feel free to invite us back next year!