The end of every outdoor concert should have a lantern parade and brass band play out the crowd. As my partner and I were leaving the Parade Grounds after Fleet Foxes’ performance Friday …
As my partner and I were leaving the Parade Grounds after Fleet Foxes’ performance Friday evening at THING, the departing crowd seemed to meld into the lantern parade. Since it was on the way to our bikes, I decided we’d stick with it, despite not having a lantern.
It didn’t matter.
It was easy to be mesmerized by the colorful paper globes bobbing above the crowd as everyone shimmied to the beat of Port Townsend’s beloved Unexpected Brass Band. The parade ended next to the Sound Cave and turned into a full-on dance party under a star-filled sky with a rising half-full super blue moon.
These kinds of moments are what I live for at outdoor summer music festivals.
As impressive as it was for nationally and internationally touring bands to come to our center of the universe, in the end, THING felt very local.
It was even a sweet homecoming for Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold, confessing PT ties: he created the fantastic album “Helplessness Blues” in a house five minutes down the road, and even attended the Port Townsend School of Woodworking for three months.
“Yeah, but what grocery store did you shop at?” quipped a festival-goer behind me.
“What’s your co-op number?”
THING has the makings of a large festival, with Seattle Theatre Group and the founder of the Sasquatch! Music Festival behind it, but it didn’t feel overwhelming with crushing crowds and constantly long lines. As a veteran of attending and working at music festivals and outdoor amphitheaters since the early 2000s, THING felt different.
While the event organizers curated a great lineup across several stages, pop-up music and art was around every corner. The local recording studio Salish Sound and Port Townsend Record Shop booth played to passing crowds in the market. Local painter Mike Biskup brought in a small jam band for his booth Saturday evening. Painter Jesse Higman played electronic music during his community mural paint sessions.
During performances that attracted the biggest crowds, it still felt completely feasible to make your way to the front of the crowd and see the sweat of the musicians and the grain of their guitars and not be crushed, or sit in the back and spread out your blanket with family and friends, and still have a great view and great acoustics.
Despite having a wristband, I had to remind myself several times that some of THING’s offerings didn’t require a wristband — attendees could get just as much enjoyment with the art, music, food and interactive booths. It would have been easy to bring a picnic blanket with friends to the parade grounds like any other weekend — there just happened to be great music in the background (and a lot more sparkles and bubbles).
We ended our THING experience with Thee Sacred Souls, which cruised into a rocking bluesy set for a late Sunday afternoon that felt appropriate. The world was finally awake, with maybe a tinge of festival hangover, but ready to dance out the weekend.
But it also felt appropriate for a general summery Sunday afternoon in Port Townsend. While THING music curators created a great set for the weekend, it felt specifically curated for Port Townsend itself, playing off the town’s chill, laid-back, artsy and lighthearted vibe.
As a friend of mine said, “Everyone is here. Everyone from town is here.”
And they should be. Because it felt like it was made for them.