Upstream has announced their final lineup, adding over 200 more bands to an already mind-boggling array of artists playing the inaugural three-day music festival in May, which will be centered around Pioneer Square.
Lovers of '90s alt-rock can get to see J Mascis on the main stage with Dinosaur Jr. Also performing on the main stage is the multifaceted rapper, performer and entrepreneur Jay Park of the Seattle-based b-boy crew, Art of Movement (AOM).
Almost all the regional heavy hitters have stages: like Sub Pop, Kill Rock Stars, and Barsuk Records, among others. Upstream community partner KEXP has a big presence, too, commanding 5 stages that showcases artists from Gilbreath’s Earshot Jazz Festival, and Johnny Horn’s blues show. KEXP DJ Darek Mazzone will present world music on the Wo' Pop stage. Venues like Vera, Showbox, Kremwerk, Nectar Lounge, and Tractor Tavern will all have their own stages.
But Upstream’s curator Meli Darby also tapped into some local and semi-hidden talent for stage-support as well – like the popular dance party Night Shift, arts collective LoveCityLove, and Rain City Rock Camp.
Kirt Debique of Brick Lane Records did a double take when he was asked to both perform on and curate a stage for the festival. He’ll be performing along with Iska Dhaaf, Raven Matthews, producer Erik Blood and rap wunderkind DoNormaal.
"The Brick Lane collective has always been passionate about the Seattle (and Northwest) artistic community, and it was immediately apparent the Upstream folks were on the same tip," Debique says.
Other stage curators say that even though the music festival is funded by a billionaire, the festival's intentions are community-oriented.
"They aren’t exploiting a DIY aesthetic, they’re fostering real working talent from little pockets around the city," said TUF members Cate McGehee and Isabel von der Ahe in an email. Upstream invited TUF to book a stage in part, according to McGehee and von der Ahe, to achieve fair (or fairer, at least) gender representation across the festival. The group chose seven performers from their collective of female-identified and non-binary creators and DJ’s to head up their stage, such as Afro-Cuban artist Guayaba, spinning latinx dancehall hip hop, and DJ Reverend Dollars (aka Renee Jarreau Greene)
"Seattle music scenes often sees very little crossover and tend to face inward, and while there’s serious talent being nurtured in niche communities, a lot of the time these artists don’t get citywide exposure they might elsewhere," they write.
Curator Marco Collins was "flattered" when asked to create a stage that melds brand-new artists with old favorites. "I think I nailed the perfect blend of revered legends & defiant newbies," he writes in an email. For his stage, Collins brought in a house music production team called Late Nights, Early Mornings, and the (recently reunited) Seattle indie band The Long Winters, among others.
Other local bands that have been added to the lineup: Gazebos, Dude York, Industrial Revelation, Hobosexual, Jenn Champion, Lisa Prank, Lemolo, Kung Fu Grip - the list goes on. According to the festival, they received over 1200 applications from regional artists, and thanks to Paul Allen money and Darby’s depth of local knowledge, it seems like a more than healthy amount has been included. Seriously, the scope of Upstream, for its first year, is unreal – it’s already creating that how-can-I split-myself-in-five type of anxiety specific to big festivals that happen in a compressed amount time.
Finally, in an effort to expand the regional reach of Upstream, they’ve added bands like - be still my heart - Quasi, hip hop artist The Last Artful Dodgr and the ever-original electronic singer-producer Natasha Kmeto from Portland, masked electro duo Magic Sword from Boise, ID, and indie pop-rockers Said The Whale of Vancouver BC, among many others. In fact, in more than just a nod to our Northern neighbors – there’s a Canada/Music BC stage that occurs on all three nights.
Find tickets and more info here.