Last October, it took a passionate group of Ballard-area promoters, venue owners, and personalities to sweep the Macefield Music Festival together from the scattered ashes of Seattle Weekly's sixth-annual Reverb Music Festival after the publication officially canceled it just over a month before it was scheduled to take place. The result was a rebranded and rebooked all-day musical celebration that was exciting, and well-attended enough, to bring it back for a second year. This time, the festival grounds will include eight stages (over last year's three), which will play host to nearly 80 bands—a massive undertaking that resembles the ambitious bookings of Reverbs past.
The similarity is no mistake—festival booker Kwab Copeland is a carryover from the fest's previous incarnation and a firm believer in maintaining the musical tradition of the neighborhood. "Over the last 20 years, Ballard has maintained a vibrant music scene, mainly through the efforts of folks at the Tractor, the Sunset, Conor Byrne, etc." Copeland explains via e-mail. "But then you go back to the years of the Backstage, and then back even further to Ballard as a rough fishing village, and music has always played a part. Edith Macefield, who we named the festival after, was a musician in Ballard (she played the clarinet and the saxophone) long before she made the famous decision not to sell her house [to developers]."
Copeland and his team have also tacked on a few comedy acts to the billing (fingers crossed John Keister will put on a Ballard driving clinic!), all-ages indoor and outdoor stages, and the Macefield Market, a two-day pop-up market that features a poster exhibition, record swap, and trade show, with clothing and crafts vendors, plus a beer-and-drink garden.
But the bands! See as many as you can, of course, but here are a few you should officially not miss (in chronological order):
(Friday, 7:15 pm, Tractor Tavern)
Like the rest of his ILLFIGHTYOU fam, Tacoma's UGLYFRANK is a breathless advocate for reckless behavior when he touches the mic. Filling every inch of his chosen West Coast–style beats with rapid-fire, multi-peak lines, FRANK's vocals are fuel that can ignite any room.
(Friday, 9 pm, Sunset Tavern)
An eclectic hometown six-piece, Inly lay gorgeous folk-style singing in the vein of Radiation City over soft piano and percussion. Slow psychobilly/surf guitar and muted horns augment the tender mix.
(Friday, 8 pm, KEXP Main Stage)
Tacoma garage-rock pioneers the Sonics remind us that Grit City has been rolling tough since back in the day. Not only did they know how to rock catchy lyrics and riff progressions as well as the Kinks, but singer Gerry Roslie wailed like a beast, which not everybody had the guts to do in the early 1960s. Earn a couple of Northwest rock history points on this one.
(Friday, 11:30 pm, Tractor Tavern)
All the smashing and bellowing you'd expect from the Murder City Devils drummer and Karp bassist/vocalist, but throw in the fact that the two also play with the Melvins, and you're already sold. The LA-based band's 2014 album, Battlefields Forever, is the first on their own Gold Metal Records imprint, and it's a collection of big, bad, sinister guitar lines, Viking-strength vocals, and burning long-form songwriting.
(Friday, 11:45 pm, Conor Byrne)
Sage is a band I'm surprised didn't take off during the early-/mid-'90s (and so is their bio writer, who boldly quoth, "Sage is one of the most unfairly overlooked bands in Seattle music history"). The Seattle three-piece had all the technical prowess, pained grunge vocals, freak-funk-flecked bass, and loud-soft versatility to grab any major-label A&R's ears in those fruitful days. Their inventive rocktail could very well have been too complex for the masses back then, but it might be perfect for today.
(Saturday, 11:30 pm, Tractor Tavern)
The hypercreative Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White thrive in the vocal-jazz-meets-hiphop sweet spot they've created for themselves. Their live set is all about style, and whether you've seen them kick their flavor over those rolling samples and gently knocking beats before or not, it'll be worth the trip. My bet is you'll hear a new jam or two, as well.
(Saturday, 11:45 pm, Sunset Tavern)
Each part of Helms Alee's attack is impressive: Ben Verellen's twisted guitar lines and relentless howl coupled with Dana James's counterbalanced singing and bass harmonies, with the drumming of Hozoji Matheson-Margullis, who puts on a show all her own behind the kit. This will be the most badass way to close out your Saturday.