If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me why EndFest is so good this year, then, well, I'd have about 20 bucks. But it's a good question. Local radio station 107.7 The End has gone through some pretty big changes in 2004, ditching their tired old alterna format and declaring that now "It's about the music." The station has started playing more classic punk bands (like the Ramones and the Clash), and they've also become a lot more supportive of Seattle's music scene by featuring more local bands both in regular rotation and in their studio.

So to continue with their new outlook they've coined the theme "Flashback to the Future" for this year's EndFest featuring both classic and up-and-coming acts like X, Echo and the Bunnymen, Muse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Violent Femmes, Franz Ferdinand, and the Psychedelic Furs. They also have the Seattle Stage with Harvey Danger, the Lashes, Idiot Pilot, Schoolyard Heroes, Leuko, and the reunited Super Deluxe.

Tickets are still available, starting at $10.77, and the show is on Saturday, September 25, at the White River Amphitheatre.

But maybe you're broke, or the idea of driving down to Auburn sounds completely unappealing. Well, here's your solution: The Stranger's All Ages Orientation.

To help familiarize new students with the city, The Stranger has put together a day-long/citywide treasure hunt. It starts the morning on the 25th in the U-District (the first clue is on page 24 of the Back to School section), and a series of hints will then take teams of 2-4 through various Seattle checkpoints.

If you make it through on time, you'll end up at Graceland for the final challenge (hosted by Dan Savage), where the winners will then be declared and rewarded with a crazy prize package featuring everything you'd ever need to get through the school year (free movies, records, concerts, cell phones... for the whole list, see page 24).

And to reward everyone's hard work, there will also be a free rock show at the club (starting at 8 p.m., and open to those who aren't part of the scavenger hunt as well) featuring Blue Sky Mile, the Divorce, and Vendetta Red. Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard will also be speaking, and since it's the last week before the election to sign up for an absentee ballot, Music for America and No Vote Left Behind will be on hand to register new voters.

Welcome to Seattle, kids. MEGAN SELING

megan@thestranger.com

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