Downstream: Giving the finger to the 40th richest person in the world since 2017.
Downstream: Giving the finger to the 40th richest person in the world since 2017.

Created as a rebuke to Paul Allen's huge Upstream Music Fest + Summit, Downstream Music Fest is a much humbler affair that happens concurrently with the bigger event at Substation, May 11-13. While Upstream will host over 200 acts, Downstream—booked by Substation talent buyer/musician Tim Basaraba (aka TBASA)—will showcase around 25 to 30. In an e-mail interview, Basaraba says, "My only direction [for Downstream's lineup] was, 'Paul Allen should be afraid of these bands.'" Will Mr. Allen even hear these bands? Doubtful. But anyway...

The best known name on Downstream's bill is former Common Market rapper RA Scion, compared to high-profiled Upstream headliners such as Dinosaur Jr., Flying Lotus, and Poliça.

Elaborating on the impetus to hold Downstream Festival and his goal with the event, Basaraba notes, "Smaller venues historically have been hurt by the ‘in city festival.’ In fact, most give up on solid programming during Capitol Hill Block Party weekend and Blundershoot [sic]. I always thought this was the wrong approach; I thought of it as a great opportunity to give real music fans in the city a less expensive and more genuine option to see good music."

This is not Basaraba's first counter programming rodeo. In 2014, he created West Seattle Rock Party to be the antithesis of CHBP. "It worked; we had absolutely no one drive from Bellevue and point at the locals behind fenced walls—all we had was 10 bands over two days that played good, sometimes great rock music.

"The day Upstream was announced," Basaraba says, "I was determined to create another ‘Ankle Biter’ festival, this time at Substation in Ballard (we don't say Frelard anymore). I created a Facebook community page that mimicked the Upstream page and got to work on filling the three-day festival with 25-plus bands."

In the initial planning stages for Downstream, Basaraba asked bands to send him their screenshot rejections from Upstream, but Upstream often took too long in responding, so Basaraba only received them from a few artists. He plowed on, with his goal to "represent all genres, especially those that would be marginalized by Upstream. I reached out to the community we have created at Substation for co-conspirators. Ones that would get the spirit of irreverence that I was going for. In doing so we had six sponsored stages over three days."

Downstream acts evenly split 100 percent of the door.

As for Substation itself, it's nearing its second anniversary, and has added more rehearsal rooms and a fully functioning recording studio. Basaraba says the club's experienced some missteps regarding its booking strategy, as he tries to balance just how "'out there' we can go to keep it weird but also be financially responsible. When some guy had mic'd up a cement mixer onstage, I knew we had gone too far, but it is nice to be able to push those boundaries."

As for the future, Substation is "focusing on nurturing the relationships that we have made since creating a sustainable foundation. This foundation is being a place where people in bands go to see good bands. The norms will eventually ‘get it.’"

MAY 11
Metal Main Stage (Sponsored by Metal Mondays In Seattle)
American Wrecking Company
Blood And Thunder
Oxygen Destroyer

Noise Back Stage (Sponsored by PRISONFOOD)
Holographic Beast
Red Squirrels
Ox Hunger

MAY 12
Main Stage (Sponsored by music blog Alt Fanclub)
Tit Nun
Trannysaurus Rox
Jugs of Blood

Back Stage (Sponsored by TBASA)
Crystal Desert
Oliver Elf Army
Vigilante Santos

MAY 13
Main Stage (Sponsored by Nacho Mama's Tamales)
Witch Ripper
Stereo Creeps
Kings Of Cavalier

Back Stage (Sponsored by HipHop Mondays)
RA Scion
Peace & Red Velvet
Call & Falon Sierra
Shorty Loves Me