Starting this Thursday and running through Sunday, Freakout Records' annual Freakout Festival takes over eight (!!!!) venues in Ballard for a long weekend of garage and psychedelic rock delight. Now in its ninth year, the festival promises face-melting guitar riffs, rambunctious live performances, and space for uptight Seattleites to get respectfully unruly to some of the best acts from the United States and south of the border (and as the saying goes, the border crossed us).
One thing carrying over from the 2019 edition of the festival is Mad Alchemy's liquid light show, which will add a lovingly retro and analog sheen to the proceedings. And remember—we're still in a pandemic. Meaning that in addition to needing to provide proof of vaccination (or a recent negative COVID test) to get into the festival, you also have to make sure to wear your mask when you're not eating or drinking. It's punk to invest in the health and safety of those around you!
Now, all that said, let's get into our six can't-miss recommendations for the weekend.
Wild Powwers' grunge-inspired music is mired in sonic muck, but it somehow gracefully floats above our heads, just out of reach. The band craftily builds solid song structures only to delightfully tear them down into a pile of thic guitar riffs and powerful percussion. On tracks like "...Sucks," off their most recent album What You Wanted, drummer Lupe Flores (of Situ Tacos fame) and bassist Jordan Gomes compose a foundation for lead singer and guitarist Lara Hilgemann to lay screams and riffs over. On Thursday, you can catch Wild Powwers on the opening day of Freakout Fest at Tractor Tavern. Go and liquefy into a pool of angst and sublimity. JAS KEIMIG
Wild Powwers plays Tractor Tavern on Thursday, November 11 at 9 pm.
Carrion Kids play Tractor Tavern on Thursday, November 11 at 10 pm and Hotel Albatross on Friday, November 12 at 7:15 pm.
Freakout Fest isn't only melt-your-face-off psych rock. The fest will feature the likes of blues musician Cedric Burnside, who headlines Tractor Tavern on Friday night. The grandson of the late blues legend R.L. Burnside, Cedric is steeped in the long tradition of Mississippi blues, also known as hill country blues, having toured with his grandfather and father throughout his life. Burnside has established a name for himself in the last decade, with his band Cedric Burnside Project snagging the 2015 Best Blues Album Grammy for Descendants of Hill Country. And earlier this year, Burnside released I Be Tryin', his second solo album that further delves into the genre's essentials: pain, grief, and perseverance. While some of the tracks off that album are gut-wrenching (the spareness of "Bird Without a Feather" or the downtrodden album opener "The World Can Be So Cold"), tracks like "You Really Love Me" and "Pretty Flowers" offer emotional bright spots and sonic grooves to dig into. Burnside's music is perfectly complementary to the glum weather. JAS KEIMIG
Cedric Burnside plays the Tractor Tavern on Friday, November 12 at 11 pm.
While not technically from Mexico, Tuscon-based Los Esplifs make their way to Freakout Fest courtesy of NRMAL. They imbue infectiously propulsive cumbia riffs into what the band calls “oddball Latinx rhythms from the Sonoran Desert.” 2021 saw the release of their debut album, Estraik Back, which draws on the wealth of talent that bandleaders Saul Millan (accordion, organ, synthesizer) and percussionist Caleb Michel have worked with over the years. Millan has shared the stage with the Mexican Institute of Sound, Calexico and Orkesta Mendoza, while Michel broke into the music industry on a stint with the Afro-Cuban All Stars. Millan oscillates between a purr and a growl in the band’s sometimes politically trenchant lyrics. “Otro País” manages to cover inflation, high rents, racism, and cross-border migration in the span of four minutes – with tight, clever rhymes in Spanish, I promise the song is way less glib than that description makes it sound. If you miss them on Friday night at the Salmon Bay Eagles, they’ll reprise on Saturday night at Cloudburst Brewing (don’t sleep on the dumplings at the Plenty of Clouds food truck). GREGORY SCRUGGS
Los Esplifs play Salmon Bay High on Friday, November 12 at 12:15 am and Cloudburst on Saturday, November 13 at 9 pm.
There’s nothing diminutive about Mexico City-based Carlos Medina’s side project from his outfit Little Jesus, which graced us in 2019 with a KEXP Live In-Studio (Petite Amie will likewise record in the KEXP studio on their Seattle swing). The gauzy, almost shoegaze, soundscapes of this dream-pop outfit lean heavily on the ethereal voices of Aline Terrein and Isabel Dosal backed by judicious use of synth and keyboards. Alternating between Spanish and French, the lyrics express a kind of existentialist ennui very suitable for our November gloom. On their self-titled debut, “Vraiment” recalls a modern-day “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” while “Sumérgete” would slot nicely into the My Bloody Valentine catalogue. With recordings only dating back to last year, Petite Amie is just in its infancy and credit to the curators at NRMAL and the bookers at Freakout for getting on the ground floor of what should be a memorable Seattle debut at the Hotel Albatross on Saturday night. GREGORY SCRUGGS
Petite Amie plays Hotel Albatross on Saturday, November 13 at 9 pm and Salmon Bay Low on Sunday, November 14 at 7:15 pm.
Liz Cooper plays Tractor Tavern on Sunday, November 14 at 11:30 pm.
Access the full lineup, schedule, and tickets for Freakout Festival here. There's a lot of good shit on that list!!!