Shaina Shepherd at Freakout Fest this weekend.
Shaina Shepherd at Freakout Fest this weekend. JP Martin Photography

Despite this weekend's wind and rain, Seattle turned out for Freakout Records' ninth annual psychedelic Freakout Festival in Ballard.

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Running Thursday to Sunday and spread across eight venues, dozens of bands treated audiences to melting faces, liquid light shows, the sweet tunes of theEEEEeeee Michael Imperioli's band Zopa, delicious noodles from Plenty of Clouds' food truck, and a lot of booze. Adding to this year's fun, Freakout Records invited Mexico City's NRMAL festival to curate nine artists hailing from Mexico, Colombia, and Arizona, giving Seattleites a chance to see new faces.

After skipping up and down Ballard Ave again this year, I've reached a verdict: Freakout Fest is the best fest in Seattle. I love it so much.

Like 2019's Freakout Fest, Mad Alchemy's live analog liquid light show in Tractor Tavern and the neighborhood's Salmon Bay Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) club gave an essential layer of trippiness to the proceedings. Led by Lance Gordon, the San Francisco-based group composes their visuals by mixing a goopy concoction of alcohol and oil on spinning glass plates underneath a colored projector. They then overlay many different projections to get the swirling, kaleidoscopic images that fill venues. While I didn't indulge in anything psychoactive this weekend, being swathed in the bright swirling colors while watching psych-rock kings The Seeds absolutely go the fuck off for "Up in Her Room" at the Tractor made me feel like I was tripping balls. The mezcal helped.

There were several points throughout the festival where I felt like I was inside a kaleidoscope.
Inside a kaleidoscope at the FOE's upper stage JP Martin Photography

Tucson's Los Esplifs gave, undoubtedly, two of the most fun performances of the entire festival. I first saw them at the FOE's upper level on Friday, where the high ceilings became the perfect backdrop to Mad Alchemy's psychedelic compositions. Probably owing to the midnight set time, the crowd got real rowdy—shouting at the band and each other, knocking back drinks and dancing to the cumbia-inflected rhythms. Bandleaders Saul Millan and Caleb Michel were masters of ceremonies that night, guiding their multi-member band through energetic cuts like "Perro Rabioso" and "Un Solo Golpe." Their Saturday night set on Cloudburst's outdoor stage was considerably less rambunctious but no less fun, well worth standing out in the rain for.

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Other highlights:

  • Zopa's Michael Imperioli fucking shredding on a guitar during a very bass-forward set at Hotel Albatross.
  • Cedric Burnside laying down some Mississippi blues at Tractor Tavern and in between songs asking people to dance. (My friend commented that it was "the whitest blues crowd" she'd ever seen, and I was inclined to agree.)
  • Shaina Shepherd's afro-puffs.
  • The bilingual stylings of Petite Amie on the bottom floor stage of the FOE, who ended their performance by kicking over a drum set.
  • The mosh pit that formed at Rainbow Coalition Death Cult's boisterous Sunday night set.

    And perhaps the festival's biggest winner, at least for this queer 27-year-old, was the Eagles club itself, which hosted two different stages this year. Not only did they have a smoking patio and bathrooms labeled "Eagles" and "Eaglettes," but I kept noticing the upstairs room's walls, which were lined with pictures of members from years past. I got a kick out of the contrast between the old dudes on the wall and the grungy, psychedelic bands annihilating the stage. Who knew an FOE could be so cool? I didn't!

    Petite Amies dream poppy set oscillated between quiet and loud, feeling both celebratory and a little existential. It was also super sweaty!
    Petite Amie's dream poppy set oscillated between quiet and loud, feeling celebratory and a little existential. It was also super sweaty! JP Martin Photography

    Terror/Cactus at Tractor Tavern.
    Terror/Cactus at Tractor Tavern JP Martin Photography

    Urban Heat against a trippy backdrop via Mad Alchemy at Salmon Bays lower stage.
    Urban Heat against a trippy backdrop via Mad Alchemy at the FOE's lower stage. JP Martin Photography

    Conor Byrne also hosted its own stage for the fest. Spokanes Jango performed there on Saturday night.
    Conor Byrne also hosted its own stage for the fest. Spokane's Jango performed there on Saturday night. JP Martin Photography

    I caught the very tail-end of Shaina Shepherds set--Im so sad I missed it!
    I caught the very tail-end of Shaina Shepherd's set—I'm so sad I missed it! JP Martin Photography
    Los Angeless Death Valley Girls playing at Salmon Bay.
    Los Angeles's Death Valley Girls playing at the FOE. JP Martin Photography