It feels good to be in the midst of music-festival season. With Sasquatch! and Folklife still fresh in the rearview, and Capitol Hill Block Party and Bumbershoot waiting just around the corner, things are looking bright for Northwest audiophiles. Opportunities to see excellent live acts abound.
But there’s a lesser-known festival, on June 20-23, worth considering. It’s called Noise for the Needy, and it has something these others lack: nonprofit status.
Since its inception in 2004, the small group of volunteers who set up Noise for the Needy have brought bands together to play benefit shows.
“Our headliners are our charities,” said director and co-founder Richard Green. “That is one of the ways we distinguish ourselves from other festivals.”
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That charity changes every year. In 2011, the festival raised $23,430 for Real Change. Last year, they raised over $24,000 for the Seattle Community La Center.
Typically, the festival takes place at venues spread across the city. This time around, however, all the shows are in Ballard — at the Tractor Tavern, Sunset Tavern, Conor Byrne and Hattie’s Hat. The proceeds will go to the Ballard Food Bank.
Like so many other Seattle institutions, Noise for the Needy has gone hyperlocal.
Green said the neighborhood focus allows the festival to serve a dual purpose. This year, Noise for the Needy will raise more than cash for its beneficiary; it will also improve community awareness.
“Obviously the money’s really going to help, but [the food bank] is really interested in connecting with a younger audience and letting them know what they do and that they’re right down the street,” he said.
The 2013 lineup leans toward Northwest acts, too. Oregon bands Horse Feathers and Orgone are on the bill, as are Seattle acts like The Maldives, singer-songwriter Kris Orlowski, funk maestros Polyrhythmics and lauded cover band “The Rolling Stones.”
Previous years have featured larger names like Talib Kwali, Okkervil River and Hey Marseilles, but Jeffery Greene, the festival’s artistic director — he’s a co-founder too — thinks this year’s music is well-suited for the Ballard crowd, and local up-and-comers are a better fit for Noise for the Needy’s modest budget.
“The overhead is lower, so you can pile up money from well-attended small shows,” he said,
It’s also helpful that most of the bands choose to play Noise for the Needy for free, or at reduced rates.
Ben Bloom, one of the founders of Polyrhymthmics, said the band chose to headline the festival for far less than the band’s “market value” because the members are interested in food-justice issues.
“In the United States, we all feel that hunger should be a nonissue,” Bloom said. “We have plenty of food, there’s just a lot of red tape keeping it from people.”
So far, it looks like Seattleites share Bloom’s enthusiasm for solving food issues — or at least his passion for music. Full-festival wristbands have already sold out, but tickets for individual shows are still available online.
Joseph Sutton-Holcomb: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @analogmelon