Adam Zacks had been eyeing Port Townsend’s Fort Worden for about a decade. The decommissioned military base-turned-state park on the artsy Olympic Peninsula town’s northeast tip, offering Puget Sound views, seemed like an ideal location for an event.
With multiple stages and buildings — including McCurdy Pavilion, an old zeppelin hangar converted into a 1,200-seat auditorium — Fort Worden already hosts the annual Jazz Port Townsend festival and Zacks decided to test the waters with a pair of Modest Mouse concerts last summer. Their success gave the Sasquatch! Music Festival founder and Seattle Theatre Group programming boss confidence to launch his THING festival there next weekend.
Capped at 5,000 tickets per day (kids 13 and under are free), the Aug. 24-25 boutique fest promises to be a much more low-key, family-friendly affair than Sasquatch, though Zacks’ indie sensibilities similarly mark the lineup led by Jeff Tweedy, Kurt Vile and the Violators, De La Soul, Violent Femmes, Calexico and Iron & Wine, Khruangbin, Café Tacvba and more.
Beyond music, THING incorporates live podcasts, a comedy set from Todd Barry, a “Napolean Dynamite” screening plus a Q&A with the actors, talks by actor Natasha Lyonne and writer Lindy West, and other entertainment. Think the intimate, indie-centric appeal of Pickathon meets Bumbershoot’s music-and-more approach to programming.
“It’s so different in flavor from the direction most festivals are going because there’s a movement towards commercial pop music because they’re needing to draw so many people to make the economics of it work,” Zacks said earlier this spring. “So, there’s some liberty found in being restricted by the size of this event and we’re able to basically have non-household-name headliners.”
Household names or no, here’s a small sampling of performances worth circling on THING’s schedule.
Saturday, Aug. 24
Hailed as an indie-rock wunderkind, Lindsey Jordan was already fielding label offers before her 18th birthday. The buzz around the young songwriter boiled over to the digital front pages of just about every indie-music rag when her breakout debut album “Lush” caught fire last year. The now-20-year-old’s blend of ’90s indie rock and folk charmed a sold-out Neptune crowd earlier this year, despite the singer/guitarist battling a cold, further justifying the hype. 3:30 p.m., Parade Grounds
Sub Pop’s masked queer cowboy has drummed up plenty of buzz with his psych-tinged debut, “Pony,” a dusty batch of outlaw noir serving as a PSA that modern country music is more inclusive than the radio-backed odes to beer and girls would have us believe. The punk-rock transplant howls and croons references to desert city lights and life on the run like a less God-fearing Johnny Cash. 3:40 p.m., McCurdy Pavilion
Jarrod Bramson Memorial
This spring, Port Townsend lost one of its brightest musicians in Jarrod Paul Bramson, 43, founder of folk-leaning indie-rock act Solvents. Bramson’s wife, violinist and Solvents co-captain Emily Madden, leads a tribute set to her late husband featuring past and present Solvents members and other guests performing Bramson’s songs. 6 p.m., Wheeler Theatre
John Reilly & Friends
Yes, that John (C.) Reilly. Turns out Will Ferrell’s fictional stepbro can carry a rootsy tune, leading his harmony-happy Americana troupe with a warmly husky voice and steady strumming hand. Bolstering Wreck-It Ralph’s musical cred, Reilly earned a Grammy nomination with the title song to Judd Apatow’s music biopic spoof “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” in which Reilly starred, and cut a pair of singles on Jack White’s Third Man Records back in 2011. 7:50 p.m., McCurdy Pavilion
“An Officer and a Gentleman” live reading
Seattle filmmaker Megan Griffiths directs a surprise cast through an unrehearsed live reading of the 1980s classic filmed at Fort Worden. With a number of actors slated to appear at the fest throughout the weekend — including Reilly, Lyonne, plus Stephen Tobolowsky, who is doing a live podcast taping — let the speculation begin. 10:15 p.m., McCurdy Pavilion
Sunday, Aug. 25
Tank and the Bangas
The New Orleans originals were a hit at last year’s Sasquatch, so it’s no wonder Zacks recruited the lively hip-hop band for his new fete. Led by rapper/singer/poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball, the genre-fusing ensemble that first turned heads with a 2017 Tiny Desk Concert unifies soul, jazz, funk, dexterous rapping and spoken word that refuses to be boxed in. While the group’s anticipated sophomore album “Green Balloon” has its savory moments, Tank and the Bangas’ recorded output hasn’t matched the energy and dynamism of their live shows — a high bar indeed. 4:30 p.m., Littlefield Green
Houston’s ultra sly soul-psych trio should serve up appropriately mellow dance-party fodder under a descending sun. The purveyors of laid-back, psychedelic funk meld influences from around the globe into a blissful and largely instrumental sound that’s put them in front of ever-growing crowds. This summer Khruangbin, whose sets were highlights at Pickathon this month, issued a dub reworking of their breakout “Con Todo El Mundo” LP, somehow making their beach-friendly sound even more chill. 6:30 p.m., Littlefield Green
Wilco’s main man has been busy of late, knocking out a pair of solo albums accompanying a New York Times bestselling memoir before another full-band effort arrives in October. With Tweedy’s first solo album of new originals, “WARM,” the alt-country king proved his Stetson crown fits just as snugly on his own, with death and fatherhood on his mind, the latter especially fitting as his sons play on the record. The indie-rock great is perhaps the biggest name at a festival shirking typical headliners. 7:30 p.m., Parade Grounds
THING. Aug. 24-25; Fort Worden Historical State Park, 200 Battery Way, Port Townsend; two-day passes start at $249.50, single-day tickets sold out, kids 13 and under free; thingnw.org