It’s understandable that Adam Zacks didn’t want to do just another music fest after pulling the plug on his beloved Sasquatch! last year, due to slumping ticket sales amid an ever-saturating festival market. Given the booking credibility the Sasquatch! Music Festival and Seattle Theatre Group programming chief had built up over the Northwest institution’s 17-year run, there was understandable buzz last week when word came of his latest endeavor — THING, a multidisciplinary music and arts fest taking over Port Townsend’s Fort Worden State Park Aug. 24-25.
“I didn’t have much interest in doing yet another music festival,” Zacks said in an interview. “There’s so many of them now it’s become a little bit of a joke, certainly with the Fyre Festival documentaries. It’s part of the national conversation in a way that I don’t really love, so I figured if I was going to do another event I would want it to be something original and stuff I’m passionate about.”
On Monday, we learned what exactly his new “THING” entails when the lineup spanning music, podcast tapings, film, dance, comedy, art and more was announced. While THING looks to be far more intimate than Sasquatch, local music fans will easily spot Zacks’ indie sensibilities coursing through a lineup stuffed with acts worth circling on the schedules of much larger festivals.
The music roster is led by Violent Femmes, hip-hop heroes De La Soul, Mexico alt-rock vets Café Tacvba, Calexico and indie-folk great Iron & Wine (who drop a collaborative album through Sub Pop this summer), Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, indie-rock stoner poet Kurt Vile & the Violators and instrumental soul-psych trio Khruangbin.
Elsewhere, New Orleans hip-hop/soul/funk troupe Tank and the Bangas bring their stomp-and-soothe live party to Fort Worden alongside NYC rockers Parquet Courts, Phosphorescent, breakout singer-songwriter Snail Mail, Japanese Breakfast and actor John Reilly with his namesake Americana group. Also performing are Sudan Archives, Sub Pop’s buzzy new psych-country singer Orville Peck, Junius Meyvant, jazz drummer Makaya McCraven (whose coolheaded beats delighted a packed Royal Room last Friday), Bedouine, Fontaines D.C., rising Northwest indie-rock songwriter Black Belt Eagle Scout, Seattle faves The Black Tones and kindie rocker Caspar Babypants.
“The intent was to do something entirely new and fresh, and I learned pretty quick it’s nearly impossible to take my imprint off of it just because I’m drawn to what I’m drawn to,” Zacks said.
Beyond music, THING features Napoleon Dynamite Live!, a conversation with the cast and screening of the cult-classic film; talks with actress Natasha Lyonne and Seattle writer Lindy West; podcast tapings of Macaulay Culkin’s Bunny Ears, The Tobolowsky Files and Too Beautiful to Live with Luke Burbank and Andrew Walsh; plus stand-up comedy Todd Barry and mentalist/performance artist Scott Silven. Festivalgoers can also take dance and yoga classes, and stroll through Architects of Air’s Luminarium — an inflatable sculpture of tunnels and domes.
Tickets go on sale 9 a.m. Friday, April 26, running $99.50 for a single-day pass and $189.50 for both days, though kids 13 and under are free. On May 3, prices increase by $10-$20; then on Aug. 18, they jump again to $129.50 per day/$249.50 for the weekend. An online presale runs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, April 25 using the promo code “STG”. Various camping and lodging accommodations are available at thingnw.org, with the main campground a few blocks from Fort Worden at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. Some of the decommissioned military base’s old barracks and officer quarters in converted Victorian houses will also be available to rent.
By making THING a more laid-back, family-friendly affair, Zacks hopes to appeal to former Sasquatch attendees who aged out of their peak festival-going days — one of the fest’s challenges in its final years. As hard as it was to walk away from Sasquatch, Zacks is happily looking to the future with THING, which he plans to make an annual event.
“I don’t feel like these type of events need to last forever. It’s probably better if they don’t,” Zacks said. “Things can end and it’s OK, and usually that opens the door for new things. That’s exactly what’s happening here.”