PORT TOWNSEND — Rhian Teasdale was feeling the vibes. The lead singer/guitarist for U.K. rockers Wet Leg, easily the buzziest band playing this weekend’s THING festival, had just bopped her way through a fizzy, fun-loving indie-pop nugget when she took a minute to survey the modest Friday crowd basking in a pocket of afternoon sunshine.

“What a beautiful day,” remarked the soft-spoken frontwoman, who was as tickled to spot an illuminarium on festival grounds as she was desperate to kill time while the bass player attended to an unwanted crackle coming from his cabinet. The combination of her gentle stage presence and lyrical whimsy lightened the mood of Wet Leg’s potent blend of quirky post-punk and combustible power pop, making the absurdly hyped Brits the perfect festival rock band.

Indie rock’s “it” band of the moment was a nice “get” for the burgeoning music-and-more festival, which has quickly emerged as Washington’s best destination festival just two years in — at least from what we could tell two-thirds of the way through the three-day event, which started Friday and runs through Sunday.

After an inaugural sellout in 2019, THING returned to Port Townsend’s Fort Worden Historical State Park with another impressive lineup that struck the right mix of established indie favorites, intriguing up-and-comers and deeper-cut discoveries spanning myriad genres. Having worked out some minor first-year kinks — including scrapping a clumsy concessions ticket system — the small, family-friendly fest’s comeback edition offered everything you love about a good music festival without many of the hassles (and gouging beer prices) of its larger, more mainstream counterparts.

With only several thousand in attendance and plenty of space for more (this year, capacity slightly increased to 6,500, plus kids 12 and under who got in free), there was no elbowing required to work your way to the front while Hiatus Kaiyote delivered one of the best performances of the first two days. As the setting sun cast a golden hue over the stage that backs up to the Salish Sea, the crowd was enraptured by the Australian group’s resplendent experimental R&B. Led by singer/guitarist Nai Palm, whose voice is powerful enough to move the nearby Olympic Mountains (or at least keep those clouds parted for their hourlong set), the groove contortionists pushed and pulled their nimble tunes in jazzy, funky, soulful and unexpected directions.

THING’s primary two stages never featured overlapping set times, cutting down on the inherent FOMO with larger festivals, though storytellers from local tribes, comedians, speakers, KEXP DJs and other nonmusic programming filled various smaller spaces throughout the days. As Hiatus Kaiyote wrapped on Friday, onetime Seattleite Father John Misty settled into the most commanding local performance he’s given in years on the other end of the expansive but manageable grounds.


Backed by a walloping nine-piece band, the crooning dark humorist knocked out one of his best-known songs (“Hollywood Cemetery Forever”) early, explaining he had to “build a little trust” before the next one. The former Fleet Fox sharply pivoted to the vaudevillian “Chloe,” gracefully leading his big band through the old-timey cut that sounds more like something you’d hear in a smoky 1930s jazz club or coming out of a hand-cranked gramophone than a festival in 2022. “All right, let’s get a pit going right here,” he joked during a waltzing, horn-filled bridge.

Father John Misty wasn’t the only big-band leader to make a splash through the first two days of THING. Hours after Seattle rapper Jarv Dee ignited a still-gathering afternoon crowd slathering chilled-out house beats (performed by a stellar three-piece band) with smooth auto-tuned raps, Jazz is Dead held court on the woodsy Littlefield Green stage.

As producer/composer/guitarist Adrian Younge explained, the generation-bridging project is all about “giving flowers to the legends” and the set revolved around showcasing three jazz heavyweights: bassist Henry Franklin, organ King Doug Carn and pianist/flutist Brian Jackson, who each had personalized sections. From out of nowhere, a motorized hang glider whizzed above the crowd while Carn decorated a saucy, conga-rapping number with a chiming solo, with Younge orchestrating the dozen or so players on stage.

A resilient “Winter in America” — Jackson’s timeless 1974 collaboration with Gil Scott-Heron — highlighted what was easily the most loving and warmly received performance of the weekend thus far. “I love Port Townsend, I’m moving [here],” Younge gushed, as he and Jackson set up the crowd for a joyous call-and-response segment. “I’m gonna need to talk to some real estate agents later.” Maybe he can get Tyler, the Creator’s guy.

Saturday’s slate took a couple hits with Dry Cleaning and Faye Webster bailing ahead of time for non-COVID reasons. (Comedy trio Please Don’t Destroy, which was among the initial lineup announcement, had also vanished by the time the schedule was revealed.) But L.A. rockers Illuminati Hotties and blues-rock hellion Reignwolf — another ex-Seattleite who’s still a fixture at local festivals — capably filled in. The double soul blast of back-to-back sets from Durand Jones and Curtis Harding was as savory a combo as there was all weekend. The twin soulmen  brought sort of a fire-and-ice combo to the early evening, with Jones’ swaying soul-soothers and Harding’s steamier sound with stronger rock ‘n’ roll undercurrents. 

One of the biggest questions heading into THING’s second year was how offering single-day tickets for the first time might affect turnout over the course of the weekend. (Will fans have had their fill by Sunday?) Festival organizer Seattle Theatre Group declined to share attendance figures, though the festival is not sold out. Unsurprisingly, the lawn at the most spacious Parade Grounds stage felt the fullest during Saturday’s headliner Modest Mouse, the biggest name on the lineup. Glowing, blinking orbs fans could color on-site were sprinkled throughout the lawn, bringing an added kookiness to the air as the Northwest indie rock greats dutifully worked through eccentric rompers like “Tiny Cities Made of Ash” and “Lampshades on Fire,” even if the latter lacked its usual punch.

THING continues Sunday with Jungle, rap-nerd hero Freddie Gibbs, art-pop experimentalists Yves Tumor and Lido Pimienta and more.