In Pioneer Square storefronts and parking lots, even high up in Smith Tower, crowds at Paul Allen’s Upstream Music Fest + Summit were treated to music for just about every taste.
For a glorious moment, the sun shone on the red-brick buildings of the Pioneer Square neighborhood during the final day of Paul Allen’s Upstream Music Fest + Summit on Saturday. And as a festival busker merrily strummed her cover of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” for passers-by along Occidental Avenue South, you almost wanted to start dancing in the street — if not for the song, then in praise of a reprieve from the weekend’s bluster and cold spring showers.
It may be too soon to say whether the debut of Upstream festival and conference was enough of a success to merit a return next year, but the impressive crowds that braved the less-than-optimal weather were treated to a third day of music curated to suit just about every taste, in a resurgent section of downtown that seems to have an endless supply of cool spaces to showcase the scores of live acts.
High above Pioneer Square on the 18th floor of Smith Tower, the DJ and musician Calico blended hip-hop, R&B and house music in front of a wall of concert lights in an office space stripped bare of flooring but dripping with soul.
Back at ground level, in the parking lot next to Fuel sports bar, singer Kristin Kontrol, AKA Dee Dee of the indie rock group Dum Dum Girls, sang an ethereal set of moody yet danceable electronic pop.
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Down the street, fans of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio spilled out of Little London Plane and onto the cobblestones of the pedestrian thoroughfare as the band played new music that in some cases had been finished only days ago.
The ghosts of the old Elliott Bay Book Company storefront at First and Main, now the AXIS event venue, had to make room for the lifted spirits of the crowd gathered to hear Goodsteph, an R&B, multimedia project from Detroit transplant Stephon Dorsey.
Slight of build, smile beaming, the 24-year-old Dorsey elicited churchlike shouts and hollers from fans during an alternately meditative, funky, righteous and searing set featuring songs from the beautiful 2016 album Mela.nin.
By the end of the show, it seemed as if the happy crowd had just experienced a “moment,” but the festival offered plenty of those.
The night was set to close with a performance by Seattle hip-hop duo and local favorite Shabazz Palaces, among others, at the main stage next to CenturyLink Field.
Not everyone was happy about the event, or rather the implications of a local billionaire, Allen, wielding the clout to transform whole neighborhoods, potentially displacing those with lesser means in the process.
The Microsoft co-founder’s real-estate firm Vulcan is planning to build hundreds of apartments in the heart of the Central District, the city’s historically African-American neighborhood, an area that has already undergone substantial gentrification, and at Yesler Terrace.
Protesters staged a free #WeWantIn “mini block party” near Upstream’s main stage to rally against cultural and economic displacement and to encourage more inclusive development by Vulcan.