The fifth-annual Fisherman's Village Music Festival expects to draw more than 5,000 people to downtown Everett this weekend.
Ryan Crowther had never put on a festival before, but he knew it was immediately going to be a hit. He had a little experience managing local Seattle bands and had thrown a few events. After a year of prep work, Crowther and his Everett Music Initiative founding partner Steven Graham (who’s no longer involved) had booked 60 bands to play four stages over the weekend in downtown Everett. If you book them, they will come, right?
But day one was a bit of a bummer.
“I just remember the first year on the Friday walking to this outdoor stage and there was, like, 20 people,” Crowther recalls. “I knew exactly what I did wrong.”
In its inaugural year in 2014, Fisherman’s Village Music Festival — the Everett fest that lures mostly Seattle and Northwest bands to the largely blue-collar town — drew fewer than 2,000 people. Not terrible considering the lack of a big-name headliner, but that sparse outdoor crowd wasn’t exactly what he envisioned. “We started it too big,” he says in hindsight. “The fest started with too much going on. With festivals, the number one thing is start small and grow it as needed.”
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And grow it has, at least in attendance. Last year he estimates more than 5,000 people went to the fest aimed at putting Everett on the music map. Crowther’s optimistic that this year Fisherman’s, which takes over four downtown venues Friday through Sunday, will be its biggest yet.
True to its PNW roots, the 2018 lineup includes Washington faves like Shabazz Palaces, experimental folk genius Mount Eerie (currently riding a wave of “strange and absurd” success) and Karl Blau, alongside emerging artists such as Sisters, crafty dream-pop songwriter Hibou, the Black Tones, Olympia’s CCFX and Everett’s own Fuzz Mutt.
The Northwest talent is bolstered by out-of-towners from alt-folk masterminds Kevin Morby and Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson to Bay Area electro-pop troupe the Seshen.
Reared in Seattle’s northern burbs, Crowther took a communications job in Everett back in 2008 and moved there in 2013 after launching the Everett Music Initiative, which books 20-some shows a year beyond Fisherman’s. In that time, he says the city has changed substantially, citing downtown development projects and a nascent arts community that includes record labels Union Zero and Soniphone, newish venue Black Lab Gallery and an uptick in new bands.
“With Seattle’s growth, it has pushed a lot of younger, creative, fun people up to places like Everett where you can purchase a house and commute if need be,” Crowther says.
Still, the Everett music booster admits there’s plenty of room to grow. In Fisherman’s first few years, the bulk of attendees came from outside Snohomish County, though he says the scale is tipping. “The funnest part for me has been watching Everett grow and watching the community’s understanding and appreciation for music in the city,” he says.
Fisherman’s Village Music Festival. Friday through Sunday, March 30-April 1; various locations in downtown Everett; $15-$25 single day, $55 weekend pass, thefishermansvillage.com