City arts festivals: not just for summer any more

A new arts festival will hit Seattle this fall, and this one will span some 18 venues around the city.
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OutKast's Big Boi will headline a show during the new City Arts Festival

A new arts festival will hit Seattle this fall, and this one will span some 18 venues around the city.

The inaugural Heineken City Arts Fest, which will take place Oct. 20-23, is putting a bit of a twist on the tried and true formula of how local arts festivals work. Like many arts festivals, City Arts Fest, which is being presented by Heineken and City Arts Magazine, will use music as a centerpiece to bring together many artistic disciplines — theater, dance, film, photography, etc. But unlike its local counterparts, this festival will use the entire city as its grounds. More than 30 events will take place at 18 venues ranging from the Paramount Theatre and Town Hall to the Century Ballroom and Neumos. The lineup, announced Wednesday (Aug. 4) boasts national headliners including Scottish pop group Belle & Sebastian, OutKast'ꀙs Big Boi, gypsy punks Gogol Bordello and indie darlings She & Him. Other notable national acts include Roky Erickson, Blitzen Trapper, Foals, John Medeski, and James Carter. A multi-day festival spread across the city is a refreshing change from the fenced-in festival formula. And while it might appear to be a mishmash of shows that happen to have City Arts Magazine as a sponsor, the series has been carefully curated and booked, by Steve Severin of Neumos and Michael Heeb of One Pot. And the event is one of several sponsored in October by the City of Music initiative, run from within Seattle's City Hall, which makes using the entire city as the festival'ꀙs playground more appropriate. The initiative is beginning to bear fruit; helping to promote an event like this, along with efforts such as providing housing and medical insurance for musicians, should start to help satisfy those who wonder what sort of work gets done at the city'ꀙs Office of Film + Music. The City Arts Fest's connection to the initiative could help it become a featured fall event, given the initiative's focus on making local music an economic driver for the city. The addition of the festival does raise one question, though: Has the music festival scene in Washington reached critical mass? The event enters a very full field of music festivals (Sasquatch!, Capitol Hill Block Party, Bumbershoot, Reverb Festival, to name a few), and many of those charge top dollar and attract top national talent. How much more damage can the wallets of local music fans take? Fortunately, tickets (technically they'll be wristbands) for City Arts Fest are relatively inexpensive compared to triple-figure prices for three-day passes to Bumbershoot or Sasquatch. There are two types of festival passes. A $60 wristband buys access to all events as space permits, plus a guaranteed spot for one of the headlining shows. A $125 wristband adds a reserved spot at every headlining show. Of course City Arts Fest wouldn'ꀙt be much of a local music festival if didn'ꀙt include local musicians. Several local rising stars will make appearances. The biggest splash: a local hip-hop show at the Paramount Oct. 20, featuring Blue Scholars, Fresh Espresso, Mash Hall, and Macklemore. According to festival organizers, the event will mark a first — a local hip-hop bill headlining the historic venue. But also on the bill that night will be albino indie rapper Brother Ali, a national act who isn'ꀙt from Seattle. Perhaps Severin and Heeb (both staunch supporters of local hip-hop) didn'ꀙt think Seattle'ꀙs stars could pack the Paramount? Or maybe Brother Ali just didn'ꀙt fit in anywhere else on the festival'ꀙs lineup. Aside from hip-hop, the rest of the local roster includes The Maldives, Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs, Head Like A Kite, Brent Amaker and the Rodeo, The Pica Beats, The Head and the Heart, and more. While music is the centerpiece of the festival it will also incorporate dance, film, and other artistic disciplines. Non-musical highlights include Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Opera'ꀙs 'ꀜThe Encore Ball,'ꀝ screenings of the classic silent film 'ꀜMetropolis'ꀝ and Arne Glimcher'ꀙs 'ꀜPicasso and Barque Go to the Movies,'ꀝ and Chase Jarvis'ꀙ photo project 'ꀜSeattle 100.'ꀝ A full schedule of events can be found here.


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