I first saw Actionesse live in the sweaty, red-light environs of the Cha Cha Lounge during this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party. I saw Mitski and JPEGMAFIA on the mainstage that same day, but no one’s set stuck with me quite like theirs—a giddy, churning mash-up of burly party punk and skronking horns.

Actionesse is one of many excellent live acts playing Freakout Festival this weekend (Nov 14–17). The yearly Ballard event—which sets up in a bunch of the neighborhood’s venues like the Tractor Tavern and the Sunset Tavern—starts on Thursday night at a couple venues, but really gets rolling on Friday and Saturday. In fact, when think about some of my favorite shows by local bands that I’ve seen in the past year, a fair amount of them are playing Freakout this weekend.

Here are five others, besides Actionesse, to check out. 

Razor Clam
Were a John Hughes movie and a Tim Burton movie (old Tim Burton, before the whole enterprise soured) were somehow to converge and reform as a contemporary Seattle band, it’d probably sound a lot like Razor Clam—all groovy brooding and pop synth wash, sutured together with surprisingly assured vocals for a band only two years into its run. 

Monsterwatch
This bratty, neo-grunge band played at last year’s Freakout and had the Conor Byrne Pub properly moshing and crowd surfers kicking the chandelier and the band’s guitarist walking on the bar as he played.

Bearaxe
Bearaxe stands alongside Thunderpussy as some of the city’s best hard rock revivalists. Tight musicianship, with the right balance of riffs and guitar soloing? Swaggering vocals that so assured they remind you of Judas Priest at its least indulgent? Yes.

Tres Leches
The trio swap instruments throughout their sets, slip between English and Spanish, hop from rah-rah folk punk to harmonies to stretches that verge on prog (but, like, the good kind of prog). Live, their constant reckless fluctuations lead to snafus. But when the creative energies vibrate so ecstatically, that’s part of the fun.

Naked Giants
The Naked Giants, a garage rock power trio, filled their 2018 album SLUFF with tight, majorly charismatic songs, each with the immediacy of a pop single, even as its riffs lumber like classic rock monsters. Live their energies only increase—a storm of affable rock god posturing and the most performative drumming in the city.

For tickets and the rest of the festival's schedule, see the link below. 

Freakout Festival
Nov 14–17, Ballard, $20–$125

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