Could City Arts Fest Be Seattle’s SXSW?

Festival director Jake Newman dissects the second annual music and arts festival.

By Allie Oosta October 20, 2011

Robyn plays the Paramount October 20; Portand duo Yacht opens.

City Arts is out to prove that major music festivals can bring a city together—despite being spread out all over town—with its second annual Heineken City Arts Fest, October 20–22.

While Seattle’s music fest leaders Bumbershoot and Capitol Hill Block Party are contained to a few city blocks, this multidisciplinary binge more closely resembles South by Southwest in Austin or Musicfest NW in Portland, with bands rocking multiple neighborhoods, from the U District to Capitol Hill to SoDo.

“The music industry has been asking, Why doesn’t Seattle have a city-wide music festival like this?” festival director Jake Newman said in a phone interview. “I come from the East Coast and I’m trying to inspire people to embrace the city—to jump right in and go from event to event.”

Newman and his team brought in big names like Swedish pop star Robyn and Ryan Adams to headline, but this festival is a lot denser than it initially looks. In total, 125 artists will be at the three-day event: some 80 bands, with notable locals Shabazz Palaces, Mudhoney, and the Long Winters joining. The arts side of City Arts Fest has been expanded dramatically from last year, with the magazine teaming up with 4Culture to create “Culture Club”—a series of daily art events in Pioneer Square. Artists are flying in from Canada and New York, and there will be a lot of free events and karaoke with local celebrities.

Although driving, busing, or stumbling across town from show to show seemed pretty hectic to us, Newman explained that this year, each neighborhood has a series of shows and events, making the commute less tiresome. Additionally, they considered types of music, and attempted to make the connections between bands more fluid, so your favorites are grouped closer together in the city (here’s hoping).

If you’re going to more than one show, invest in the three-day wristband. It’s $69 for general admission or $125 for VIP, though we recommend VIP if 1) you want to attend the opening party at Union Station tomorrow at 6pm with Allen Stone (a guest on Conan next week), 2) you want to bypass lines, or 3) you’re feeling, you know, very important.

City Arts Fest runs Oct 20–22 across Seattle. For the full lineup, visit cityartsfest.com.

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