Let’s go back two years, and consider the music festival landscape: Sasquatch? Dead in the wilderness. Upstream? Dried up. Even Bumbershoot appeared on the verge of closure. Then, of course, came 2020’s event apocalypse. If a festival happened, it was online. And rightly so. What could be more dangerous than a bunch of soused revelers gathering for days in the same place?
But things are looking at least a little sunnier. Shots are flying into arms. Major concerts and shows are getting booked, and now we’re getting info on festivals. Last week Ballard’s autumnal Freakout Festival became the first in Seattle to announce it will return live. “We are pretty confident it’s going to be a typical Freakout, you know, with some mask wearing and some regulations possibly on the capacity,” organizer Guy Keltner says.
The fest has already sold some tickets after announcing the return on April 23, and its organizers remain cautiously optimistic that, with venues like the Showbox and Neumos booking concerts for the fall, the fest can proceed without a hitch—especially since it’s divided between several smaller venues, not a crush of people in front of one main stage.
Here’s an updating list of what’s happening in and around Seattle (with a digression into a neighboring state), what’s not happening, and what… still won’t say.
Jul 30–Aug 1 Three days of country music and camping at the Gorge Amphitheater. The official trailer featureshair braiding, lots of American flag clothing, and what can only be described soccer-darts. The festival is "proudly" sponsored by White Claw. Tim McGraw, Dierks Bently, Thomas Rhett, and Kelsea Ballerini take top billing. $215–$775
Aug 20–22 Three days of bass music and camping at the Gorge. The official trailer features lots of pyrotechnics, outdoor yoga, and many young people with bedazzled faces. If this is your thing, you know who you are. Headliners include 12th Planet, Atliens, Black Tiger Sex Machine, and Boogie T. $285
Aug 20–22 The northerly city's nonprofit fundraising festival returns with food trucks, beer and wine, cornhole, and a slate of tribute bands, from Washed in Black (Pearl Jam) and Heart by Heart (uh, Heart) to the Atomic Punks (Van Halen). $20–$50
Sep 4 & 5 On the weekend that would typically find Bumbershoot at Seattle Center, this single-stage fest is a sort of replacement, from the people behind Capitol Hill Block Party. Expect typical festival accoutrements—all-age viewing lawn, VIP lounge, beer garden, food trucks, and afterparties at the Vera Project, Barboza, and Neumos. And, of course, two days of music. Saturday: Kaytranada, Aminé, Travis Thompson, Parisalexa, Daisy. Sunday: Chvrches, Big Wild, Strfkr, Blu DeTiger, Chong the Nomad. $80–$200
Sep 9-11 Everett's music festival returns a little later this year. You can still expect a rad lineup that mixes local names with national—Built to Spill, Lady A, Mount Eerie—along with a night market that hosts food, a beer garden, free concerts, and local vendors. $30–$85
Sep 22–26 Boise’s major music festival announced it’ll return with more than 350 artists, including Seattle’s Chong the Nomad in the bold print names (Portland-raised Japanese Breakfast takes top billing). The poster sports more than a dozen other Seattle bands including the Black Tones, Guayaba, and the Grizzled Mighty. $150–$420
Oct 1 & 2 This weekend-trip of an EDM festival was scheduled for June at the Gorge Amphitheater, but it's been bumped to October. $199–$349
Nov 11–14 Run by the folks behind Freakout Records, the local psych-rock-leaning label, this fest takes over Ballard’s venues—the Tractor Tavern, Conor Byrne, Salmon Bay Eagles hall—along with places like coffee shops and record stores. The lineup has Cedric Burnside, Liz Cooper, and the Seeds up top, along with plenty of local favorites (Acid Tongue, Shaina Shepherd, the Black Tones) amid the 70 artists. $65–$175 (currently)
May 28–31 For its 50th anniversary, the annual for-the-people, by-the-people will be online, accessible via Facebook, Twitch, and its own website. Expect an artist announcement on May 3. Free
Jun 26–27 All online this year, the fest still brought in a solid music lineup: Big Freedia, along with locals Perfume Genius and Mary Lambert. Expect more announcements in May. Free
Jul 8–10 The southerly fest won't be a block party, but there will be a smattering of virtual events like a paint and sip art walk and a beer tasting. Free
Jun 18–Aug 31 Technically, this year’s Seafair is hybrid, straddling the online and IRL. The triathlon and Torchlight run will both be online and in person “based upon the competitor’s comfort level.” But a lot of it—fireworks, parade activities—will stay online. So will the Blue Angels, so the virtual turn gives us something to celebrate. Free
The city’s 50-year-old Labor Day blowout is canceled for a second year in a row, but the fest that’s struggled to define itself in recent years is supposed to come back in 2022 with its focus expanded outside of music.
As of May 10, the twentysomethings-take-to-the-streets bacchanal is taking another year off.
The pseudo-Bavarian bash won't happen this year, and might not return at all.
Timber! Outdoor Music Festival
The annual camp-in-Carnation fest announced it won’t happen this year but is eyeing a 2022 return.
The annual event won't happen in June as usual, organizers told Capitol Hill Seattle, but they're hoping to have an in-person event later in the summer.