Gorge Yourself

Music Festivals Worth a Trip

From the Gorge Amphitheatre to Fort Worden, our favorite live music destinations are coming back to life.

By Sophie Grossman June 3, 2022 Published in the Summer 2022 issue of Seattle Met

Beyond Wonderland at the Gorge Amphitheatre. Photograph courtesy Ivan Meneses / Insomniac Press.

For the initiated, the Gorge Amphitheatre holds a mythic, almost spiritual significance. In the 2019 documentary Enormous: The Gorge Story, filmmakers captured the singular tenderness and dazzled wonderment with which seasoned acts—Dave Matthews, Pearl Jam—and music lovers alike regard this luminous hollow nestled against the Columbia River. 

Much of the venue’s gravitas lies in its remoteness; it’s almost equidistant from Seattle and Spokane, a halfway point between two sides of a state cleaved by a mountain range and cultural sensibilities. There’s nothing nearby of note, aside from sloping fields speckled with cows and expansive, pale blue skies. It’s for this reason that a journey to the Gorge takes on an aura of pilgrimage, of ritual celebration. And for many, this summer, a long-awaited homecoming. Wherever you’re headed, the Gorge to the Peninsula, it’s time to pack your bags: Festival season is here at last. 

Beyond Wonderland

June 18–19 | The Gorge Amphitheatre

Insomniac, which also orchestrates EDC and Electric Forest, transforms the Gorge into a decadent alternate dimension, where the childlike whimsy of the Lewis Caroll classic gets a grown-up EDM twist: throbbing laser light shows, intricate visuals. This year, some of the biggest names in trance, house, and dubstep, like Zeds Dead and Porter Robinson, join local DJs Frida K and Weird Waifu. 

Summer Meltdown

July 28–31 | Sky Meadows Park

Meltdown started on San Juan Island in 2000 and subsequently ran for 14 years in Darrington before moving to new digs in Snohomish this year. Tucked against a curve of the Skykomish River, in which festivalgoers can seek respite from the summer heat and the press of the crowd, the fest has a relatively small but exceptionally varied lineup that spans from jazzy electro-funk to bluegrass. 

If you feel like you're about to melt, the Skykomish River offers respite.


July 29–31 | The Gorge Amphitheatre

Been searching for an opportunity to make use of those statement cowboy boots? Look no further. Kane Brown and Miranda Lambert headline one of the nation’s premier country music festivals this year. One Twitter user’s sage advice to the first-time Shedder: “Whatever amount of beer you thought you were going to bring, double it.” 

Departure Fest NW

August 5–7 | Lake Leland Amphitheater

This one’s a bit of a deeper cut, but if you’re into jam bands, just call it your jam. Based out of Quilcene, this fledgling fest on the Olympic Peninsula was founded last year by husband and wife Keely Crow-Ka and Kalan Wolfe, who together form folk-reggae outfit the Shift. The lineup is a motley assemblage of musicians they work with and admire, with hip-hop tinged reggae headliner Wookiefoot embodying the funky, upbeat, peace-and-love vibes the couple are hoping to cultivate. They’re also particularly thrilled to have Tulalip storyteller Johnny Moses (Whis.stem.men.knee) perform. 


August 26–28 | Fort Worden

Kids 12 and under are free. This is what founder Adam Zacks chooses to elevate above all other points—aside from the ethos of promoting music discovery, of beckoning new talent into the light—as Thing enters its second year. That’s one way to facilitate the easygoing, shoes-off feel of this four-stage gathering that’s particularly inviting to families. 

Fort Worden, a historic army base that also served as the film set for An Officer and a Gentleman, now hosts Sasquatch's spiritual successor.

RIP: Sasquatch
2002–2018 “It felt like lightning in a bottle that lasted for 17 years,” says founder Adam Zacks. This former fixture of Memorial Day weekend accumulated swaths of faithful admirers who returned to the Gorge every summer during its run. Unfortunately, their devotion didn’t prove sufficient to insulate the fest from financial collapse.
Illustration: Gage Murrey

Show Comments