Nice and Niche

Three highly recommended low-profile fests you’ve probably never been to but would be a fool to miss.

The Maldives play Slack Fest 2007 2008

Slack Fest

July 9

Slime Dog Speedway, just outside Stanwood, Washington, is the unlikely venue for one of the summer’s most intimate live music experiences. Featuring a flatbed semi-trailer pulled in to function as a stage, Slack Fest will transform the tiny dirt racetrack on a sylvan stretch alongside the Stillaguamish River into the dusty site of summer memories. 

Hosted by the same folks who bring you Doe Bay Festival and named for Don Slack, the host of KEXP’s popular show Swingin’ Doors, Slack Fest celebrates Seattle’s homegrown roots music community. Though it has been absent since 2007 2008, the one-day festival picks up right where it left off, showcasing the most promising up-and-coming bands in the Puget Sound area. This year’s festivities include returning favorites the Maldives and the Moondoggies, as well as Slack Fest newcomers My Goodness, Whalebones, the Golden Blondes and American Girls, Seattle’s best Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers tribute band.

Tickets for the festival are a slim $25 , which also covers a space to pitch a tent and an added bonus (potentially dubious, depending on your level of drunkenness Friday Saturday night) on Saturday Sunday morning, when Slime Dog Speedway will play host to a series of races. David Tveite  

Ed. note: The 2007 Slack Fest was actually at The Dog Pound and a good fuckin’ time. Legendary tales of the debauchery that was Slack Fest 2008 at Slime Dog Speedway are (not surprisingly) true. We have the photos (including the one of the Maldives above) to prove it, and welcome Slack Fest’s return after a couple of dry summers.

 » Slime Dog Speedway


Seattle Outdoor
Theatre Festival

July 9-10

Thanks to GreenStage’s Seattle Outdoor Theatre Festival, the summer months between theatre seasons won’t seem so long. Now in its 11th season, SOTF started when two companies, GreenStage and Theater Schmeater, each had a performance scheduled on the same day at Volunteer Park. According to managing director Ken Holmes, who’s been with GreenStage since 1993, instead of competing for an audience, the two groups billed the afternoon as a two-show attraction. The event has continued to grow ever since, drawing crowds of 3,000 people over the two-day festival. 

This year participating theatre troupes include local companiesTheater Schmeater, Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Wooden O Productions, Open Circle Theatre, Young Shakespeare Workshop and four more. Between them, they’ll put on 14 performances on two different stages: the park’s amphitheatre and the grassy area behind the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Most are Shakespeare works, though Theater Schmeater and Open Circle usually present an original, kid-focused play, and Balagan Theatre has planned an adaptation of a classical Greek play. Don’t worry if it rains; the show will go own with or without sunny skies.


 »Volunteer Park


What the Heck Fest #10

July 15-17

If you like your music and arts festivals niche and intimate—and with a healthy dollop of weird—What The Heck Fest is your David Lynchian dream/nightmare come true. Started in 2001 as a musical sideshow to Anacortes’ annual city-wide rummage sale, Shipwreck Day, the festival has grown into an integral part of the island town’s culture, overshadowing the weekend’s dusty antiques, bric-a-brac and good old-fashioned junk with an eclectic lineup of music, film, literature and art. Artists fill venues throughout the city and, when possible, play outdoors, for free, meaning that even those who can’t pony up the $65 each for daily passes can soak in the sights and sounds.

This year’s edition hosts a load of local Anacortes bands such as the Violins,ȎPaon, Nicholas Wilbur, D+ and Mount Eerie. Joining them is a robust line-up of Pacific Northwest talent that includes Lake, Earth, For the Birds, Broken Water, Mecca Normal, Purple & Green and the Hive Dwellers (featuring the festival’s spiritual leader Calvin Johnson). A few spots are reserved for out-of-towners as well, including this year Liturgy (Brooklyn) and Wyrd Visions (Toronto). 

The core of the weekend is “the dinner”—a large-scale sit-down meal on both Friday and Saturday evening for all fest-goers that culminates in a concert performance that, like the rest of the weekend, promises a heck of a lot of what, weird, and wonderful. Dan Sanvicens

 »Anacortes, Wash.