The Comet may be temporarily boarded up (and won’t host as many live shows when it reopens), but the grittier edges of the Capitol Hill music carry on — and are ready to celebrate the holidays. This Friday and Saturday, the “Northwest collaborative” Funk Farm is putting on the first ever Psychedelic Holiday Freak Out, designed to be a rarity among concert festivals for its overtly local focus, its low price of entry, and its unconventional calendar slot. By no means strictly about psychedelic music, the festival is bringing some 39 rock and hip hop acts to four Capitol Hill-area venues—Velocity Dance Center, Waid’s, Therapy Lounge and The Highline this weekend.
“Seattle has a lot of great summer events, between [the Capitol Hill] Block Party and a lot of the major festivals,” 24-year-old Nate Berliner, co-founder of and acting manager of Funk Farm, said. “But we just felt there was kind of a void on the calendar between Thanksgiving and Christmas…so we thought we’d be able to build a great December event.”
Indeed, Funk Farm found that bands and performers were eager to fill the festival’s schedule, Berliner said, partially because many bands did not have other shows lined up during the holiday season and partially due to the appeal of a festival where smaller local bands might have a chance to headline shows rather than just open for bigger-name touring acts, or a chance to play on a bill alongside some of their friends and acquaintances in other groups.
Headliners signed up for the festival include Seattle rockers the Tea Cozies and Helvetica, Tacoma’s The Fame Riot, and Seattle hip hoppers Kung Foo Grip.
Other notable acts in the lineup include up-and-coming LA-based blues guitarist Jared James Nichols, Portland’s The We Shared Milk, New York-based hip hop artist XVR HLDY —the only East Coast artist on the bill—and Seattle’s Vox Mod, Daniel and the Chics, Neighbors and Fox and the Law, one of two bands currently represented by Funk Farm.
While many festivals have become increasingly pricey in recent years, ticket costs for the Holiday Freakout have been kept intentionally low, Berliner said.
Two-day passes are just $16 in advance, and $20 at the door, and one-day passes are $10 in advance, and $14 at the door. You can buy yours here via Brown Paper Tickets.
“This isn’t about trying to snatch the money out of some concert goers, we’re not Ticketmaster here; we’re [just] trying to put on a really cool event,” Berliner said.
The name and initial concept for the festival were dreamed-up by Berliner and Guy Keltner, lead singer of Fox and the Law and also a Funk Farm co-founder, “during a very hung over drive from Portland” this May, Berliner said. While it was initially intended to be an “all psych-rock” festival, the parameters were expanded over the summer when a number of bands representing different genres expressed strong interest in playing the December festival. The name, however, stuck. “It was just too good to pass up,” Berliner said.
The name was also kept in part because Funk Farm wanted to work with visual artist Shogo Ota of Tireman Studios, who “does some fantastic psychedelic work,” Berliner said. Poster prints of Ota’s rainbow-bearded Santa design created for the festival are being sold by Funk Farm for $5, with all proceeds benefitting the Orion Center. Also, a painting by Jennifer L. Warren based on Ota’s design is being auctioned off to raise money for the center.
This year’s festival will be run by an all-volunteer staff — including members of some of the bands on the lineup on days they are not performing.
“We’re blessed to have enough of a network that we’re doing this all with volunteers; nobody, myself included, is getting a salary out of this,” Berliner said. “We wouldn’t frankly be able to pull it off if we had to go out and hire event staff.” Most of the bands will be paid to perform, however.
The festival was originally scheduled to use the Comet as one of its venues, as well as the restaurant Ballet, chosen for its proximity to the currently shuttered tavern. However, a week before the festival was announced, the Comet suddenly closed, instigating “a mad scramble to reorganize” the festival’s venue lineup. Ballet was voted out when the Comet closed, as it was no longer so convenient, Berliner said, and both Waid’s and the Highline were added at the last minute. The move to Waid’s was natural, as number of shows that had been scheduled at the Comet were moved to the 12th and Jefferson venue under the guidance of the former booker for the Comet — Mamma Casserole – is now working with Waid’s, Berliner said. As for Highline, Berliner said they were remarkably helpful in meeting the festival’s needs at the last minute.
Berliner said he expects 700 to 800 people to come through the festival. Berliner said Funk Farm plans to make the Psychedelic Holiday Freak Out an annual event on Capitol Hill, with hopes to continue growing the festival’s capacity and ability to draw local talent.
“If I don’t get sued or anything, then, I assume this will be the first of many, knock on wood,” Berliner said.
You can learn more at psychedelicholidayfreakout.com