I haven’t had a car for the past two years. When it comes to live music choices and not having a vehicle, you’re limited to what you feel comfortable getting to either by foot, rideshare, bus, or bicycle. Lucky for me, I live on Capitol Hill. Live music is abundant when you live near downtown Seattle. It feels like every neighborhood within walking distance, from West Seattle to the Central District, has at least three or more live music venues unique to that neighborhood.
When the “Seattle Summer” hits and we get that two to three month window of nice weather, outdoor music festivals are something you have to take in and enjoy. Each event not only showcases the diverse neighborhoods around the city, but also it’s a chance to listen to new music and make new friends. The following are the 5 best free outdoor music festivals, and 3 best ticketed outdoor music festivals, within walking distance of downtown Seattle, worth checking out this Summer.
Black Pistol Fire, Elysian Search Party 2017
5 Best Free Outdoor Music Festivals
Seattle Pride at Volunteer Park – June 8th – In terms of free “all ages” day music festival lineups, this year’s is one of the best. Local favorites, Thunderpussy, headline the stacked lineup alongside JGRGRY, Whitney Monge, Sassyblack, and Left at London. It’s a great chance to experience a piece of Seattle’s Pride festival in one of Seattle’s most iconic parks.
Lindafest at Linda’s Tavern (on Capitol Hill) – late August – If you want an alternative to the mainstream Seattle music scene and want a 21+ event with more of a grunge almost heavy feel, then Lindafest is something you should check out. Each year, Linda’s Tavern on Capitol Hill hosts a mini festival in the area behind the bar. The event is free and showcases a local line up. I usually learn about this event from street posters, so keep an eye out for more information.
Purple Mane, West Seattle Summer Fest 2017
West Seattle Summer Fest at The Junction – July 12th to 14th – I grew up in West Seattle. West Seattle Summer Fest to me was always the big street fair that shut down large portions of the Junction every summer. In recent years, it’s also set itself apart from other street fairs with it’s diverse music lineups. This year’s Fest includes local favorites Jenn Champion, Razor Clam, Grizzled Mighty, DYED, among others.
South Lake Union Block Party at South Lake Union – August 9th – South Lake Union Block Party definitely feels like a reflection of South Lake Union today. I remember there’s food trucks and plenty of activities for families, but the beer garden takes up 3/5ths of the whole festival space which shows how much the event tailors to the younger professionals who work in that neighborhood. The music lineup is made up of local favorites, headlined by The Dandy Warhols, alongside Naked Giants, Polyrythmics, Whitney Monge, and Sisters.
So Pitted, Mercer X Summit Block Party 2017
Mercer X Summit Block Party at the corner of Mercer and Summit – Mid August – This event is by far my favorite free music festival. A good number of performers curated to play this event end up on larger festival lineups or on local television shows like Bands in Seattle. It also feels like a purely neighborhood event. Most block parties end up feeling bloated with corporate sponsorship, but Mercer X Summit feels like a bunch of local businesses got together and decided to throw a summer party for the neighborhood. If you want an opportunity to work on your concert photography skills, this one is the perfect festival.
3 Best Ticketed Outdoor Music Festivals
Capitol Hill Block Party – July 19th to 21st – Aside from the major names which pull in the crowds, Capitol Hill Block Party is a great showcase for local talent. At last year’s Block Party, it felt like every local performer put on some of their best performances. This year’s lineup features a number of solid local acts including Kung Foo Grip, Wild Powwers, OK Sweetheart, Mirrorgloss, Nick Weaver, among others.
Lizzo, Capitol Hill Block Party 2017
Elysian Search Party – July 6th – I’m a big fan of the Elysian Search Party. For a little over $35, you get 4 beer tickets, and access to a great party backed by an action packed music lineup. This is a great chance to try out nearly all of Elysian’s beer catalogue (40+ beers on tap) and also know that all proceeds (100%) will benefit local organization, The Vera Project. This year’s lineup features The Darkness, The Murder City Devils, Black Pistol Fire, and local performers, Pink Parts.
Bumbershoot at Seattle Center – August 30th to September 1st – For many, Bumbershoot has become the local “Coachella”, but really I don’t think there’s comparison between the two. If you approach Bumbershoot as a social media post, then you’re missing out on what a bunch of locals love about the event. It’s really about the vibe. If you go in wanting to have a friendly good time, not trying to harsh anyone else’s good time, then the event will be a great experience, but if you go in expecting a “Coachella” style experience, then of course you’ll be disappointed. I’ve always approached Bumbershoot looking for a good time, hoping to find some great new music, and trying to find chances to experience curated activities outside of the music lineup (catch some movies at SIFF cinema during Bumbershoot). This year’s lineup features many performers, that are known to put on a great shows including The Lumineers, Rezz, Tyler The Creator, among many others.
Tyler the Creator, Bumbershoot 2017
Concerts at the Mural at Seattle Center – every Friday in August – Every Friday in the month of August, the mural in Seattle Center hosts a series of free shows featuring three band lineups. This year’s series includes Cherry Glazerr, Wolf Parade, Weyes Blood, Helado Negro, among others.
Events held by Friends of the Waterfront at the Waterfront – The diverse events held at the Waterfront by Friends of the Waterfront is pretty incredible. Aside from the Rock the Docks concerts, I remember seeing the Parkour Visions Classic (a national Parkour competition), the 206 Zulu Beat Masters competition (an elite local DJ competition), and a KPOP concert, all hosted by Friend of the Waterfront. Check their site for future events.
Kolars, Thunderpussy New Year’s Show 2017
I hope to see you out there this Summer!