For the amount of time it takes to raise a child to legal adulthood, Adam Zacks has been throwing one of the Northwest's premiere festivals Sasquatch! at the gorgeous Gorge Amphitheatre. Fans of the festival were broken-hearted last summer when Zacks announced that the festival would not be returning for an 18th season but never fear, Zacks is back with a brand new fest!
Titled THING, the multi-disciplinary festival promises to include a wide gamut of entertainment and activities including music, comedy, food, podcasts, film, dance, visual arts, yoga, guided hikes, and more. Taking up a new locale, the festival will take place at Fort Worden in Port Townsend on August 24-25. Today, Zacks announced the lineup which includes Jeff Tweedy, Calexico/Iron & Wine, Kurt Vile, Khruangbin, Phosphorescent, Japanese Breakfast, Snail Mail, Caspar Babypants, Black Belt Eagle Scout, and more!
KEXP spoke to Zacks about the concept behind the new festival, his feelings on putting Sasquatch! behind him, and taking creative risks. Read below.
KEXP: Why did you choose Fort Worden for THING festival?
Adam Zacks: I first visited Fort Worden about 10 years ago and my synapses started firing immediately around all the incredible possibilities this unique site offered. At the time, the property was run by park rangers and subject to typical military regulations, etc. A few years ago that structure changed and the portion of the campus we're using for THING is now run by a public development authority that is charged with stewarding the historic property and developing it as a creative destination and lifelong learning center. They've done an incredible job and have major projects in the pipeline including a Maker's Square concept that I'm excited about.
The current on site residents also fit nicely with the vibe we're trying to create. These include: world renowned poetry publisher Copper Canyon Press, Centrum, Rainshadow Recording Studio, Madrona MindBody Institute, Goddard College, Gray Wolf Ranch Wilderness Program, and Port Townsend School of the Arts, among others. The site is perched above Puget Sound, the body of water the original military base was designed to protect, with views of both the Olympic and Cascade mountains. Its stunningly gorgeous. There are over 100 historic buildings at Fort Worden, including several performance spaces that will be utilized for THING like: McCurdy Pavilion (a decommissioned zeppelin hangar), Wheeler Theatre (an art deco theatre original to the site), the Parade Grounds, and several bunkers that will be used for art installations and such. Its just an incredibly unique combination of this magnificent and unusual property, rich with history and the natural wonder of Puget Sound and the mountain ranges.
Will THING have a strong presence of local music? That’s always been something that I think Sasquatch had in favor of competing festivals, in that if you’re a Northwest band it’s actually feasible that you could play Sasquatch and share the stage with big-name bands. Is that something you want to try to incorporate? Or is the ethos different for THING?
I'm a fully-committed Pacific Northwest native and anything I do will be through the lens of the arts and culture specific to this region. There are local artists on THING, though the overall count is lower than Sasquatch since this is designed to be a more compact, intimate event with fewer overlapping performances.
There’s been a swift downturn in music festivals the past couple of years, with some surprisingly massive ones (Sasquatch included) shutting down. Is this solely because there was too big of an influx of too many festivals that no one could compete or do you think it’s something bigger than that? From my vantage point its a combination of forces.
Yes, there are signs of oversaturation in the North American festival market. This scenario often leads to innovation. In a more mature festival market like Europe we've seen an evolution of the mass proliferation of events, the rise and fall of many, and now a rather healthy "boutique" festival market has emerged that caters to niche interests. It would seem that the decentralization of the music industry has impacted culture tremendously giving more niche genres an avenue to find audiences. There may be a dwindling supply of superstar, household name artists and a greater number of large scale festivals competing to attract that talent, throwing off the economics of these already high risk ventures.
THING is a multidisciplinary festival, did you bring in experts in various fields to help make sure the experience was authentically rounded out or are all of these different disciplines — podcasts, hiking, comedy, etc. — things that you personally know a lot about and curated yourself?
THING is an STG event and luckily we have a killer staff that presents live performances and educational programs of all kinds year round. We've also consulted with people in the Olympic Peninsula and with the Fort Worden partner organizations to make sure we're reflecting the micro-cultures of that area authentically.
How did the ending of Sasquatch effect you? I would imagine that at this point, it was almost like a child to you so that can’t have been an easy thing to let go.
18 years — 17 editions of Sasquatch — is a long time to do anything. For better and worse it became a meaningful part of my identity. I don't think these events need to live on infinitely, but I already miss it more than I anticipated. The bumper sticker slogan that speaks best to my outlook on this is "Don't be sad its over, smile because it happened." Reflecting on all the incredible moments that took place out there is something I'm proud of and those memories will never go away. That said, the energy around starting something brand new and different is exciting.
Will there be different tiers of camping at THING like there was at Sasquatch? I did Terrace last year and it was such a game-changer. Where do the bougie bitches like myself camp?
For camping there are several options. The official THING campground is located four blocks away at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and features standard car camping and RV spots with hookups. Those can be found in the purchase flow when people buy their event passes. There are also two campgrounds adjacent to Fort Worden, one in the woods and one on the beach. Those are run by Washington State Parks. Those reservations are in constant flux, so if people look online and see nothing available one day, it is common that availability could change in subsequent searches. There are also a variety of other campgrounds throughout the Olympic Peninsula. Beyond that there is a limited amount of housing on site at Fort Worden in the officers quarters that can be found at fortworden.org, plus many hotels and motels in the area (search Port Townsend, Silverdale, Sequim, and Port Angeles) and a lot of vacation rental homes via Airbnb and VRBO.
Who or what are you most excited about at THING festival?
It feels right to take a creative risk and zig while much of the industry zags. A lot of elements of this event are fairly unique compared to the set of conventional expectations we've come to understand about "festivals" at large. Everything from the programming mix and the site to the pacing of the schedule is designed to be fresh and different.
Below, watch KEXP in-studio performances from THING artists Jeff Tweedy, Calexico/Iron & Wine, Kurt Vile, Khruangbin, Phosphorescent, Japanese Breakfast, Snail Mail, Caspar Babypants, and Black Belt Eagle Scout.