Photos: THING Festival 2023

2023-08-25 Hardly Raining

THING Festival returned to Fort Worden for its third year on August 25-27, 2023. The nonprofit Seattle Theatre Group and Sasquatch! founder Adam Zacks produced the event.


The three-day festival featured a worldwide selection of musical artists, with an emphasis upon the U.S. Pacific Northwest. This year’s headliners included indie-folk Seattle natives Fleet Foxes, Atlanta hip-hop artist Lil Yachty, electropop duo Sylvan Esso, R&B bassist–vocalist Thundercat, and dream-pop trio Cigarettes after Sex. Supported by strong legacy and up-and-coming acts, it was an excellent and diverse lineup.

Musical acts performed on five stages. Headlining groups played alternating sets at the Parade Grounds and Jeremiah Green outdoor stages—the latter recently renamed to honor the late Modest Mouse drummer—and non-overlapping set times this year meant it was possible to see more favorites. Seattle independent radio station KEXP recorded several live sessions during the festival, and Sonic Boom Records hosted album signings at their booth.

THING also included an array of non-musical entertainment, including stand-up comedy, Indigenous storytelling, drag queens, community dance workshops, collective art projects, youth poetry, podcasts, and a lantern parade. Vendor offerings included food trucks, hula hoop sales, tie-dyed clothing, and a rooftop tequila stand overlooking the main stage. In-and-out privileges gave festival-goers the option to enjoy a meal back at their campsite or in Port Townsend’s many restaurants.


The headliners were crowd-pleasing and well attended each night. Fleet Foxes were end-of-tour tight, their signature vocal harmonies floating toward the Sound. Frontman Robin Pecknold told stories about his family’s history in Port Townsend, and shared that “Helplessness Blues” was recorded nearby. Just prior, Cigarettes After Sex played a slow, dreamy set of romantic pop, including some very pretty tunes from their eponymous first album. The crowd knew all the words, and sang along.

On Saturday, Sylvan Esso gave an energetic performance with moody backlighting and plenty of fog. The duo played mostly newer songs, but fortunately threw in several older favorites that kept the crowd dancing atop the yellowed summer grass . Lil Yachty, backed by a full band of talented women, performed tunes from his uncharacteristically psychedelic 2023 album, Let’s Start Here. Earlier in the day, Chinese Icelandic artist Laufey performed a compelling set of vocal jazz-pop, as well as a private KEXP session. Unexpectedly, attendees included a significant following by enthusiastic tweens. I predict we will see a lot more of this 24-year-old artist.

The final night ended with electric bassist Thundercat, who absolutely shredded with his trio. He paused at the mic to announce that he was about to play some songs about his cat, Turbo Tron, and launched into a romantic-sounding ballad with lyrics “Don’t ever wonder where I’m going…I always come back to you,” followed by a song that started with meows and the line, “Everybody Wants to be a Cat.” Digable Planets played a strong and well-attended set of classic hip-hop, with a great band. One of the best sets of the weekend, though, was Seattle native Kassa Overall‘s performance with his killer NYC band. They played songs off his summer release, ANIMALS.


Tickets were $130 per day, with options for multi-day packages, early-bird discounts, and VIP upgrades. In a departure from many festivals, accompanied children under 12 were granted free admission. This year’s festival felt a little busier, especially on Saturday, but the size felt manageable.

As in previous years, the greatest challenges for the festival remained lodging and transportation. In a town of just 10,000 residents, hotel accommodations sold out months in advance and commanded a premium, although camping was available later. Wildfire smoke blew in this year, creating beautiful hazy sunsets but offering little refuge for those staying outdoors in the 127 AQI.

The festival restricted on-site parking, and Port Townsend does not have rideshares, but the free THING shuttle provided rides to convenient stops at the festival grounds and downtown. An earlier end to the nighttime shows this year resolved a previous issue of shuttles being unavailable late at night.

THING 2023 presented another fun-filled weekend. It is sure to be a don’t-miss summer festival again in 2024! Check out the photo galleries for each day below.

THING Festival Gallery: Friday

THING Festival Gallery: Saturday

THING Festival Gallery: Sunday