Freakout Festival XI Returns to Ballard

2023-11-06 Hardly Raining

Now in its eleventh year, the four-day Freakout Festival returned to Ballard on November 2-5, 2023. The psychedelic music event provided an anything-goes experience where you could try a new band or genre, mosh, crowd-surf, or (ahem) expand your mind.

Bands appeared on eight indoor stages throughout the nightlife area of the northwest Seattle neighborhood. Except for the headliners, sets tended to be brief, allowing for a sampler platter of musical acts. A helpful smartphone app guided users through set times and venues. Some of the at-capacity headliner sets at Salmon Bay Hi necessitated a drizzly outdoor wait, but most stages and acts offered ready admission. It was a fun, high-energy event, and fans seemed to be loving it.

Freakout Festival has become one of Seattle’s best rock-music events, due to its thoughtful curation and intimate club-centric setting. A couple of sold-out nights this year suggests that its new nonprofit model is engaging the community as intended.

Keep scrolling for a photo gallery and some brief impressions of each night’s music (all photos: Lisa Hagen Glynn.) If you missed the festival, here is a playlist.

Mad Alchemy Analog Liquid Light Show at Freakout
Freakout wouldn’t be Freakout without the swirling Mad Alchemy Analog Liquid Light Show.


Levitation Room – A Los Angeles band with a classic psych-rock sound. The set was running behind, but it was worth the wait to catch a few tunes before bedtime. They are scheduled to return for the Freakout Weekender mini-festival in March 2024.

Levitation Room at Freakout
Levitation Room

El Khat – A three-piece band from Tel Aviv, touring in the U.S. for their first time. They played a mix of standard and improvised instruments, and kept the crowd engaged and cheering.

El Khat at Freakout
El Khat

Carrion Kids – A Freakout staple out of Mexico City that plays fast Spanish-language punk. As always, they brought great energy, plenty of antics, and a full house. Members of Carrion Kids also play in Mala Suerte.

Carrion Kids at Freakout
Carrion Kids

Valley Suns – A Seattle “bootgaze” band with a fuzzy, pretty sound. They only have a single tune on Soundcloud, but the group said they will be recording again soon. They played the Tremolo festival on December 9, and have a few other upcoming gigs around Seattle.

Valley Suns at Freakout
Valley Suns

Sun Atoms – A dark, dreamy psychedelic group out of Portland, led by Jsun Adams. Their new record Let There Be Light was produced by their bassist, Peter Holmström. Sun Atoms have played Seattle several times recently, including with Modest Mouse.

Sun Atoms at Freakout
Sun Atoms


Night Beats – Moody psychedelic soul out of Texas. They released Rajan last summer.

Night Beats at Freakout
Night Beats

Allah-Las – A Los Angeles band with a surf-inspired folk sound. Although new to me, a long line of others had waited specifically for this set. They released Zuma 85 just a few weeks before the festival.

Allah-Las at Freakout

The Spits – Fast Michigan punk with the wildest pit of the weekend…so far. The keyboardist wore an awesome robot outfit.

The Spits at Freakout
The Spits

BOOTS! DJ Night – Three enthusiastic hosts (Maxwell Edison, Sarah Savannah, and special guest Jonathan Toubin) spun classic 60s dance tunes in the Sunset, while a troupe of go-go dancers got the crowd moving.

BOOTS! DJ Night at Freakout

Acid Mothers Temple – A long-time Japanese space-rock band, with a mix of synths, wild drums, and guitars. Founder Kawabata Makoto ruthlessly smashed his guitar onstage during the last tune, and then distributed pieces to the crowd. I arrived at this set by accident, but it ended up being a favorite.

Acid Mothers Temple at Freakout
Acid Mothers Temple

Mala Suerte – One of Freakout co-founder Guy Keltner’s bands, formed as a punk supergroup with members of Carrion Kids and Grizzled Mighty. Miki Navajas poured beer over his naked chest, most of the band crowdsurfed, and the audience screamed along with Los Saicos‘ famous hit, “Demolición.”

Mala Suerte at Freakout
Mala Suerte

Death Valley Girls – A peppy, gothic garage-rock band from Los Angeles. They released I Am a Wave last summer.

Death Valley Girls at Freakout
Death Valley Girls

Nestter Donuts – A Spanish “Flamenco trash” one-man band who played three fun and reportedly scandalous sets. Word on the street was that he went full-frontal to conclude his first set, and bloodied a microphone in his second. I left too early…or, perhaps just in time.

Nestter Donuts at Freakout
Nestter Donuts


DAIISTAR – Noisy, melodic shoegaze out of Austin. I nearly skipped this set because of the 12:30 a.m. start time, but stayed on the recommendation of a friend. I hummed their tunes all the way home. Check out Good Time if you get a chance.

DAIISTAR at Freakout

Sextile – A Los Angeles post-punk electronic group. Because this was a dancey band, I incorrectly assumed that it would be milder than The Spits’ set the previous night. The pit became a wild ride, so my camera and I escaped to the back as the crowdsurfing began.

Sextile at Freakout

The Gories – A legacy bluesy garage-rock band from Detroit. Although the music was enjoyable, this popular set was a little too closely packed and humid, so I made room for another concert-goer.

The Gories at Freakout
The Gories

FRANKIIE – A Vancouver, B.C. rock trio with a dreamy sound and some sweet vocal harmonies. They released Between Dreams last summer.

FRANKIIE at Freakout

Acid Tongue – A glammy Seattle garage band, and another of Guy Keltner’s crowd-pleasing Freakout regulars. Their sound is notable for snappy melodies and unsubtle drug references.

Acid Tongue at Freakout
Acid Tongue

Biblioteka – A punk-leaning Seattle festival staple. Lead singer Mary Robins always gives a fun and energetic performance. Check out last year’s peppy single, “Tick Tock,” for a sampling.

Biblioteka at Freakout

The Darts – A great all-woman Phoenix garage band with catchy tunes and an often-abused Farfisa organ. “Seattle is our favorite town,” lead singer Nicole Laurenne confessed to me after the show. Later in the weekend, they played a well-attended in-store at Easy Street Records.

The Darts at Freakout
The Darts

Maquillaje – A newer “grungy” group out of Mexico and New York City, wrapping up their U.S. west-coast tour. I had to run off quickly to get a spot at The Darts.

Maquillaje at Freakout


Jonathan Bree – A New Zealand artist with a beautiful baritone voice, accompanied by instrumentalists and a dancer. Bree played the Columbia City Theatre in 2019, and seeing him again was a festival highlight.

Jonathan Bree at Freakout
Jonathan Bree

Gallery: Freakout Festival