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