CHANNEL Fest Seattle
Fred Wildlife Refuge, Seattle, WA

It may have been the first, but hopefully it won’t be the last, CHANNEL Fest that the Seattle music scene sees. The all-day event – held at artsy, DIY-ish space Fred Wildlife Refuge, on Capitol Hill – brought together about 30 local indie record labels for a celebration of the oft-unseen side of our Seattle music community.

The free, daytime portion of the event filled the venue with label booths featuring rare releases, out-of-print vinyl, and plenty of listening stations. As local musicians and listeners meandered the all-ages affair, DJs spun rare cuts, and locals hobnobbed in the bar. People walked out with limited-edition tote bags full of wallet-wrenching fresh vinyl, cassettes, and stickers aplenty. It was a great way for musicians and labels to meet face-to-face, creating a network that artists might not otherwise have an open door to.

And then there was the after-party. Held in the same space, and but with a 21+ crowd, four local bands came together to help celebrate. The night kicked off with Roladex, their analog electronic soundscapes coursing through the space with steady beats and detached vocals. An update on 80’s new-wave, they managed to get plenty of heads bobbing in the room.

Steal Shit Do Drugs (SSDD) was up next, bringing their debaucherous west coast punk to the stage. Front man Kennedy Carda – whether for lack of space on the tiny triangular riser, or energetic trajectory – whipped himself over the floor in front of the crowd, manhandling the mic stand. Their brand of punk is two-fold, both party-ready and expertly assembled.

Portland made an appearance too, with ear-crushing hardcore courtesy of Gaythiest. Both raw and wry – courtesy of guitarist/vocalist Jason Rivera’s sneering lyrical jousts and sarcastic banter – the band played furiously. Brief tracks are built from a rhythm section that could spar with the gods, Nick Parks just destroyed the kit, while Tim Hoff’s bass lines were as heavy as Thor’s hammer.

Closing out the night, Seattle’s Hibou brought out all the melodies with a sparkling set of pop tracks. The project of the young Peter Michel, Hibou has been riding the success of the band’s self-titled 2015 full-length, touring steadily for the past year and a half. While the bedroom-recorded album is jangly enough, the live band brings a multi-dimensional depth to the tracks that makes them danceable, which people were definitely doing.

For a first go, CHANNEL did a great job of pulling everyone together for this one-of-a-kind celebration. Fingers crossed that they can maintain the network and that everyone continues to come out in person to support this kind of event.

Review and Photos by Stephanie Dore