Most Seattle summer festivals make sure to weave a kid-friendly component into their programming—such as the VERA Project stage at the Capitol Hill Block Party or the KidSafe program at Bumbershoot—but the West Seattle Summer Fest (Fri., July 9–Sun., July 11) has an added incentive to make sure the tykes are entertained. The 'hood west of the Duwamish River is full of families—from Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder's to those of Presidents of the U.S.A. members Andrew McKeag and Chris Ballew—with strong ties to Seattle's music history.
"The joke around the office is that all the rock gods from the '90s moved to West Seattle and started families," says Fest programmer Jason Fitzgerald, who cut his teeth booking several landmark Seattle venues, including the Off Ramp (now El Corazon) and Moe's (now Neumos). Fitzgerald and partner Oliver Little have been booking WSSF for five years via their organization, The Workshop, a production company founded in 1997 by former One Reel production director David Doxtater. Even without the obvious geo-socio-cultural factors at play, WSSF has remained an exceptionally 'hood-focused event, from the musicians onstage to the degree to which local merchants are involved.
"We really cater to the neighborhood specifically," explains Fitzgerald. The two stages will feature music programming that is entirely local, with more than half of the participants being from West Seattle proper. That includes punk vets The Tom Price Desert Classic (6:30 p.m. Fri. on the California Stage), old-school metal mavens Midnight Idols (7:45 p.m. Fri., Alaska Stage), and black-hearted Americana act Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands (5:30 p.m. Sat., California Stage). The aforementioned Presidents members will be playing with their side projects: McKeag takes the California Stage at 5:15 p.m. on Friday with his Humble Pie cover outfit, the Fixers, while Ballew will bring the kid-friendly jams via Caspar Babypants the next morning at 11 a.m. on the Alaska Stage. The School of Rock also will bring the youthful noise to the Alaska Stage at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday with their Live Aid Remade set (including David Bowie, Queen, and Judas Priest covers).
Though the expanded kids' activity area (dubiously dubbed the Super Terrific Happy Fun Zone and replete with bouncy castles, clowns, and so forth) is now half a city block long, there'll be no shortage of adult-friendly activities. The local emphasis means a blessed absence of ubiquitous, generic street-fair vendors like Señor Frog's. Instead, The Workshop has a deal with the city to allow local businesses, including restaurants and bars, to temporarily spill out onto the sidewalk without having to shell out extra permit fees or negotiate complex paperwork. In other words, there's still a cattle-call beer garden near the California Stage, but there are also plenty of spots to grab a sunny cafe table along the Junction and create one's own Super Terrific Happily Buzzed Zone.
Furthermore, several of the later headlining acts will appeal to grown-up audiences, especially ribald, all-female AC/DC cover act Hell's Belles (9 p.m. Fri., California Stage), grunge icons Satchel (8:30 p.m. Fri., Alaska Stage) and country-noir rock act Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter (7 p.m. Sat., California Stage).
Though it's wildly smaller in scale and distinctly non-kid friendly, another "fest" this weekend is worthy of attendance. Local promoter Amelia Gydé is hosting Ameliafest on Fri., July 9 at the Blue Moon in the U District. Along with appearances from fast-rising pop-punks What What Now and the Greenriver Thrillers, this event marks the club debut of former Vindaloo frontman Ben Harwood's new duo, Hobosexual.
While their moniker may conjure up unfortunate images of homeless coitus, their lightning-in-a-bottle assault of bluesy guitar and drums will erase that blight from your mind's eye, though Harwood and drummer Jeff Silva hope you see the sleaze as good-humored honesty that fits on some levels. "We both sorta felt that name represented our personalities—big, bearded, and usually dressed in outdated attire," he explains. "We definitely never fit into a pair of 'skinny' jeans, and wouldn't want to."