Deck Mate

The End's annual holiday show is as relevant, and critical, as ever.

When we think about big Northwest festivals, the first ones that come to mind are the boys of summer, Bumbershoot and Sasquatch! Indoor winter-fests like last week's KNDD 107.7 the End's Deck the Hall Ball aren't typically included in these conversations—and that's a shame, because even though it's a single-day event, it serves just as important a role, and continues to be one of the area's marquee annual music events.

"End Music" is a marketing term, sure. But for two decades, the station's done an impressive job of defining its own sound—even as it's evolved. "End Music" today is different than it was 10 years ago, but it's not an unfair shorthand description of the intersection of mainstream alt-rock and indie, with a heavy helping of the old-school. Deck the Hall Ball has consistently been a tidy way of articulating it. To the station's credit, it's never been clear whether the station puts Deck bands on heavy rotation because they play the fest, or if they play the fest because the bands are on heavy rotation. Last week's Ball was a classic example of a station that knows its audience, booked their signature show accordingly, and hit one out of the park.

Mumford and Sons and Death Cab for Cutie were the headliners. But even before solid undercards Foster the People and Cage the Elephant took the stage, KeyArena was pushing capacity (and it was more than half-full for Young the Giant). Like Sasquatch!, known for stacking a lineup aimed squarely at its target audience, Deck brought in fans for the whole night, not just the bands at the top of the bill.

Combining a handful of new radio bands who've had a hit or two (see Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks") with bankable staples is a formula the End knows well. Dating back to the station's End Fest days in Bremerton, KNDD undercards like Radiohead and, um, Matchbox 20 have gone on to become some of the biggest bands of the past 20 years. KNDD shows like the Deck the Hall Ball have always been a great place to see showcase-length sets from bands on the way up. This year's fest was no exception.

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