Reverb Fest 2011: Seattle Is Shedding the Narcissism and It Sounds Great

It's a season of change. The leaves are turning, protesters have taken over Wall Street, and here in Seattle, a revolution of our own is brewing--Seattle bands, fans, and showgoers are losing that chip on their shoulder, forgoing snobby stares and icy detachment for friendly smiles and hearty high-fives.

Reverb writers Chris Estey and Duff McKagan recently shared thoughtful insights on the idea with their respective pieces "God and Country: Everyday Religion" and "Seattle: It's High Time We Chilled Out." In his piece, Estey looks at the oft-overlooked "golden rule" of being nice at music festivals, while Duff offers up real food for thought on Seattle's self-serious "precious" sound, but both posts hint at a bigger concept: There's a real, palpable, cultural shift in how music lovers, bands, and industry folk want to talk about and experience live music.

From the looks of Ballard's beer-soaked streets Saturday night, Reverb Fest is blazing trails in this direction, with a stage for just about anyone who wants to play. The mood was excited, upbeat, and positive, and fest goers everywhere were laughing and rocking out.

After yakking a bit with Kurt Bloch of Less Than Equals, neo-bluegrass rock band Dennis was a fun find--in the midst of the noise and rowdiness, this timid underage group was diligently knocking out spirited, string-heavy melodies to a quiet room of parents and friends. The Cops, on the other hand, were completely balls-out raucous. A stoked fan shot Reverb ambassador Chris Kornelis an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and I headed over to Conor Byrne, where I bought Mark Pickerel a shot of tequila, stepped out to catch the fuzzy pop of Witch Gardens, and rounded out the night with a partner dance to the honky-tonkin' tunes of Davidson Hart Kingsbery.

At the end of the day, good live music is about fun. The future of Seattle's music scene lies in just that, in festivals like Reverb that unite us in our passion and support for local bands, and in folks like Witch Gardens' Beth Corry, who epitomizes the new zeitgeist with her approachable smile, breezy sense of irony, and bad-ass bass playing. Duff put it best when he said, "Maybe now Seattle can get back to being weird and different and fun again." It's just music, after all--and it's far easier and way more fun if we're all just nice about it.

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