When we think about big Northwest festivals, the first ones that come to mind are the boys of summer, namely Bumbershoot, Sasquatch. Indoor winter fests like KNDD 107.7 the End's Deck the Hall Ball aren't typically included in conversations about our great regional fests, 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 a good job 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 for the intersection of mainstream alt-rock and indie, with a heavy helping of the old-school. Deck the Hall Ball is consistently a tidy way of defining the station's sound. To the station's credit, it's never been clear whether the station was putting Deck bands on heavy rotation because they were playing the fest, or if they were playing the fest because the bands were on heavy rotation. Last night's installment 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 of the night. But even before solid undercards Foster the People and Cage the Elephant took the stage, the arena was pushing capacity (and it was more than half-full for Young the Giant). Like Sasquatch!, which is known for stacking the lineup aimed squarely at their target audience, Deck brought in fans for the whole night, not just the headliners at the top of the bill.
The formula of a handful of new radio bands with a hit or two (see Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks") paired with bankable staples is one 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 last 20 years.
KNDD shows like Deck the Hall Ball have always been a great place to see showcase-length sets from bands on the way up, and last night was no exception.
I gotta say: The no moshing/crowd surfing signs made me sad. That's what Deck used to be about! Plus, who doesn't want to mosh to Mumford!?!?!
I must admit: I ducked out during Death Cab -- before Mumford -- to check out Rhapsody's party/concert at the Showbox.