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Dog Shredder play the Shakedown in Bellingham May 12.
Bellingham is a perfect town-- not too big or too small, simultaneously scenic and close to

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10 Bellingham Bands You Need To Hear Now

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Dog Shredder play the Shakedown in Bellingham May 12.
Bellingham is a perfect town-- not too big or too small, simultaneously scenic and close to natural beauty, and located in between two "cosmopolitan" cities should its residents ever want to ditch. Best of all, Bellingham has long possessed a rockin' music scene, in part because its position as a distinct market from Seattle and Vancouver means touring bands often play much smaller venues when they come through. The other constant in Bellingham's scene is the presence of Western Washington University, whose students keep the supply of bands fresh and make up a large part of the showgoing public.

"It's an interesting town because it has a cross-section of individuals, from blue-collar workers to college kids to older folks who retire there," says Hunter Motto, talent buyer at the Crocodile, who got his start booking at Western before becoming program director at the Mount Baker Theatre for three years. "As a result, the music is a weird amalgamation of a bunch of scenes happening at once."

"The main difference between Bellingham and Seattle is there's a lot of intermingling," says Carlton Eide, talent buyer at the Old Foundry, a newer all-ages venue in downtown Bellingham. [In the interest of full disclosure, I met Eide through my work at Bookr, which recently began ticketing the Old Foundry.] "There's only three or four major music venues, so there's not a huge choice of places to go. It's not like Seattle where you can go to Ballard and there's ten venues, or you go to Capitol Hill and you have 15 venues. By having fewer choices you get people trying out more new things, and there's a lot of bands checking each other out no matter what their genre."

And so much for Bellingham's nickname "The City of Subdued Excitement." "The beauty of Bellingham shows is that they're so high energy," Motto says. "Whereas in Seattle there's a lot of arm crossing, in Bellingham people freak out because only a handful of national touring shows come through a month. And because it's a college town, there's that energy that early twenty-somethings have. They want to interact with the music."

"I get countless 'This is the best show on the tour' reports from bands," he says.

When asked why this might be so, Old Foundry's Eide laughed. "Maybe the better question is, 'Why does Seattle not have fun at shows?'"

While a changing venue landscape has caused a transitional period in terms of where bands play, an upswing in new and revamped venues has Motto thinking the city's due for a surge of new bands. "Every year it seems we lose venues, and the ability to play goes away, and then there's a burgeoning of venues and bands can function better," he says, noting that while the Nightlight, a 500-capacity venue, and another spot called Plan B closed in the past few years, clubs like the Shakedown, the Wild Buffalo, and Redlight coffee are holding more shows and revitalizing the scene. "When there's a fervor around, it's good for music in general."

Okay, enough talking. Let's get down to Brass Tactics and talk about the best bands Bellingham's got on tap.

1. Dog Shredder

Their recently-released EP, Brass Tactics, came out on Seattle's Good to Die Records and was reviewed favorably in Pitchfork. Motto says they crush it live, while Eide warns you to expect big things from them in 2012.

2. The Bad Tenants

"The Bad Tenants are the most active, energetic group to rise out of a sea of local artists making intelligent, well-produced hip-hop music," says Eide. "Their music videos are killer."

3. Sugar Sugar Sugar

Sugar Sugar Sugar takes "that bluesy Detroit rock sound, bottles it, shakes it up, and lets loose on unsuspecting listeners," says Motto.

4. Learning Team

Responsibly disclosing that he handles their booking, Eide compares Learning Team's "incessantly catchy songs with eclectic instrumentation" to indie-darlings Oberhofer, noting that members of the band come from the same Tacoma scene that bred Oberhofer, Widowspeak, and Makeup Monsters.

5. IG88

Seahorse Paternity Test (feat Jenni Potts) by IG88

"He's a downtempo beat auteur who warps and twists sounds into some of the coolest, moving, fluid music you've heard," says Motto.

6. The Palisades

Eide calls The Palisades "the most notable band to rise out of the Bellingham house show scene," describing them as "passionate garage rock that will make your mother cry and your little brother want to start a band."

7. Baltic Cousins

Motto describes them as "folk-leaning indie rock with an emphasis on the latter."

8. The Royal Sea

"Not your parents' surf rock, unless your parents were psychedelic hippies!" says Motto.

9. Polecat

"One thing that Bellingham live shows are known for is dancing, and no band makes Bellingham shake it like bluegrass-fusion stompers Polecat," says Eide. "When will Seattle catch on?"

10. Rookery

Rattle by Rookery

"A band that is oh so reminiscent of the golden era of punk (Fugazi, Hot Snakes, Jehu) and oh so lovable [for it]," says Motto.

Got a favorite Bellingham act? Add 'em in the comments!

 
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