Story, photos and video by: Kurt T. Johnson
For four days over the weekend of Thursday the 11th through Sunday the 13th of November 2021, the Freakout Festival rocked downtown Ballard, Washington. Multiple venues featured live Psych, Garage, Underground, Rap, Indie, Latin and other music variations from 6 PM to 1 AM. Performances were by national touring, local and regional level Northwestern bands.
The Freakout Festival’s purpose is to showcase and support live music and the performers who create their art. In addition, the festival supports and promotes not only the performers, but also the venues. It draws many new visitor who might not be aware of these venue. On top of that, the festival highlights downtown Ballard. The Freakout Festival had helped to establish downtown Ballard as a dining and live entertainment destination for the greater Seattle area featuring upscale restaurants, trendy cafes and live music venues. As visitors wander the area they discover all kinds of interesting restaurants or places just to relax and have a drink or catch a live music show or two.
Ballard, Washington is located just north of and across the 15th Street Bridge from downtown Seattle on Salmon Bay. Historically, Ballard was a gritty, grimy industrial seaport and shipyard town with many warehouses and docks. Today, the seaport and docks are still there, but downtown has been transformed into a trendy, upscale dining, entertainment and shopping district while still retaining its seaport feel and charm. There’s even a Farmer’s Market on Ballard Avenue on Sunday morning and afternoon.
The Festival is in its ninth year and featured such favorites as Cedric Burnside, Acid Tongue, The Shivas, Jaime Wyatt, Thee Sacred Souls, Urban Heat and General Mojo’s. The venues included Hotel Albatross, Cloudburst on Shilshole, Caffe Umbria, Tractor Tavern, Conor Byrne, C.C. Filson Ballard and the Salmon Bay Upper and Lower. All were within walking distance allowing visitors to wander freely between shows.
Some of this writer’s favorite bands were Thee Sacred Souls with their soul harmonies that brought you back to a a 1968 Al Green or Marvin Gaye live show. Acid Tongue’s hard-edged and hammering Psych Rock sound. Don Grey’s smooth, soulful and from the heart rapping with a live band. Reposado with their big band Latin-funk with Conga drums and with full brass section (and this writer has a distinct weakness for a brass section, Conga drums and Latin beats). Black Ends with lead guitarist Nicolle Swims and her vicious, brutal guitar attack complete with screaming feedback brings to mind a mix of Jimi Hendrix, Lenny Kravitz, Living Colour’s Vernon Reid and Nirvana all rolled into one. Perhaps the most unusual line-up was General Mojo’s double drum kit with both kits set on the floor and the band onstage. At times, they were synchronized, then syncopated and then discordant adding a different flavor to their music.
POW MAGAZINE was fortunate to be able to conduct a spur-of-the-moment interview with General Mojo’s bandleader, bass player, lead singer and original music composer Dune Butler. This writer ran into them as they were loading up their van after their show at the Salmon Bay Upper stage on Thursday night. They actually played two dates with their second show at Conor Bryne. Butler explained the concept of General Mojo’s, “It’s a psycho-art project with double drum kits and also we will be hitting the Bear Creek Studio next week to record our first concept album. We have one full-length we just released on vinyl called ‘Cycles’. Before that , we just have two EP’s and some singles.” He continued, “We’ve had different audiences over the years and our sound has changed. At this moment, people ar super engaged with our new material on ‘Cycles’ and they’re very turned on.” He discussed how he hit on the idea of double drums. “Basically, during lockdown our touring band combined with our hometown band.” (They are from Seattle). He talked about his creative process, “I spent most of the winter in the basement of my girlfriend’s house creating demos for the new record. I would have an idea and then devote that time to fleshing out an idea as I sing a short melody or even a couple words. Often, this process would continue until five in the morning. I would sit with my computer and microphone, a Hoffner bass, a Stratocaster guitar and a Juno 106 synthesizer. Through all these demos our new album was born with a working title of ‘The Flat Earth Project’. He then talked about the band’s future, “Next week we’ll be recording at a studio we consider a home. We’re extremely well rehearsed and excited for the challenge!” You can see more of General Mojo’s on their website: http: generalmojos.com
The 2021 Ballard, Washington Freakout Festival rocked the Seattle area with a wide variety of bands playing all sorts of Psych, Garage, Indie and Latin infused rock music at an eclectic variety of live band venues. Visitors were able to wander freely at their own pace and take-in their favorites over the course of four nights. Everyone contributed to the festival’s success from the performers, venues, employees, volunteers, visitors, vendors, lighting shows, sound crews, the Sunday Farmer’s Market and even the street performers our busking in the rain. It was hittin’ and happenin’ and didn’t stop for all four days. You can see more of the Ballard, Washington Freakout Festival at their website: www.the-freakout.com