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THE 2021 FREAKOUT FESTIVAL at Ballard, Washington

The 2021 FREAKOUT FESTIVAL at the Salmon Bay Upper

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.

Acid Tongue at Salmon Bay Upper
Don Grey at the Umbria Caffe

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.

        (Venues & Ballard)

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. 


Reposado at Conor Byrne
Spirit Award Band at Tractor Tavern
Kathy Moore Super Power Trio at Cloudburst on Shilshole

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.

General Mojo’s at Conor Byrne

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:

General Mojo’s bandleader, bass player, original music composer Dune Butler interviewed in the poolroom at Salmon Bay Lower.

    (General Mojo’s)

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:

    (Images around the 2021 Freakout Festival)

I am an entertainment, show, band, concert and festival photographer experienced in shooting events of all sizes and genres. I am located in Portland, Oregon and am retired and no longer do any shooting or writing on a commercial basis. I am a contributing writer and photographer for POW Magazine. My past photo-journalism experiences since 2003 have been with a number of local Portland and Seattle entertainment magazines. These include Portland's Positively Entertainment and Dining Magazine, the Portland Music Review, the Cascade Blues Association Blues Notes Magazine, Northwest Karaoke and Live Music Review Magazine, and with the independent blues label, Delta Groove Productions in Los Angeles (9 yrs). For three years (2016-2019), I was a a writer/photographer for the ezine in New York. I also send occasional Karaoke feature articles to KaraokeScene magazine in Los Angeles. In addition, I publish my own Karaoke blog, West Coast Karaoke Review on Facebook where I write and photograph feature articles on regional Karaoke bars. I got my start shooting and publishing articles while in the Navy on my final ship the U.S.S. Halyburton, FFG-40, where one of my assigned duties was as the ship’s Public Affairs Officer. This included submitting articles to local Charleston, SC newspapers along with the U.S. Naval Base Bowhook newspaper for two years until 1991. My goal with joining POW Magazine is two-fold, one, to shoot in as many new venues, events and festivals that I haven’t visited before and two, to hopefully benefit the bands that I cover and help them by providing strong photographic, journalistic and video coverage of their shows. POW Magazine’s Founder Dennis Gonzalez and POW's Editor Sheena Moore have trained me in video and photo editing skills along with article construction on Wordpress in a Photo Assistant capacity. I also have been assigned in the temporary capacity as Acting Editor while Sheena was on vacation. and remain available for that function as needed. This includes creating and posting content to Youtube, editing videos, editing photos and arranging show access. I feel fortunate to be provided the opportunity to expand my media horizon and be a member of the POW Magazine Team!!