THING: way more than just that

THING 2019 (Photo by Eric Luck)

As I was waiting in the inky night for Pedro’s Dance Party (with Napoleon Dynamite’s Efren Ramirez DJing a pumping set), I spied one of Fort Worden’s century-plus old concrete batteries just across the dirt road from where I was standing. Using my phone as a flashlight, I climbed the narrow, rail-less stairs to the top of the earthen mound that once hid a giant mortar gun. Atop the hill, I could smell the sea on the breeze, and as I gazed upward I took in the splash of stars across the sky that make up the Milky Way. After a long day of music, talks, and sunshine, it stood out amongst a string of singular moments during the inaugural weekend of THING.

And it truly was that feeling of just being, just existing while at THING that made it special. Whether you were taking in another in a series of great bands, watercoloring a paper lantern to wave later on in the nightly parade, chilling in the spacey vibe of the adult-style sorta bouncy house that was the Luminarium, or simply checked out for a bit to explore the fort, the adorable town of Port Townsend, and the nearby beach, there was an aura of whatever you did being enough. FOMO begone. The verb of the weekend was “be.”

And one of the best, uh, things about THING was the room to breathe. The festival was at capacity, yet the space never felt cramped (save the few times the intimate Wheeler Theater filled up or got behind schedule). Kiddos were everywhere and had plenty to do, from arts and crafts, playing mini golf, and riding a small carousel to taking in sets put on just for their crowd, such as Caspar Babypants. There was the aforementioned DJ set late on the first night, but the next evening culminated in a square dance with a live band, and that was just one example of the wide range of music and activities available to festival goers.

You could glimpse rock icon Krist Novoselic behind his now signature accordion during Giants in the Trees’ twangy set. You could bounce to old school hip-hop along with De La Soul. You could get spiritual in the Luminarium with Faustine Hudson’s Drum Circle Meditation, or you could laugh your ass off at the hilarity that was a live reading of the script of An Officer and a Gentleman, which involved the likes of John C. Reilly and Stephen Tobolowsky. And then there was Fort Worden itself, which offered tours and historical talks. And the festival’s Night Market was actually open the entire weekend, offering up local handmade goodness.

The first year of THING went pretty smoothly, notwithstanding a couple of logistical issues with lines for drink tickets and funky campground shuttles. One thing largely missing from the fest? Folks overdoing it on the partying end. The demographic seemed to skew just slightly older than those who you can usually find getting smashed at these things, probably due to the lineup, which also seemed to cater to those who love music more than being out of their minds while music is playing in the background. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be (mostly) present as the legendary Violent Femmes belt out a cracking version of “Country Death Song?” Not us. We were definitely busy being. Thank you, Adam Zacks, for creating and curating the first of many THINGs to come.

Christine Mitchell has been poring over album liner notes pretty much since she acquired the skill of reading, and figured out the basic structure of rock songs at an early age. Whether it’s the needle popping into the first groove of the record, the beeps that signal the beginning (or end) of a cassette tape, or digital numbers ticking off the seconds from zero, music brings Christine happiness, ponderous thought, opportunities for almost scientific study, and sometimes a few tears. When she started attending live shows two decades ago, a whole new piece of the puzzle clicked in and she has been hooked ever since.