One side effect of the past year undeniably noticeable to music lovers—and people who live and play downtown—was the absence of the annual summertime live concert series, Downtown Sounds. After keeping out a watchful eye and planning for a variety of scenarios, the Downtown Bellingham Partnership is excited to announce that the popular event is back, returning to rock the heart of the city.
Downtown Sounds is very special to the Partnership’s Lindsey Payne Johnstone. Her close and long-term involvement becomes clear as she talks about her role. “As the Program Director at the DBP, I oversee all aspects of the event” she says, “primarily booking the bands, hiring production, securing monetary and in-kind sponsorships, coordinating rentals, permitting, maintaining communications with businesses impacted by the event, and all the various details and logistics in-between. Our entire staff works hard on this event, managing volunteer coordination, marketing timelines, and so much more.”
The Partnership saw that the local community was committed to working its way through the health concerns and remained committed to bringing the in-person party back. As the city and state navigated through COVID, the Partnership explored various scenarios for Downtown Sounds, starting early this year.
“There were state restrictions on maximum occupancy, so we were analyzing square footage capacity, and making decisions based around that,” Johnstone says. “We considered the rooftop of the parking garage on Commercial Street, Maritime Heritage Park, the Waterfront, and of course our original home on Bay and Prospect Streets.”
Downtown Sounds takes place every Wednesday evening during the month of August on Bay and Prospect Streets between Champion and Holly. The audience fills the street between Woods Coffee, Bayou on Bay, Spark Museum and the Pickford Film Center. As always, the events are free and open to music lovers of all ages.
Doors to the audience area and the beer garden open at 5:30 p.m., opening bands begin at 6 p.m., and the headlining act starts at 7:30 p.m. While COVID restrictions have been lifted, face coverings are required for the unvaccinated, and all concert-goers should remember that many local businesses still ask patrons to wear masks, as well.
The series debuts on August 4th, with local opener Analog Brass bringing a large, high-energy band complete with horn section. They’re followed by Nite Wave, who specialize in bringing the party to life in the way only ’80s New Wave music can.
On August 11th, Mind’s Eye start the show, and Eldridge Gravy & the Court Supreme will headline, filling the stage and the surrounding landscape with all the funk grooves it can handle.
August 18th will see Stephanie Anne Johnson & the Hidogs mix rock and soul to open the show, followed by headliner High Step Society and their high-energy mix of jazz and bass-heavy electronic pyrotechnics.
The final session, on August 25th, begins with the manouche jazz stylings of Nuage—think of the smooth, lively and intricate music played by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli—and concludes with beloved rockabilly and Americana played by The Dusty 45s.
The beer garden will be open to those 21 years of age and older, offering beer, wine and cider, and spotlighting products from local favorite Boundary Bay Brewing.
As in previous years, food trucks will once again be on hand to handle the crowd’s needs for dinner and snacks. The Family Alley will also make its return, offering even more kid-friendly diversions than years past, including a giant Jenga set, cornhole, and “WECU pong.”
Over the past two years, Downtown Sounds Premiere Sponsor, WECU, has become a true partner to the concert series, as evidenced last year when they helped keep the event alive as an online fundraiser for local music venues.
“Their presence at the event is authentic,” Johnstone says. “We are grateful they were able to help us create something impactful for our community when we really needed it—they truly understand the importance of putting on Downtown Sounds in celebration this summer.”
The broad support for Downtown Sounds is evident from the long list of popular local businesses who also support the event, like the Groove Merchant Northwest production company, Cascadia Weekly, close neighbor SPARK Museum, the Hotel Leo, the Wild Buffalo music venue, on-site eatery and bar Bayou on Bay, and local favorite Sandwich Odyssey, as well as the City of Bellingham.