Strolling through downtown, soul music and the buzz of the social Bellingham crowd gets more distinct. As one rounds the corner onto Bay Street, a live band is getting warmed up at a free, all-ages block party in Bellingham’s Arts District on a summer night.
For the past 12 summers on several Wednesday evenings, Bay Street between Prospect and Champion is closed to host Downtown Sounds.
On Wednesday, July 13 was the second round of Downtown Sounds 2016, featuring Snug Harbor and Marmalade, both bands funk-focused. On July 20, Downtown Sounds featured Americana focused bands Fruition and Vaudeville Etiquette.
Snug Harbor has been around about as long as the Downtown Sounds event. They are an 8-piece funk and soul group that feels straight out of the 70s, but they are not regurgitating covers. Snug Harbor feels both familiar and original.
Frontman William Glazier, who handles vocals and trumpet for the group, is a 2013 Western graduate.
“I think [the funk] is still alive,” Glazier said when asked about the Bellingham music scene. “It’s definitely making a comeback.”
He plays in other groups locally, most notably Willdabeast, a horn-driven electronic group known for hosting events like Soul Night at the Green Frog.
A 30-minute interlude of Latin dance music, eased the break-down/set-up time between bands. A handful of dancers led the crowd from in front of the stage, and a smaller live band set everyone in motion. Several dozen folks near the front were following along enthusiastically and synchronized with the dancers.
Marmalade is a funk-reggae fusion group out of Seattle. They headlined the July 13 event. Singer Tiffany Wilson guest starred for most of their set, bringing another level of reggae style to the sound. While Snug Harbor was well received, the crowd really filled in and got moving for Marmalade. Whether it was the more reggae driven sound, or just the mood of the evening setting in, Marmalade felt like the hit of the event.
“I think [the funk] is still alive. It’s definitely making a comeback.”
Riley Shull attended all the shows last year, and came down for a few minutes of this one on his break from work, because he enjoys the events that much. He moved to Bellingham last year from Portland, and says it is like a close-knit version of his hometown. He said Bellingham Sounds is always a “kickass time,” adding that he works at Schweinhaus meeting people every day, but there is nothing like the people you meet at the event.
Most folks in attendance said the event was as entertaining as always, but not everyone.
“[The bands last year] were so much more original, they had so much more creativity,” said Zachary Liddle while watching Marmalade.
At each event, two bands play from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and food, beverage, and shopping booths line the street. Kombucha Town had their brews on tap; Deli’cious Mischief food truck was serving Baker Bites, mini-fried-breadsticks; and Boundary Bay sponsored the beer garden. By 7 p.m. the block was filled with an eclectic mix of people of all ages. Most attendees were returning from having been to at least one of these events before. Downtown Sounds is a staple of Bellingham summer frivolity.
Three more Downtown Sounds events remain for this year: Rabbit Wilde and Heels to the Hardwood, both Americana, will play on July 27. Lastly, Lyrics Born and Mostafa Supergroup, hip-hop music groups, will play on Aug. 3.