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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Soundscape in space

Photo by Ian Koppe
Photo by Ian Koppe

Downtown Bellingham blasted off into outer space for a night. The Wild Buffalo felt like a distant planet as it filled with guests dressed in out-of-this-world attire on Saturday, Feb. 20.

From attendees in antennas and wigs, wearing bright green or blue lipstick, to the shiny, holographic paper covering the surfaces around the stage, the venue was transformed to feel like a spaceship preparing for takeoff.

This was Soundscape. The event, created by Western senior Ryan Hargis and alumna Billie Weller, was just held for the fourth time since its creation in the spring of 2015.

Hargis and Weller have been dating for a little over a year and have wanted to do a collaborative piece since the beginning of their relationship, Weller said.

“Our main focus of Soundscape is bringing a community together that’s very family and friend oriented,” Hargis said. “That includes art. That’s a big part of it too. We want as much art as we can have there, because art is such a part of music and music is such a part of art in our eyes. So that was a big emphasis of it, too.”

Rock vendors and projection art, combined with the music, made for more of a music-festival scene than what is usually found at the Wild Buffalo.

Weller studied graphic design and visual journalism at her time here at Western, and now lives in Seattle working in graphic design, while Hargis finishes up his last quarter, studying studio art with a concentration in photography.

“I’ve always been really interested in music, and I’ve always been really interested in shows and wanted to be a part of that,” Hargis said. “I wanted to [disc jockey], but I never really got into it.”

In designing events together, the couple have learned more about each other as co-workers.

“I’ve always loved being integrated in shows, but I feel like Ryan was really helpful in actually getting the ball moving. He’s a really good go-getter,” Weller said.

Hargis said he decided to put on shows for his friends to come to and perform.

“When I was going to school here, there was a really good electronic music scene at the [Wild Buffalo],” Weller said, explaining that many of those DJs were her friends who moved on to other things. They wanted to bring back the underground, electronic style they believed was lacking with the absence of those DJs.

After coming up with the idea, Austin Santiago, one of the booking managers at the Wild Buffalo, suggested they host it at the club. They also teamed up with Casey Scalf of Sensebellum, a concert visual specialist, to create visuals and lighting for the show.

“It’s really energetic and upbeat, but there’s still a really solid, chill vibe to it so you don’t feel overwhelmed in the crowd,” Sombath Chum said, a Western student who attended the event.

The sounds of groups like Dream Journal, Pinky Promise and Roman Kandle created tunes ranging from trance to bass house. Performers and DJs made the trip to Bellingham from both Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle.

Pressha, otherwise known as Matt McGiveron, played the last set of the show to wrap up the night. He usually plays at Q Nightclub in Seattle, but has also ventured onto stages at Paradiso, What the Festival and Burning Man.

“If you can create this environment that’s a whole different world for people to come into, it’s so much more memorable and fun and inviting,” Hargis said. “People like to get dressed up and go all-out for different shows. I think that’s all-encompassing of the art emphasis.”

All the DJs succeeded in getting the growing crowd moving and dancing all night long. In the past, around 350 people have attended Soundscape, but the shows continue to grow, Hargis said.

“This is the first [Soundscape event] I’ve actually gone to and it’s awesome,” said Kimmiree Bolla, a friend of Hargis and fellow art major. “I’ve never gone to anything like this at the Buff.”

After Hargis graduates, the two plan to continue Soundscape shows in Bellingham, but they are looking to expand in Seattle as well. Hargis and Weller already have many ideas for new additions, artists, and music they want to incorporate into their shows, the couple said.


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