A chatty buzz quickly turns into whistles and cheers at Schweinhaus Biergarten on Friday, Oct. 13 as Bellingham rock band Magenta Wave takes the stage. Every bench in the beer garden is full and an overflow crowd stands on the sidelines.
By the end of the band’s hourlong set, attendees formed a dance pit in front of the stage, the crowd alive and bouncing to the final riffs.
“When Magenta Wave comes through, it feels very electric,” said Martijn Wall, co-founder and co-owner of The Blue Room, a Bellingham venue Magenta Wave has played at multiple times.
The band smiles and waves at their friends from the stage, and laughter fills the venue as they joke around with the crowd between songs.
It’s akin to a family feeling, where everyone is coming together and celebrating, Wall said.
“That comes from the members of the band and speaks to the energy they create,” he said. “The crowd that comes is coming for that energy.”
After their set, Magenta Wave joined the audience for Pure Halcyon’s set, dancing and mingling with the crowd.
“I love it when I see someone I just saw on stage in the crowd watching another band,” said Kai Ross, founder of West Sound Records, a Bellingham record label. “It shows that a particular artist is involved in their community and supporting other local artists.”
Connecting with the crowd onstage and offstage builds audience loyalty, an important factor in the success of a local band, he added.
Magenta Wave consists of lead singer and guitarist Grayson Thompson, lead guitarist Taylor Mastin, bassist Nathaniel McCurley and drummer Kellen Larsen.
Schweinhaus was a notable show for Magenta Wave, who began playing live shows in March 2022 at their homemade Jersey Street house show venue. They quickly progressed to local venues like The Wild Buffalo House of Music and The Blue Room.
Last summer, the band began playing small venue shows in Seattle and road-tripped down to Portland, Oregon in August. Magenta Wave relocated to Seattle in September.
Thompson is the newest addition to the band, replacing the original singer in early 2023. Thompson was the first person Magenta Wave wanted to connect with when the spot opened up.
“I had known for over a year that I wanted this dude to sing with us,” said Mastin, who met Thompson in 2021.
Thompson had been a part of another Bellingham band at the time.
“It wasn’t the right timing, but I knew from that moment it was gonna work out at some point,” Mastin said.
Under the alias The Nathaniel Englert Band, Larsen and Mastin played their first show with Thompson in December 2022 at the Main Street Bar and Grill in Ferndale while Magenta Wave was on hiatus.
Originally, the show was supposed to be a “ragtag trio with no vocals,” said Larsen.
It was supposed to be just Larsen, Mastin and McCurley jamming on stage, until McCurley had a last-minute complication and couldn’t make it.
Mastin sent “Hail Mary” texts to Thompson to fill in on vocals and another friend to fill in on bass, and they assembled in Larsen’s garage.
They practiced for two hours, wrote four songs and played them that night at Main Street. They performed so well that a random bar patron tipped them $100.
“Playing that show with Grayson, Taylor and I were like, 'This is it, this is what we’re looking for,'” said Larsen. “We just knew.”
That show got Magenta Wave back to jamming and planning their next steps.
The addition of Thompson to the band changed their sound from soft rock to what Mastin describes as “heavier and more distorted.”
“I’ve been really into grunge, so it’s pretty fun to make some music that allows for that emotional outlet,” Mastin said.
Magenta Wave blends a combination of genres including alternative, psychedelic and indie-rock, and contrasts tumultuous guitar solos with gentle melodies, infusing a unique energy into their songs.
“Our sound is still evolving,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t really have to be a certain kind of genre, we’re just making stuff that we like.”
Each member has a different approach to playing their instrument, based on their musical influences.
“We’re like a melting pot of genres coming together,” Larsen said. “It makes our sound unique and our own.”
“Our newer songs have some different stuff going on,” Mastin said. “We’re thinking less about what type of song we want to make and more about what’s going on inside of us that’s going to come out through the music.”
“The vocals have such a deep role in the foundation of a song,” said McCurley. “Our sound has changed as a reflection of the people that we play with, and that is a really awesome concept.”
Magenta Wave labeled their sound as forever evolving. They expect their sound will always change based on their environment and how other bands inspire and motivate them, Larsen said.
“Bands and artists that do what they want sonically and creatively as opposed to following whatever is popular at the time is what is unique and stands out to me,” said Nico Sanchez, founder and CEO of Bellingham-based Black Noise Records.
Their next step is recording in a studio and making their way through the Seattle scene.
“We have very high aspirations, and still feel like we’re just starting to explore who we are as musicians and as a group,” McCurley said. “We’re really excited to see what we can do. We’re all very determined and dedicated to the project.”
Maria Kallerson (she/her) is a fifth-year creative writing major, journalism news-ed minor and film studies minor at Western. She enjoys hiking in the Cascades, live music, photography, writing short stories and reading. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.