No Depression Festival is a musical education in Americana
The second annual No Depression Festival — featuring The Swell Season, Lucinda Williams, the Cave Singers, Sera Cahoone, Alejandro Escovedo, Chuck Prophet and the Maldives — hits Marymoor Park on Saturday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
No Depression Festival1 p.m. Saturday, Marymoor Park, 6046 W. Lake Sammamish Parkway N.E., Redmond; $45 (800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com).
Think of the second annual No Depression Festival as summer school, albeit with steel guitars, microbrews and a sunburn. The full day of music — featuring seven bands at Marymoor Park on Saturday — is a survey course in American roots music.
Your instructor: Kyla Fairchild, curator of the festival and founder of No Depression, a Seattle-based magazine that existed for 13 years as the bible of alt-country, documenting, in depth, the innumerable bifurcations and personalities of a style of music more nuanced than most understand it to be. The magazine went online-only in 2008 and now features daily updates, interviews, album and concert reviews, and essays by writers from all over the country. (This is your background reading.)
The 40-something, Ballard-dwelling mother/wife/impresario is No Depression's primary creative force, abetted by concert promoter Adam Zacks, who founded the Sasquatch Music Festival and produces No Depression.
Fairchild is reliably positive and breezy for a woman who wears as many hats as she does. During a recent phone interview, she's humble about almost everything — her achievements in media, her contribution to the alt-country community, the success of last year's inaugural festival.
There is, however, one point of pride.
"Both Adam and I have pretty impeccable taste in music and the live music experience," she says. "A lot of thought goes into the lineup. A big part of our goal when we book the festival is to be mindful of how the pieces fit together and to incorporate as many different musical styles as possible. There's only seven slots so each one has to matter."
Fairchild's confidence is well-earned, and it helps make No Depression Festival a unique, even educational, experience.
"Over time the word will continue to grow that it's a great day of music," she says. "And even if you're not familiar with all the artists, you can go and trust everything you see will be fantastic."
What you will see: Headliner the Swell Season, a rotating collective led by Irish singer/guitarist Glen Hansard of the Frames and Czech singer/pianist Markéta Irglová. The pair starred in the 2007 romantic film "Once" and play acoustic folk-pop, sweet and romantic stuff that's won them widespread adoration.
Lucinda Williams, whose gritty, blues-inflected country balladry has earned her a slew of Grammy nominations and three wins over the course of a long, respected career.
Alejandro Escovedo, former punk rocker turned roots rocker, and Chuck Prophet, who followed a similar, if a bit twangier, path. Both have played each other's tunes; Prophet has played with Williams. Here's hoping for a No Depression collaboration this weekend.
"There's no reason indie-rock hipsters shouldn't be falling at their feet and getting schooled," Fairchild says of Escovedo and Prophet. "I try to bring in the performers that have come up through the roots-music world that should be known by the indie-rock constituency."
Seattle's flourishing Americana scene is well-represented by hard-charging alt-country big band the Maldives, mellow country crooner Sera Cahoone and the Cave Singers, a genre-flouting dirge-folk band with an ardent international following. Their prominent inclusion toward the top of the bill demonstrates Seattle's stature in the roots-music world, as does locating the festival in the city's backyard.
"They reflect what I want to bring to the festival, trying to cross over between the indie-rock world and the Americana/roots-music world," Fairchild says.
The Cave Singers, for their part, understand their role as unifiers between the subgenres — roots, Americana, indie, whatever — that comprise the lexicon of No Depression.
"All those different words, they're all disconnected and connected with one another, but they all just mean the same thing," says singer Pete Quirk.
"It's always funny playing these types of festivals," says guitarist Derek Fudesco, noting the Cave Singers just returned from a headlining slot at Portland's string-band-centric Pickathon a couple of weeks ago. "When you play with real pickers and people that shred that style — and we only have a tiny bit of that — it really makes us seem a lot different from that kind of music."
"We kind of fit in and we kind of don't," says drummer Marty Lund. "It makes me excited to play, watching bands that are so different."
Starting Saturday, class is in session.
Jonathan Zwickel: 206-464-3239 or email@example.com
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