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That THING: Unique Festival in WA Brings Together Music, Art, Storytelling & Corn Dogs

Whenever I see that there’s a big music festival coming to a town where I know a talented writer, artist, photographer, or reporter, I try to hook up some coverage for those of us on the High Plains that aren’t likely to travel so far in the name of live performance. After receiving an alert about THING, a recurring festival that takes place in Port Townsend, Washington, I reached out to some friends to see if they’d be able to attend and document the event. Thankfully, both Jihee Kim and Amarillo-native Danny Gross were game, but they could only make it out to the island for the Saturday festivities. But we’re so grateful they did, because HPPR now has a slice of this experimental, interactive celebration of art, music, and culture. See below for their coverage, as well as a lot of photos that’ll make you feel like you were there.

From the reporters, Jihee Kim & Danny Gross:

“Who would have thought a former military base would make the ideal place for a carefully-curated music and arts festival? When that place is an idyllic port town where the sea meets the bay, it seems it’s THE place to hear an eclectic mix of emerging artists serving live soul, alt-folk, global roots, indie rock, electronic DJ sets, R&B, hip-hop and whatever else comes blaring from the various stages. Speaking of which, the audio was incredible—shout out to the sound engineers! We enjoyed traversing the space, wandering through a village of liminal spaces like the “Sensory Garden,” as well as a “Low Stimulus Area.” There were vendors, educational workshop spaces, and a crowd that felt correct moving through all the positive vibrations.

As the salt water breezes flapped through our hair, we caught sets by some of the amazing artists on the Saturday lineup. We talked to a friend that attended the night before and witnessed the magic of Sparks, in all their legendary glory, only to later realize that they’d been smiling for a full (too short) hour. On the day we attended, we were able to catch performances by: Durand Jones & the Indications (which featured high-level baby-makin’ music), Helado Negro, indie-rock favorites Modest Mouse, Curtis Harding, Illuminati Hotties, rapper Jarv Dee, Reignwolf, Seattle’s own guitar prodigy Osvaldo Ribas, Shaina Shepherd, and folk-pop powerhouse Haley Blais.

Plus, the event also featured dance workshops, live interviews (including one with journalist/author Marcus J. Moore), a lantern-making workshop & parade featuring The Unexpected Brass Band, an interactive cult-comedy gameshow, a collaborative painting session with Jesse Higman, stand-up sets (from comics including Jerrod Carmichael), and educational presentations by SAMA: Seattle Sacred Music & Art featuring Native elder storytellers.

And it seems Port Townsend is also the place to excitedly get lost in a series of interconnected, inflatable domes, lit like a dreamlike ambient spaceship labyrinth. The installation was called: Architects of Air: Timisien. The work is named for the Romanian city of Timișoara, whose celebration entitled “European Capital of Culture” was to be the premiere (though the pandemic had other plans). The “luminarium” is composed of a network of 20 domes, some of which have “skylights” below finials that control the color and intensity in each dome.

This year’s THING festival delivered an enchanted experience for both of us—from diverse sounds and movement to hands-on art events to sensory bliss in the form of food (AHEM! I’m talkin’ kettle corn, corn dogs, kombucha & lemonade!), not to mention top-shelf people watching. It was simple to run from stage to stage, pause to paint a paper lantern with a stranger, and then lay beneath the trees to just take it all in. Everyone sounded so good, and after a long time away from live music on a stage, it felt emotional. THING is quite like no other, so mark your calendar for next year. Take a trip to the Pacific Northwest, hop a ferry, and head to the fort for a weekend you’ll never forget.

Oh, and we took a lot of photos, so please scroll down and enjoy this visual walk-through of THING 2022.”

Jihee Kim, satellite reporter for HPPR's "High Plains Morning," scopin' out the grub at THING 2022
Danny Gross, Amarillo native and satellite reporter for HPPR's "High Plains Morning," enjoying the outdoor music festival in Port Townsend, Washington

MORE ABOUT THE FESTIVAL (from their website): THING is a 3-day festival of music and arts taking place August 26-28, 2022 at historic Fort Worden in Port Townsend, WA. The event features a tightly curated lineup of diverse performers with an emphasis on fresh discoveries and a vision to create an environment where all are welcomed and represented. This includes a distinctive mix of music, comedy, visual arts, speakers, and highlights from STG’s signature education and community programs.

Fort Worden is a former military base (and filming location of An Officer and a Gentleman) encompassing 434 acres with 12 miles of forested hiking trails, 2 miles of walkable saltwater beaches and commanding views of the Puget Sound. The historic property has evolved into a lifelong learning center in the magnificent setting of Port Townsend, WA- dubbed “the Paris of the Pacific Northwest” by Sunset Magazine. The festival features 4 stages including 2 outdoor stages, McCurdy Pavilion (former balloon hangar converted into a theatre) and the Wheeler Theatre (intimate art deco venue). The festival sold out in its inaugural year (2019) garnering a warm response from the community.

 “A pretty relaxed affair, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, that’s part of the allure.”
—The Stranger

Photos by Jihee Kim:

Photos by Danny Gross:

Jenny Inzerillo joined HPPR in 2015 as the host of High Plains Morning, our live music program that airs weekdays at 9 am to noon CST. Broadcasting from KJJP in beautiful downtown Amarillo, she helps listeners wake up with inspired music from our region and beyond. Tune in for new voices in folk/Americana, deep cuts from your favorite artists, soulful tracks from singer/songwriters across the world, and toe-tapping classics dating as far back as the 1920s. Plus, discover underground greats that just might be your new favorite band.