It seems like it was just yesterday that the Bartlett was struggling to open its doors. Back in November, building code issues and construction snafus forced the all-ages music venue to cancel a major grand opening event, and a number of their first scheduled shows had to be relocated next door to nYne Bar and Bistro.
Ten months later, the Bartlett is going strong. It’s as if that series of delays never happened.
This weekend, the Bartlett is hosting a jam-packed three-day music festival called Bartfest, which features more than 30 acts on both the Bartlett and nYne stages.
Owners Caleb and Karli Ingersoll say the seeds for Bartfest were planted sometime in March, which is when they started considering the possibility of starting an annual festival. Following four months of booking all the bands, Bartfest is now a reality.
“We have a bigger dream of creating a local musical festival that’s similar to Capitol Hill Block Party or MusicFest Northwest,” Caleb Ingersoll said, “so this is sort of a smaller version of something like that.”
“We felt like it went along with what we’re doing at the Bartlett, in the sense that this is something we felt filled a niche,” Karli Ingersoll said. “We don’t feel like there’s anything similar. There’s Volume, which is very much local and regional, and then there’s Elkfest and other outdoor events that are free. So it seems like it’s time to bring in bigger touring bands and keep it indie-focused.”
Most of the acts the Ingersolls have booked are poppy or heavy on electronics: There’s the dreamy girl group pop of Seattle’s La Luz, the airy experimentation of Florida’s Hundred Waters and the analog new wave of Portland’s Wampire. There are a few outliers, too, including the fuzz and howl of L.A.’s No Age and trip-hop sounds of Brooklyn’s Young Magic, and a handful of local bands – Normal Babies, Mirror Mirror, Pine League, the Marshall McLean Band, Dead Serious Lovers – thrown in for good measure.
The Ingersolls were able to enlist so many artists, in fact, that Bartfest expanded from two days to three relatively quickly.
“Once you get into it, you get excited about the other bands you could get that would make the lineup even better,” Karli Ingersoll said.
The Ingersolls refer to this first Bartfest as “testing the waters,” though it’s a pretty major undertaking for their first venture into the festival wilderness. If it’s as successful as they hope, Bartfest could help draw some national attention to the Spokane music scene.
“It’s been a great year,” Karli Ingersoll said. “We’ve had so much success, and we’ve been really impressed with how well shows have done, what people are willing to spend, what bands people know about. We’re just constantly surprised.”