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Bartfest gets smaller, and that’s the idea

Angel Olsen performs Friday night at Bartfest. (Courtesy of Angel Olsen)
Angel Olsen performs Friday night at Bartfest. (Courtesy of Angel Olsen)

The Bartlett hadn’t yet been open a year when it announced Bartfest, a three-day, two-venue indie rock festival, last September. The lineup featured more than 30 bands both local and touring, including Hundred Waters, Pickwick and Robert DeLong, and the shows were hosted by both the Bartlett and neighboring bar nYne.

The prospect of a multiday festival was something of a gamble, especially with the Bartlett still in its infancy. But Caleb and Karli Ingersoll, the Bartlett’s owners, were optimistic that the caliber of performers would bring people out.

It didn’t quite go as they had hoped. Only about 300 people showed up over the course of that weekend, and the Ingersolls admit now that they bit off more than they could chew.

“I think there are a lot of different reasons for that, and we’ve had a lot of time to process,” Karli Ingersoll said. “I think it was just too much, too soon. … The bands loved it, and the people who came loved it. We just didn’t have the attendance we needed.”

But this year is going to be different: The Ingersolls took notes and made adjustments, and they’ve made the operation more manageable.

This year’s festival is going to last two days instead of three. The lineup isn’t as busy, with 18 bands scheduled to perform. Tickets are also considerably less expensive: $30 gets you into all the shows, as opposed to the $90 price tag last year.

“The Bartlett had been doing so well those first six months. We were just so excited, and we felt that maybe we should add to what we were doing,” Ingersoll said of last year’s Bartfest. “I think we just got a little carried away − not that it’s something that couldn’t work in the future, but I just think we should have started a little smaller maybe.”

This year’s big headliner is Angel Olsen, the acclaimed alt-folk singer-songwriter who played the Bartlett last July. Most of the out-of-town acts are regional − Horse Feathers and Loch Lomond are from Portland; Deep Sea Diver and Cataldo are from Seattle − which Ingersoll said cut down considerably on travel expenses. Local acts on the lineup include Marshall McLean, Mama Doll and Ingersoll’s own solo project Windoe.

And like last year, Ingersoll − a graphic designer herself − assigned local artists to create individual promotional fliers for each of the musical acts.

Ingersoll said tickets are selling well, and this year’s event is already on track to outpace last year’s in terms of attendance.

“We’ve already pre-sold almost more than what we sold over the whole festival last year,” Ingersoll said. “We worked really hard to keep the ticket price low, and not too out of reach from what a regular show would be. A lot of our shows are $20, so it’s really like coming for a night at the Bartlett. It’s not that much different (but) you get three times as many bands for about the same price.”


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