As the air warms and parties commence, you’re probably missing Elkfest, the Browne’s Addition street party held annually in June for 13 years that ended in 2018 over concerns of noise, trash and traffic. Spokane art and music managers Ryker and King are mourning with you, which is why they were determined to create a new festival that carries Elkfest’s sense of community and welcomes all of Spokane’s music scene.
This Friday, the LuckyFest Northwest festival will kick off at Lucky You Lounge in Browne’s Addition. The inaugural weekend event features more than 50 acts, including musicians, DJs and comedians from around the Pacific Northwest and Spokane’s music scene.
“I can’t tell you how many people since we made the announcement and lineup come up to us and say, ‘Thank you so much for doing this for the city, we needed this,’ ” said King, who like Ryker uses only one name. “The whole thing with the festival is to raise the expectations and standard with execution and putting on a good show at a higher level than it’s been done before.”
Plans for LuckyFest Northwest date back to 2019, the year after Elkfest was canceled. King saw a disconnect between local artists and the Spokane community. He was set to run the first festival with a lineup of about 16 bands and a handful of DJs in the Lucky You basement. Before event promotions could be placed, the pandemic hit.
The festival is also a show of Spokane’s growing diversity. With two Black curators , equity stood at the forefront in their mission to inform and entertain. King hails from Capital Heights, Maryland, a town in Prince George’s County where Black people are 63% of the population. Ryker, a Spokane native, easily identified what is missing from the area: Black people are only 2% of Spokane’s overall population.
Centering racial diversity created a domino effect of inclusivity for the festival. This opened the gates to a plethora of genres for the festival.
“Out of all top five paid artists, three of them are women and one or two of them are queer,” Ryker said. “We really strived to come with a lens that I feel like most people aren’t using. Maybe they don’t know how to use it, maybe their fanny pack isn’t equipped with that lens yet. There’s no judgement or shame, but LuckyFest Northwest is something I have been waiting for in my city for a very long time.”
King feels that, because of the pandemic, concertgoers cherish the opportunity for live events more than ever. The postponement gave King more time to widen the range of artists, including indoor and outdoor attractions.
“I have so many people in my life saying, ‘My life isn’t just my work, and the things that matter to me matter as much if not more,’ ” King said. “I want to enjoy my life, I want to enjoy experiences, and the state of the world is things aren’t getting better. We have to endear ourselves to one another, to the things that make us happy. I’ve had this dream for years and years, and it’s time to do it. And life is for the living.”
Along with the musical guests, LuckyFest Northwest will feature a fireside chat. Because the festival is in Browne’s Addition, the homey neighborhood atmosphere is an opportunity to create what King calls an “intimate” environment, and a moment to say, “We’re in this together.” The fireside chats will feature acts ranging from belly dancers to spoken word poets.
“As the Northwest, fire pits are something that we do,” Ryker said. “I think having a little fireside chat and having people doing different, unique things in this intimate space is really cool and a callback that a lot of Northwest kids do.”
After working in the Red Room Lounge for seven years, King knew Spokane was starved for a festival that catered to the underground music of the Pacific Northwest. Ryker also mentioned the need for a community-led festival.
As a music manger at Indirect Flux, Ryker feels that LuckyFest Northwest is curated to show what is “capable and possible” for Spokane’s budding music scene. Rappers Jango and All Day Trey, who are signed under Ryker, will be performing at the festival.
“It is put on by a corporation so it feels different, and very professional, which is absolutely what we need (for those) strong, big-budget festivals, but we were missing the smaller, DIY culture fest too,” Ryker said. “It was just hugely important, not just for us and what we were looking for, but to fill a void for what was missing and show the people behind us what is possible in this city.”
With acts pouring in from Seattle, Portland and Boise, the organizing duo gave thanks to community supporters who helped stitch the event together. Global Credit Union is sponsoring the event, while Lucky You Lounge owners Caleb and Karli Ingersoll stayed open to hosting the event since 2020.
“Melissa Huggins, the director up at Spokane Arts, has been absolutely invaluable. We could not have gotten this done without her,” King said. “The way that everybody wanted to make it happen and said, ‘Let’s get to it,’ or asking, ‘What do we need to do?’ Everyone stepped up way over the plate, smashed the plate even, and it was fantastic to see.”
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