Who could have predicted even a decade ago what the music festival scene in America would turn into? Festivals had always had a presence in the US — maybe not to the same extent as they existed in Europe — but in 2018, the proliferation of multi-day outdoor music events has reached what feels like a saturation point. Every metropolis in the country, it seems, has at least one major festival, while the bigger markets might have two, three or even four events all taking place in and around the city limits.
This is the case for Seattle anyway, a city that boasts a varied collection of festivals from Sasquatch out in the stunning Columbia River Valley; Bumbershoot, one of the longest-running festivals in the world, which takes place annually under the spire of the Space Needle in Seattle Center; and Capitol Hill Block Party, which is held in, you guessed it, Capitol Hill. The newest entrant into the scene is a festival called Upstream, which took place for the first time just last year, though it’s not a conventional festival as it’s come to be defined.
Upstream does have a main stage — and this year’s headliners Miguel, the Flaming Lips and Jawbreaker certainly make for an enticing collection of performers — but more emphasis is paid to the local venues dotted around one of Seattle’s oldest and most storied neighborhoods, Pioneer Square, rather than one centralized location. Breaking from the AEG-controlled Bumbershoot, and the Live Nation-aligned Sasquatch, Upstream is the product of a local benefactor, though a very wealthy, near-omnipresent one name Paul Allen. You might better recognize him as the owner of the Seattle Seahawks. He’s also a fierce lover of music, and a pre-eminently collector of Jimi Hendrix instruments, like his Woodstock Stratocaster that’s on display at Seattle’s MoPop Museum.