Macefield Music Festival: Music Is Subjective

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This past weekend, Macefield Music Festival (MMF), an annual weekend that celebrates music and arts, was held in Ballard, WA. From September 30 to October 2, attendees experienced some of their favorite local acts in incredibly intimate and warm venues, including Tractor Tavern, The Sunset, Conor Byrne, and a KEXP-sponsored main stage. It was an exciting weekend for spectators and grunge lovers who deeply admire the eclectic local Seattle sounds that’ve all helped shape the city’s current musical landscape.

For me, it was a learning experience.

I want to start out by saying that I am open to listening, appreciating, and finding the value in all types of music. I don’t think there is a single “bad” genre of music. Having said that, Macefield Music Festival reiterated and truly taught me one very major lesson: music is subjective.

It needs to be noted that I am someone who religiously listens to music from the likes of Adele, Beyoncé, and Carrie Underwood. The A-B-Cs, if you will. Am I the perfect person to understand the attraction to the music that was featured at Macefield Music Festival? Not in the slightest, but I think that also helped me practice going into the weekend with an open mind, zero biases towards or against any one act, and a chance to be immersed and cultured by a new and unfamiliar type of music.

As a Whole: The Festival

  • Macefield Music Festival boasted five different stages, including ones at The Sunset, Tractor Tavern, Conor Byrne, Hotel Albatross, and a main stage that was sponsored by KEXP.
  • The weekend offered spectators a strong billing of fifty different acts over the course of two days (or three, depending on if you count Sunday’s “Farewell Brunch” a legitimate festival day). Check.
  • There were maybe three or four food trucks that visited for short periods of time throughout the weekend. Beyond that, it was a “find a restaurant and take a seat” game for spectators, which tragically cut into peoples’ time that they had originally allotted for artists’ sets. This is why having convenient grab-and-go food is vital for music festivals.

The Music: New to Me, and Really Great, Too

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The best artist that was introduced to me by Macefield Music Festival weekend was, bar none, Fly Moon Royalty. Adra Boo’s personality and prowess made for one of the most entertaining sets I’ve ever seen at any music festival. Seamlessly transitioning from one song to the next, sometimes shifting from the purest of sass to gutting heartbreak, she took the crowd through waves of energy, all of which she encouraged us to dance through. Her co-front of the band, Action J, impressively delivered a slew of rap verses that I never could’ve imagined to fit as well as they did in their urban-inflected pop songs that fill their most recent EP, Delicious Trouble.

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Before closing out their set, Adra Boo and the duo’s two (stellar) back-up singers threw on some red kitchen aprons that read “Get up in my kitchen!” The audience cheered in support and laughter, and then proceeded to purchase an apron from their merchandise booth. It was raining pretty heavily by the time their set closed, but people still lined up in the downpour to get an apron for themselves. I lined up, too, but to get a copy of their newest album, because I’m officially a fan.

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Other strong sets from the weekend came from Bryan John Appleby, VHS, and Boyfriends. Appleby gave a stirring performance, making each song feel particularly intimate and full. What made it even greater was the setting it was held in; Macefield did a spot-on job by scheduling his set at Conor Byrne. It was an entirely-dark wood bar with booths along the wall, a small stage in the back corner, and a beautiful chandelier and lamppost next to the singer that illuminated the entire back half of the place. It was like taking a bath in the dark, and the only sources of light are a dozen candles on the ledge.

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Boyfriends gave an incredibly fun and uppity set at The Tractor Tavern. Despite a spilled beer on stage and hardly calling for any lighting at all, the group toyed around with each other and interacted with the crowd between each song, making for a very lighthearted set. VHS, while totally and completely different from any music I’ve ever been drawn to, impressed me with their energy and on-stage camaraderie. It made for an enjoyable set to attend.

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You Can’t Love Everything

Look, I don’t want to be mean. I don’t think it’s my job to tear down artists or their craft just because I didn’t enjoy their performance. But, it is my job to give an honest report of my experience, and some artists left me scratching my head. Sashay, in my humblest opinion, confused me. I don’t know if underground punk/grunge/screamo music is supposed to carry a message, carry decent lyrics, carry any sort of melody, carry a tune, or carry anything particularly catchy, but if it is, then they missed the mark entirely. One song, quite literally, nearly ran through its entirety by having the lead singer violently scream,

“Get the f*** out / Get the s*** out / Get the f*** out / Get the hell out.”

Truth be told, I really didn’t, and still don’t, understand the craze or the phenomenon behind music like this, but some people did/do, and that’s awesome! That means that Sashay is appealing to listeners, and that’s awesome for them. But I’m not one of those people, and I don’t know if that will ever change.

Another group that I really couldn’t get behind was Mommy Long Legs. I found their set to sound like the same thing over and over again. I blame The Sunset for the absolutely jarring and completely deafening volumes of guitar that drowned out every other instrument that was played in every set I saw at the venue, Mommy Long Legs’ set included, but even then, the entire thing consisted of the group screaming into seemingly-muted microphones. Is that their intended sound? Could be. Is that the basis of the genre and am I just completely unaware, uneducated, and ignorant to this scene? It’s possible, and not only do I recognize that, but I accept that and will continue to challenge myself to try and overcome my disliking for the format. But, it doesn’t change the fact that I simply wasn’t into their set or their music.

Long story short, I found Macefield Music Festival to be an interesting experience, not so much because of what I did throughout the day or the sets that I saw, but because I was reminded that music really, truly is subjective. I am not at all a fan of most of the featured music from this past weekend, but I’m also sure that if most of the people who are incredibly in-tune with sets from the likes of Sashay and VHS ever attended a Carrie Underwood concert, they’d look at me like I had three heads and zero concept of what constitutes as “good music.” Let this be a lesson to not only me but everyone:

Do not ever judge someone based on their music taste, because yours is no better, worse, or equal than theirs or anyone else’s.

If you do this, you are annoying.


CRAIG JAFFE | “Get up in my kitchen!” | KXSU Editor

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