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Thing NW 2019 Review
If you just want an opinion in a nutshell…did I like THING? Overall the answer is “Yes.” I would do it again but plan a bit differently next time.
We went to Thing NW, Sasquatch! founder Adam Zack’s new multidisciplinary music and arts festival at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. Overall, it was a fun weekend (due to scheduling, we could only stay for a part), and I hope they do this THING again. But as it’s a new festival, there were a few learning opportunities as well.
Here’s my 2019 Thing NW Review.
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So…How Was that THING?
Thing, Sasquatch! founder Adam Zack’s new multidisciplinary music and arts festival at Port Townsend’s Fort Worden, came and went this weekend. Thing (the term is derived from the old Norse for an assembly, though some of the signage at the event uses it in the sense of an object, as well) was created to be a different…thing than Sasquatch! The festival was a mostly low-key family-friendly event. Spread out over the grounds of Fort Worden State Park, Thing featured a variety of acts. From Caspar Babypants, to podcasts, to music ranging from the Violent Femmes to the roots music of actor John C. Reilly, it seemed that the organizers were trying to include something for everyone.
Fort Worden Has Some New Things…
I was wondering how Fort Worden would work as an event venue. Turns out, the Fort has seen plenty of changes since my last visit. The Fort Worden Public Development Authority (PDA) is working to turn the park into a financially self-sustaining venue. I couldn’t, for instance, remember there being a restaurant and an upscale bar last time I was there.
Now there are both! Taps at the Guardhouse is a stylish pub set in a 1904 building that was part of the Army Coast Artillery Garrison. And Reveille is a full-service restaurant I’ll have to try on my next visit to the Fort.
Nor can I recall the Wheeler Theater or McCurdy Pavilion from past visits. (Though I’ll admit my visits to Fort Worden have been primarily for hiking, beach walking or, on one occasion, laser tag).
However, turning the fort into a thriving event center comes with growing pains. A Modest Mouse concert at Fort Worden last summer drew complaints from neighbors about the noise levels. And local residents, concerned about noise and crowds, voiced concerns about Thing.
As music festivals go, Thing seemed like a low-key event. However, thousands flocked to the event, which included multiple stages with sometimes loud music, so their concerns are not unwarranted.
As a visitor, it appears to me that the organizers did an excellent job at directing traffic around the event site. However, it remains to be seen how neighbor complaints will affect future events here.
The Lodging and Camping Thing
Lodging at Fort Worden itself is at a premium. I bought tickets for Thing (and put it on our calendar) the moment they went on sale — and accommodations at the Fort were already booked.
(In addition to the Fort Worden website, you can also book accomodations at Booking.com, Hotels.com or do a VRBO rental near Fort Worden…which might be another option if accomodations are sold out at Fort Worden and you don’t want to camp).
But camping it was! And camping at Jefferson County Fairgrounds was…OK. As you can expect with festival camping, spaces were small; enough to fit a car, a tent, and a table. And bring a table if you want to use your camp stove for cooking.
In fact, cooking was an issue the night before the event as this was the first time an event like this was held there and the organizers were still figuring things out. I brought out my Coleman stove and was promptly told that cooking with camp stoves wasn’t allowed. The apparent cooking ban created a small uproar in my corner of the campground and was reversed later that evening. So, no open fires, but camp stoves: OK. Burgers: ruined.
But the camp store, which ran during the actual event days was a nice perk if you wanted to get a snack or coffee without walking to Fort Worden.
However, it was a pretty easy walk between the campground and the event, but it did deter me from checking out morning yoga. Bringing a bike would be an excellent way to get between sites.
The Event Thing
There was a little something to appeal to everyone at Thing. From the comedy of Lindy West, author of Shrill to the folk-punk of the Violent Femmes to mentalist to mentalist Scott Silven, the type of acts here ranged wildly — not only a music festival, this Thing.
While everyone’s tastes differ, I’ll venture to say that some acts were a hit while others were…less so. The roots music of actor John C. Reilly and his friends struck a positive note in my Saturday evening. However, as much as I love Natasha Leone in Orange Is the New Black and Russian Doll, her talk (accompanied Lindy West and by her short film Cabiria, Charity, Chastity) seemed very random. “What did she say?” asked one confused individual when the show was finished. Perhaps they, like me weren’t savvy enough to understand her film references.
I heard the live reading of An Officer and a Gentleman went over well, with professional actors reading (and sometimes laughing) their way through the script of the movie that was filmed right here at Fort Worden.
However, this being the first year of the festival, the organizers have some things to learn as well. One of these is the timing of events. Littlefield Green is right outside the McCurdy Pavilion. The music of the Parquet Courts overlapped the end of Natasha Leone’s time and John C. Reilly and friends were good sports and kept playing when the end of their show overlapped with the much louder De la Soul (it turns out that, while music tends to go back to similar sources, an unplanned mingling of roots/bluegrass music and hip hop/rap doesn’t harmonize that well together).
The Admirals Club Thing
Of course, there was also the VIP option called the “Admirals Club.” I’ll leave it up to you whether it’s worth (at least) $275 more per ticket for this “premium experience.”
Perks of paying for the “Admirals Club” experience included on-site parking, quick check-in, a goodie bag, and a place to go with outdoor seating, as well as an indoor bar “free” soft drinks and water, but bar drinks still ran a fee, of course. Admirals Club also had special events you could sign up for, like whiskey tasting, which was an additional fee, or making S’mores in the evening.
Whether or not something is worth the expense depends on how much you use it. My husband appreciated having the Admirals Club pass as he enjoys having a quieter place to sit, have a drink, and get away from the crowds. Had I known we were not going to stay the full two days, I wouldn’t have spent the extra money. But I also say that with the full knowledge that if there’s a Thing next year, you’ll probably be able to find me in the Admirals section.