Most commonly known as the “City of Subdued Excitement,” Bellingham, Washington’s flourishing electronic dance music scene is far from dispirited. A hidden gem of commercial and underground sound sits between Seattle and Vancouver.
The Pacific Northwestern coastal town is home to a thriving nightlife, performers and flow artists, vendors, media creators, and producers. Members of the community spoke about what makes Bellingham’s EDM culture so special and why you should come to experience what it offers.
Hitting the Town
In the heart of downtown Bellingham lies the buzzing hub of commercial events, The Wild Buffalo House of Music. Independently owned, the 21+ venue hosts multiple EDM shows a month, drawing crowds from the surrounding areas and Seattle.
But what makes The Wild Buffalo (TWB) a prime place for EDM shows?
For some, it could be an intimate experience where audience members can easily (and kindly) work their way to the front of the crowd. For Zack Fijal, Talent Buyer and Production & Marketing Manager at TWB, location and timing are everything.
“A stop in Seattle means there is likely a stop in Vancouver, BC as well. Us being in between the two makes so much sense for the act to pick up another show,” Fijal said. “Traveling and touring is extremely expensive. So it’s to artists’ advantage to play as many shows as possible when they’re in a specific market or region.”
Fijal has combined his passion for EDM and his position at TWB, helping to create the music collective Milk+Honey in 2016 that now books electronic shows.
“Our initial focus with Milk+Honey was featuring up-and-coming DJs and discovering talent on the internet, on Soundcloud at the time, and exposing acts we felt were extremely underrepresented. This still holds to many of our shows,” said Fijal.
Milk+Honey has produced a large number of EDM shows at TWB. In alignment with their goal to showcase local talent, the majority of those shows feature local up-and-coming artists as openers and direct support.
“Bellingham showgoers are receptive to the music, engaging in each moment.”Zack Fijal
“The electronic scene is strong in Bellingham and extremely welcoming. Everyone is open, and there’s no gatekeeping here. Whether you want to learn how to DJ, throw a show, or purely engage with a new type of music or act for the first time, you are welcome,” said Fijal.
The Wild Buffalo has hosted many notable names just this year, including Yheti, G-Space, VAMPA, Dirt Monkey and Jantsen, A Hundred Drums, Subdocta, and Jai Wolf, to name a few. Many of these shows pull crowds from Seattle, with some selling out in a matter of days.
“I truly believe that Bellingham is an underrepresented market as a whole. Nine out of ten acts that come and play the venue have told me they have a better time than in surrounding major markets,” Fijal said. “They love that people actually dance and aren’t just sitting around on their phones. Bellingham showgoers are receptive to the music, engaging in each moment.”
DIY Community-Produced Events
If smaller, community-organized events are more your style, Bellingham has a surplus of those. Many local DJs, producers, and audio fiends call this place home and love to throw smaller local events throughout the year.
Wobble Night, a local music collective, provides a space for upcoming artists and local talent to take the decks, photograph, and express their creative passions on a smaller scale. The Wobble Night scene holds space and support for upcoming performers, producers, DJs, and lovers of all things EDM.
Vinny Casasanta, a local DJ, producer, and photographer, believes Bellingham’s local EDM community offers closeness and opportunity.
“I think the biggest thing you get with creativity in Bellingham’s community is closeness. Not like a small town, but there are the token spots, and you see a lot of the same people at shows,” he said.
Casasanta began producing music in his teens, adopting the name OVRTHNKR for his music projects. When he moved to Bellingham after college, he became immersed in the EDM community and now routinely takes photos for the Wobble Night and Wild Buffalo shows, even on the nights he performs at them.
“Wobble Night is starting to define itself,” said Casasanta. “I think it’s about giving everyone who’s trying to come up and start something a platform that is usually inaccessible. It’s hard to get booked. It allows someone to get pictures of themselves DJing or get live feedback about how their set goes. They end up feeling a little bit more confident to pitch themselves to bigger shows.”
Bellingham’s local community has become a sanctuary for up-and-coming creatives to collaborate, communicate, and practice. No matter your creative outlet, this community can help you grow as an artist, make new friends, and let your creative energy flow.
Flow Arts and EDM Community Events
Bellingham boasts the geographical advantage of stunning waterside parks and spectacular sunset views. One community event uses this to its advantage, setting up sound system equipment by the water for people to flow and dance together.
Bellingham Spin Jam was created about 13 years ago and began its journey at The Wild Buffalo. Once a week, flow artists gather their hoops, poi, staffs, light whips, and any other props they have and head toward the water. When the pandemic hit, organizers decided to move the event to Boulevard Park, right next to the ocean, where all are welcome. You don’t need to be a flow artist to attend.
“I see all sorts of people here,” said Cassidy Bristol, the current organizer of Spin Jam. “There are a lot of college kids these days, a lot of people with kids, some older people. It’s turned into a community thing.”
A place where everyone is welcome to come practice and learn, Bellingham Spin Jam is a staple event for the local EDM community.
“There’s a lot of people here that I’ve gotten close to. I don’t know if they’d meet each other otherwise,” said Bristol. “We just had our first Spin Jam baby – people met here and are now having a baby. There are so many people who have met and become family. It’s really special.”
Bristol emphasized how inviting the community is, especially to those new to flow arts and where to begin.
“The biggest piece of advice for new people is to not worry about what you look like. Just be okay with dropping the hoop a million times or whatever your prop is. Nobody minds if you mess up. If you’re not messing up, you’re not trying hard enough,” she said. “People are usually really inviting and willing to share.”Cassidy Bristol
Bellingham Spin Jam takes place every Thursday evening at Boulevard Park. If you want to listen to some tunes, have a picnic by the water, and flow at sunset, meet up and join the community!
Live Performance Art
Bellingham is home to many talented artists, no matter the medium. Whether it be performance art, handcrafted goods, or music, there are folks in town that have it down. One artist has found her niche in circus arts and costume design, creating looks for her circus performances.
Natale Luma began performance art at a very young age. She was 21 when she was introduced to the EDM community and flow arts, where she quickly fell in love with hula hooping. After performing as a soloist for about five years, she decided she wanted to start her own crew. Flooded with inspiration for whimsical Pacific Northwest characters, she created Cirque Cadia.
“When I first started Cirque Cadia, the idea was to build up characters that would eventually become stage shows and entire interactive performance shows,” said Luma. “I thrive on creative collaboration, like the teamwork for putting on an event that’s a positive experience for people.”
Walking on stilts in brightly colored costumes she handmakes at her home, Luma can be seen towering above crowds with her circus comrades. Other times, she’s seen twirling six hula hoops at once, lit up by LED lights or dazzling flames.
Creative collaboration is easily cultivated in Bellingham as new crews flow in and out of the limelight. As people graduate from the local university or move in or out of town, space for creatives is always changing and creating new opportunities.
“In a place the size of Bellingham, you might have to rebuild a scene multiple times because people age out or move out of town,” said Luma. “It gives multiple groups of people a chance to shine and to really figure out how to curate that scene. At the same time, it pushes everybody to be extra creative and resourceful.”Natale Luma
Over time, these crews and communities can become incredibly close with each other, collaborating and throwing shows together. Bellingham has become a creative melting pot for anyone trying to learn something new or enjoy the vast amount of art and performances held year-round.
“As someone who’s traveled and been in a lot of different creative scenes, what we have here is really special. There are a lot of insanely talented people who are genuine about trying to not only do cool entertainment but make it community-based and collaborative,” Luma said. “Don’t wait to participate. Go plugin.”
Local and National Vending
An important part of festivals and the EDM community, vendors and artists have their home in Bellingham. One local company has become a national staple. They’re popular at larger festivals such as Electric Forest and Wakaan and Washington festivals like Bass Canyon and Beyond Wonderland. Third Eye Pinecones (TEP) originated in Santa Cruz, California, but has moved its home base to Bellingham.
Their signature pinecones are sustainably gathered, aged, and cured. A section of the cone is then cut out, revealing the entrancing fractal patterns within. Many of their pinecones are inlaid with beautiful gemstones. Then they are ready to string and be worn as necklaces or pendants after being coated in wood-safe resin.
“Every pinecone you buy, we donate to the [American Forests] foundation. We’re always trying to create an inclusive and respectful environment for people to be welcoming. Giving that to people, I think, is the best we can do,” said Kyle Lind, employee and artist at TEP.
Lind began his journey with the company after responding to a Craigslist ad. He was hired on the spot after he showed the manager his hand-wrapped jewelry.
“He looked at it, and he asked to see the back of it, which no one has ever asked me before. That’s the part that most people never see,” Lind explained. “But if you’re the owner of the piece, you’re wanting to buy something clean all the way around. It’s hard to get the back to look good because that’s where all the attachments are created. When he looked at it, he said, yeah, you could work here.”
Lind uses his artisanal talents to create beautiful pinecones that are bought at festivals all over the country. At Electric Forest in 2022, Lind and the owner of TEP, Carl Weiseth, ventured out into the crowds after vending one night and were approached by many people who had bought pinecones from them.
“We were in the middle of the pit for Liquid Stranger. And literally, everybody knew Carl. Anybody who’s anybody knows this guy. And as the creator of Pine Cones, he goes to Forest every year,” recalled Lind. “It was crazy to think that I make his product and was in a place where everybody knows, and appreciates that. It was really gratifying, and I felt very grateful to be where I’m at with Pine Cones.”
A Collaborative and Creative Culture
Whether you are a DJ, producer, artist, or just a lover of music, Bellingham’s EDM culture will certainly have a place for you. If larger shows are your thing, The Wild Buffalo is the spot to be. Smaller community shows like Wobble Night give the opportunity to perform and create with fellow up-and-comers. There are plenty of opportunities, like Spin Jam, where you can dance and flow in the scenic Pacific Northwest.
A lovely and encouraging community, the Bellingham EDM culture is inviting to all. If you are visiting or live around Seattle, come see what this hidden gem of a town has to offer.
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