What do Deborah Page, Rafael Tranquilino and the Monday Ukulele Ohana all have in common?
They’re all Tacoma musicians, and they’re all part of the 40-strong lineup of bands playing at next week’s 253Heart Music and Arts Festival.
For a music festival that aims to become “Bumbershoot with a purpose,” 253Heart isn’t exactly on the big-time radar yet.
Which is exactly how co-founder and organizer Ben Fuller wants it. Lead singer for local indie rock bands China Davis and Fear Train Caravan, Fuller began the 253Heart Music and Arts Festival three years ago as a fundraiser at The Swiss after the Lakewood police shootings. Now it’s evolved into a Tacoma-centric music festival spanning three days and four venues and including more than three dozen local bands of all genres, all to raise food for local food banks.
But while the festival’s growing slowly, Fuller’s not pushing it – he’s in it for the long haul. We talked to him this week:
How did 253Heart get going in the first place?
I’ve been the singer for China Davis and Fear Train Caravan for many years, and our bands’ main goal was always to have our music be a source for good.
We never really knew how to do that, but were always looking for ways to be … active in our community.
The festival … developed as kind of an accident. I had never organized any event, probably because I was never inspired to take something like that on.
I had been talking to Bob Hill, one of the owners at The Swiss, about … benefits on Sundays, when my girlfriend, Faye found out she had the breast cancer gene and decided to have a double mastectomy.
So we did a breast cancer fundraiser … and I found it was really fun putting on an event like that.
Later that year, there were the Lakewood police murders. My dad was a Pierce County deputy sheriff, so it was really emotional for me. … We ended up setting up a huge benefit.
It was probably my proudest moment outside of raising my daughter.
The 253Heart Festival comes directly from those events.
And the name?
That’s from the 253Heart logo (Tacoma’s phone area code written sideways in a heart shape) that was created by Daniel Blue of Motopony, now marketed by Steve Naccarato.
What’s the goal?
We bring local music together to really make a difference in our community. People can just donate a canned food item and see a ton of music.
This is the definition of a grass-roots festival; it’s not about money or ticket sales. It’s about participation.
Tell us about the lineup for this year.
There are a lot more local bands this year, including The Trasholes, Rafael Tranquilino, Deborah Page, Kody Ryan, Eddie Mendoza, Blanco Bronco, Devil on a Leash, Stained by a Killer and more.
We’re also having Northwest DJ nights at Dorky’s Arcade, organized by Chris Savenetti, including Mr. Melanin, Deron “Suga” Jones and more.
Is the festival growing?
We’re trying to make it grow; this year there are more people talking about it.
Three years ago, I went to SXSW in Austin, and it seemed every restaurant and bar had a band playing.
Next year, we might have a few more venues, maybe get some bigger bands that the locals want to open for.
But I want to build up our name first and find the right time to do it.
It can fall on its face if it’s too big too soon. It’s going to take a little while.
253Heart Music and Arts Festival
When: Nov. 21-24
Where: Dorky’s Arcade and Bar, 754 Pacific Ave., Tacoma (6-9 p.m. Nov. 21 and 24); Harmon Taproom, 204 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma (6 p.m.- 2 a.m. Nov. 21, 23 and 24); and the Harmon Brewery, 1938 Pacific Ave., Tacoma (9 p.m.-12 a.m. Nov. 23 and 24)
Admission: Bring a non-perishable food item
Information: facebook.com/253heartfestival/infoRosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 rosemary.ponnekanti@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/arts