Whatcom Magazine

Downtown Sounds gears up for new season of free music

Concertgoers dance during a performance by Yogoman at Downtown Sounds in July 2015.
Concertgoers dance during a performance by Yogoman at Downtown Sounds in July 2015. The Bellingham Herald

Free live music, a view of Bellingham Bay and Old City Hall, food vendors, and a local beer garden.

What’s not to love about Downtown Sounds?

Whatcom County’s biggest outdoor urban music series, with five Wednesday evening concerts in July and early August, will expand from Bay Street into Prospect Street this summer.

Now in its 11th year, Downtown Sounds has grown from its inaugural alley venue to its current site at Bay and Prospect, which is closed to traffic for the concerts.

Attendance has ballooned from 700 in the early years to 2,000 for shows last summer.

Even if you come by yourself, you’ll bump into people you know.

Lindsey Payne, Downtown Bellingham Partnership

“Adding Prospect Street will increase breathing room,” says Lindsey Payne, the events manager for Downtown Bellingham Partnership who has booked bands for Downtown Sounds since 2008. “It will allow more artisan vendors, and expand kids’ activities of hula hooping, face painting, bubbles, sidewalk chalk.”

There’s also four to five food vendors.

“They rotate every year,” Payne says. “We make room for new faces, new food. We have a 21-plus beer garden with all our local breweries.”

Payne aims for a mix of concerts with wide appeal, seeking high-energy music that’s family-friendly. The bands are usually regional or local, with some coming from farther afield. Bluegrass and Americana are popular genres.

“We get kids, college students, young families, the middle-aged, and elderly attending,” Payne says. “It’s an awesome reflection of our community.”

Downtown Sounds might be the only opportunity all year that a resident gets to see a live show, she says. One reason for its inception was to provide equitable access to art and culture.

“People are surprised by the quality of the music, and that it’s free,” Payne says. “Even if you come by yourself, you’ll bump into people you know.”

Downtown Sounds

What: Five free concerts, Wednesdays in July and Aug. 3.

Where: 1300 block of Bay Street and on Prospect Street between West Holly and West Champion streets.

Time: Gates open at 5:30 p.m., opening band plays 6 to 7, headliner band plays 7:30 to 9.

Music: For upcoming details about the bands, see downtownbellingham.com.

Transportation: Bikes welcome. For bus schedules, see ridewta.com. Commercial Street Parking Garage, 1300 Commercial St., has free parking after 5 p.m.

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