Survival Guide: Northwest Terror Fest 2018
A half-month into 2018, and 2017 already feels like eons ago. So much happened, and so much continues to happen seemingly everywhere. The best way to disconnect and reminisce: pick a specific, personally meaningful moment from memory, close your eyes, and let details flood your mind without any conscious effort to steer one way or another.
Relatedly, after experiencing Northwest Terror Fest (NWTF) in June, I wrote the following about my experience seeing one of my all-time favorite bands (Wolves in the Throne Room): "Hypnotic flashes come back unannounced, and the wild intensity reverberates over your skin once again." Maybe that's true in the short term, but further away from the moment, those hypnotic flashes and the resulting frisson -- so I've discovered -- need a little boost, some kind of emotive catalyst.
Remember: jog the mind, but caress the cortex. More importantly, remember to make it easier to make memories in the first place, i.e. never forget to put yourself in the right frame of mind in that moment to help best solidify the experience.
Sometimes being in an alien place, though, makes it more difficult to feel so fully present, at least to the extent that your brain is actively logging purely experiential information rife for later recall. Your train of thought is derailed by so many other things. Where am I going? Who are all these strangers? Do some of them maybe recognize me somehow? Is it safe around that corner? Is jaywalking frowned upon here? Will people be friendly to me if I approach them? Does the record store guy think I'm a dweeb? Do I frighten people?
It takes significant processing power (even if some of it is unconscious) to situate yourself in unknown lands. The more comfortable you can make yourself, the clearer and sharper your memories should be. The clearer and sharper your memories are, the more you'll be able to treasure them. As it seems, memories are all we have anyway. If you're reading this now, you're already taking the best first step: researching and planning.
With all this in mind -- and then suddenly out of mind -- below is a somewhat obtuse but otherwise (hopefully) helpful everything-you-need-to-know guide to NWTF 2018. Ask questions in the comments, and we will try to give the best answers we can based on our experience from last year's mind-melting and delicious fest.
So, who's on the bill?
The main reason to go to NWTF 2018 is to experience the music, obviously. This year, the lineup is almost entirely fresh. Visit the event's official website here to see the latest bill.
Panopticon. Ufomammut. Primitive Man. Thou. Full of Hell. Celeste. False. Subrosa. The list goes on, and it's dreamy as hell.
One thing to keep in mind: there is the possibility that a band could drop and be replaced by another. This occurred last year, and it's nothing to be seriously bummed about. It happens, and it likely means you'll get to see something new and unexpected.
How do I get my ticket?
Well, first off, don't try to sneak in, as security at NWTF 2018 will be tight like last year (but not overbearing or ridiculous). While the three-day passes are unfortunately all gone, single-day tickets are still for sale (at least at the time of this post) through the event's official website, linked above.
Hot tip: last year, three-day passes could be purchased unofficially through social media channels from original buyers whose travel plans or whathaveyou fell through. All the various risks inherent in these types of transactions must be considered, though, as well as availability and demand, which will probably be low and high, respectively.
Where in Seattle should I stay?
This depends heavily on your budget, obviously. Words of wisdom: Seattle can be extremely expensive, relatively reasonable, and occasionally cheap. Luckily, the city has decent public transportation (here's a solid guide), so this effectively extends how far out you can still-conveniently stay (taking a rideshare will kill your wallet, though). Unluckily, the neighborhood (Capitol Hill) where the event's two main venues (Neumo's and Barboza) sit can be quite pricey and in high demand among non-NWTF travelers. The location hosting the aftershows is a bit more secluded, but not out of the way by any means.
According to AirBnB, shared rooms in the Capitol Hill general vicinity go for an average of $78, private rooms $110, and entire places $189. Also according to AirBnB, most places for the dates of the shows are already booked. Here's a link to AirBnB which will let you search for places in the Capitol Hill area for an arrival of May 31st and a departure of June 3rd (you can adjust dates and options on AirBnB of course).
If you want to go the more traditional hotel route, check out this Google Maps listing of nearby hotels. Super tip: hostels aren't always as bad as you might think -- some even offer ensuite private rooms, just a little more bare-bones and potentially crowded than the more expensive hotel accomodations. Click here to search Hostels.com for available places.
What are the venues like?
The three venues are Neumos, Barboza, and The Highline. The first two are in the same building, so consider them effectively the same venue (the shows are timed so that one bands starts just as another ends). The Highline will host the aftershows and is an easy half-mile stroll northward, so you don't need to plan on transport unless you're sensationally lazy. And yes, the main venues are your standard black-painted, relatively clean/orderly digs: Neumo's is headroomy and square, while downstairs at Barboza things are narrower and more basement/tavern-like. Expect both venues to be at full capacity during sets. Generally, folks had decent crowd manners last year, so we can probably expect the same this year.
Is getting a drink a pain in the ass at the venues?
Yes, kind of, but it could be worse. At Neumo's and Barboza, you might have to miss a few minutes of a set upstairs, for instance, to snag a drink at the bar downstairs while it's somewhat vacant. Expect to shell out $5 or $6 for a beer, with both macros and bigger-name micros available. Note: if the frozen margarita returns this year, we don't recommend it.
What can I do in the immediate vicinity of the main venues?
Not surprisingly, there's quite a bit to do in the Capitol Hill hotzone. Feeling like an upscale brunch? Gotcha. Are you a booze connoisseur? Here ya go. Feeling outlandish? Unicorn. Do you just want a goddamn beer? Right next door. Need a delicious burger? Munch. Need to buy some metal records? Heaven.
One place is worth the small hike, and it's actually on the way to The Highline: Dick's Drive-In. Classic and cheap grubby diner for stoners and drunks alike; otherwise, self-explanatory.
There may be undiscovered gems, radical hangouts, and excellent deals elsewhere, so the key is to explore.
What can I do during the mornings and afternoons before the shows start?
Great question. The shows kick off Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 5:00 p.m. sharp. Last year, there were a few delays here and there, but don't expect 5:00 p.m. here to actually mean 6:30 p.m. like it does at some other shows.
If you're a Twin Peaks fan (like we are), hitching a ride out to the Great Northern Hotel (known as Snoqualmie Falls Lodge in real life) can be quite serene. It's a 30-mile/40-minute drive east from Capitol Hill, traffic depending of course.
Seattle is known for its diner scene, and nothing cures hangovers and headaches like an oversized platter of your favorite traditional brunch/lunch fare (omelettes, sandwiches, pancakes, bacon, bacon, bacon…. you name it, and the menu's got it). For what it's worth, Planet Java Diner was solid and only a 30-minute walk from the venues (you'll be glad you took a calorie-burning stroll before and afterward). Searching Yelp will yield plenty of results.