Karli and Caleb Ingersoll are the creative force behind the Bartlett, an intimate all-ages venue that serves as Spokane's premier place for #uncommon concert experiences. Upon the announcement of the lineup for the second annual Bartfest [Oct 9-10, 2015], we talked with Karli about the event's genesis... and its evolution.
F&C: In the Northwest, there are lots of 'Fests, so it's an uphill climb to establish a new one. What's the thought process behind creating Bartfest, and what space does it occupy in our city's live music culture?
Karli: For year one of Bartfest, we had really big goals and ideas. We set the lineup to be progressive and challenge normal perceptions of festival lineups in the area. More electronic, more experimental pop, more up-and-coming bands, and almost all headliners that have never played the area. We flew in bands from across the country that we hand picked. We were at a point last year where The Bartlett was doing so well that we thought this would just be a shoe-in for us to take what we do to the next level. We also have very high ideals of what we think music should cost and bands have very high expectations of what they think a festival gig should pay. All these factors ended up creating a situation that was a little over our heads. We realized that running a festival is WAY different than running a venue. Bartfest also needs to be built slowly and carefully with years of time and investment just like we have done with The Bartlett itself.
For the folks that were at Bartfest last year, they know the event went off without a hitch. The bands were stunning, the poster show was a huge success, and people went away with new favorite bands. It just was too much at once without enough interest, and also way too expensive for the community here. One of the challenges with starting a festival in Spokane is that many similar events in town have no cost at all: Terrain, Elkfest, Pig Out in the Park, and others. So, unless people are really wigging out over a handful of the bands, they are going to look at the ticket price and say, "No way is it worth that much." Spokane has built a festival culture of zero to low investment on the attendee side. There's nothing wrong with that, but for us to do something different, we have to realize that reworking people's mindsets will mean flexibility on our part, and, frankly, lowering the cost to get them in the door.
All that is to say, we learned a whole hell of a lot last year. We are taking successes and non-successes from Bartfest 2014, and applying it all to Bartfest 2015. Festival passes are one third of the price they were last year, and the lineup is a little more geared to Spokane's folk-loving heart. It also includes a few groups that are already well supported in the area rather than trying to introduce Spokane to a bunch of new acts all at once. It might take a few years before we can do a more edgy lineup like we had last year, but the Bartfest 2015 lineup is excellent in its own right—and in a way that really will connect with our city. We are hopeful and excited to see how things unfold. Bartfest or bust!