On Thursday, Paul Allen’s brainchild, the Upstream Music Fest + Summit, shared its love letter to Northwest artists—it’s first round lineup dropped. From emerging local acts like Smokey Brights and Beat Connection to Seattle legends Shabazz Palaces and Acapulco Gold to Grammy-award winners Snarky Puppy—Paul Allen is bringing a wide-ranging and diverse group of 200+ artists to Seattle’s Pioneer Square on May 11-13.

The Seattle Times’ Nicole Brodeur nails why Paul launched a music festival and summit; he’s a music geek with a passion for music discovery.

“Upstream is a collaboration among philanthropist and music geek Paul Allen, radio station KEXP and the Alliance for Pioneer Square. Its aim is to nurture emerging artists, while showcasing established acts.”

Paul’s love of emerging music began in the 1960s when a friend rushed to his house and pulled out a Jimi Hendrix Experience vinyl record from behind a wild purple and yellow cover. In Idea Man, Paul recounts, “The sound itself blew me away. ‘Purple Haze’ was heavy with deliberate distortion and feedback, a swirling stereo soundscape…I bought Are You Experienced and played it nonstop on our living room stereo.” That was the spark of Paul’s burgeoning passion for music discovery. While his tastes would shift over time, his desire to seek out new artists has not, and since then Paul has formed his own band, Paul Allen and the Underthinkers, opened the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the Experience Music Project) including immersive Northwest music exhibits, and now is taking part in launching Seattle’s newest music festival that is dedicated to spotlighting local artists.

The complete lineup of over 200 artists will be announced this spring, but for now here’s what people are saying about the fest’s first massive lineup release.

Diving into the first round of Upstream Music Fest’s artists, Seattle Refined’s Britt Thorson points out the fabric tying together all the diverse genres.

“After seeing the first part of their lineup, announced this morning, we are impressed with their commitment to stay local.”

The Stranger’s Amber Cortes was thrilled that Upstream delivered on its mission to supporting emerging Northwest artists.

“The vast majority of bands are, as promised, Seattle-and-NW-centric. The lineup includes many, many familiar faces among a dizzying array of over 100 artists. And they’re not done yet.”

The Seattle Times headline alone speaks to just how excited this region is for a new festival: Upstream Music Fest lineup announced- and it’s huge.

And on social media, many had the same reaction.

The artist diversity was one of the most celebrated aspects of the first round lineup, Seattle Weekly’s Kelton Sears pointed out the “vastness of Seattle’s music community” was thoughtfully represented.

“Indie and rock are well represented on the lineup, but one of the most promising elements of this morning’s release is how willing it seems to stray outside of that well-trodden guitar-based festival realm.”

The artists themselves were pretty excited too:

With passes ranging from 2-day to 3-day to VIP, music fans can curate their own ideal festival experience alongside a sweeping industry summit featuring keynote speakers Macklemore, Portia Sabin, and Quincy Jones. Right now, Seattle music geeks are making playlists and making their plans to experience Upstream’s walkable mixtape flowing into Pioneer Square.

This May, a whole new wave of Northwest music will hit, so head over and explore the lineup here. 

Community & Culture music Music summit Upstream Music Fest + Summit

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