Ryan Crowther, founder and executive director for the popular Everett-based Fisherman’s Village Music Festival, has always counted on music discovery to be a part of his life — indeed, to accentuate it. Crowther, who is not a formal artist himself, says nevertheless he’s had a lifelong relationship to music, which is why he’s dedicated so much of his time these days to growing the footprint of both individual artists and an artist community in Snohomish County. Crowther, who will see his now-annual festival launch this fall on September 9 to 11, knows that a festival like this is both a big opportunity for artists and the host city, too.
“Creating a festival has to mean so much more than inviting bands to play,” says Crowther. “It’s really that community connection so many people relate to that brings them there.”
Crowther, who grew up in Seattle and attended college in Washington, landed a job in Everett some ten years ago. Though he’d grown up in the Emerald City, he began to consider Everett another home and one in which he saw both opportunity and need. In his new job, he was able to learn a few things. For one, the occupation, which was in public relations and economic development, taught Crowther what makes an area attractive for workers, new residents and creative people. (Read: good restaurants, nightlife, art and culture.) Equipped with insight and belief, Crowther eventually left that position and started a few small operations of his own, ranging from the now-established Everett Music Initiative to artist management.
“So many people haven’t come and explored Everett for a day,” he says. “A lot of people don’t realize Everett is on Puget Sound. Fisherman’s Village gives people the opportunity to have this picture in their mind, like, ‘Oh! That’s worth exploring!’”
This year, the festival boasts some big names amongst the 40-plus on the roster. From the fuzzy, industry buzzing Tacoma rock band Enumclaw to other Northwest favorites like Beverly Crusher, Built to Spill, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Warren Dunes, Lady A, Shaina Shepherd, Spirit Award, The True Loves and THEM. Also on the bill are Los Angeles rockers L.A. Witch and Alaskan electro-pop outfit (and new Sub Pop signee), Ya Tseen. Crowther, whose staff includes a half dozen paid positions and a number of volunteers, likes the size and scale of the festival. It gets woven into the latticework of Everett.
“The curation of the festival is a year-long passion and project that requires testing the waters and bringing artists in throughout the year to see what the community enjoys,” he says.
Along with the music, many local businesses will be open, and the festival will host a Fisherman’s Village night market where patrons can check out one of the venue’s stages (for free), peruse different food trucks, a beer garden and many other options. In truth, for a boutique festival, there is a plethora to sample along the local boulevards and sidewalks.
“The night market is for the folks who aren’t necessarily sold on a big music festival or buying $85 wristbands for the weekend,” Crowther says. “This offers them the chance to dip their toe in the water.”
Unfortunately, of course, when talking about big, public endeavors like this today, there is always the question of safety and, more specifically, concerns with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, its potential new “5th wave,” and the Delta variant. Crowther and his team are taking the news around the virus very seriously. While they recognize the potential problems, they believe there are both strong reasons to continue with the festival and that, even if indoor spaces aren’t viable or they have to check vaccination cards for attendees, there will be plenty of outdoor festivities, too.
“I feel fairly optimistic,” he says. “In the sense that I’m glad a big portion of our music festival is outdoors. I would say that everyone deserves the choice of a vaccine and that gathering in a public space has always been a right. But I think it’s more of a privilege these days than a right, and it’s a privilege we’re taking seriously. It may come to a scenario where we have to check vaccination cards for all indoor venues.”
Crowther is confident he and his team will navigate whatever issues may arise and be able still to host a great event no matter what. With the number of bands and ticket buyers already slated for the festival, it’s clear he’s not the only one who has eyes open (albeit with fingers crossed). But either way, live music won’t be going away, not in the Northwest, not (hopefully) anywhere. Even if there is more reason to be careful about it, the show must go on.
“Working with artists is without a doubt my favorite thing about working in music,” Crowther says. “Getting to be constantly around that creative energy and lifestyle is a part of who I am. It’s in my DNA.”