For those not in “the know”, Bellingham is the northernmost coastal city in Washington. It is the portal to Mt. Baker ski area in the northern Cascades, my favorite of all ski areas, and just a few miles from the Canadian border. It is home to Western Washington University, and as a result draws a young, fun, cool crowd. The average local is into some kind of outdoor sport, whether its skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, sailing, mountaineering, triathalons or whatever, Bellingham has it. It’s also a bit of a hippie scene, and for those who still think I’m a hippie you really have no idea… There are parties constantly, and the night life is raging.
Best of all, in my opinion, is the music scene. It always surprises me that such a seemingly small city, about 80,000 people, could have such great music all the time. But I’m never disappointed by this place. In fact I seek out the live music whenever I’m here. It’s one of those places where you can see a live show any night of the week with musicians you’ve never heard of and have an absolute blast. People dance here. People sing, and make up lyrics if they don’t know real ones. This city is full of life.
I first started coming to Bellingham when I worked as a ski instructor at Mt Baker. Since Baker is located in national forest land, there’s no town, and the road is a complete dead end. There are a few towns between Bham and Baker, but most people end up driving from Bellingham for day trips and returning here after skiing. That’s the habit I fell into most of the time as well.
I came here primarily to ski and spend time with my buddy Nick. Originally from North Dakota, Nick fell in love with this place and became a new local. He’s now co-founding a music school where he teaches guitar and bass lessons along with his buddy Ryan, a drummer. Not surprisingly, they are both incredible musicians and play local shows several nights a week. Here’s Nick in his room with all his recording and editing equipment. Nick records and edits music, photos, and video in addition to teaching.
Naturally, we saw a LOT of shows. The music is all original, with styles ranging from jazz to reggae to rock to bluegrass to hip hop. Most music is somewhat of a blend between genres, with guest musicians frequently stepping up from the crowd to join the band. We danced without holding back. Nick is getting into break dancing, so he was all about teaching me some moves. Pretty much everyone dances at the shows here, a big part of why I like the scene so much. There’s nothing held back.
My favorite dancer was this girl who we saw at nearly every show. She arrives early, wearing her dancing tights, and grabs the spot right in front of the stage. She wears earmuffs to protect her hearing so she can dance every night in front of the speakers in her own world of free expression. Here’s a picture. It’s tough to make out he striped tights and earmuffs, but rest assured they’re there 🙂
The best show was definitely Nick’s band Snug Harbor. I saw them play two nights, a big jazz ensemble crammed with talent. Nick plays bass, but they also have drums, guitar, trombone, trumpet, and sax. They’re a really cool crowd too. Some of the band members can never get enough jamming in, so the night usually ends with them playing each others instruments for a late night improv session. Here’s the sax player, Frank, on the drums, lol 🙂
My recent stay in Bham had many highlights and GREAT times with old friends as well as new ones, but I’ve got to mention specifically my friend Megeara. She and I met on Lopez Island where we built staw bale houses for the community land trust. We always had a special connection, but Megeara isn’t really a technology person so we only keep in touch in person. But every time I find myself in Bellingham I seem to run into her. That happened one night on the way to a free hip hop show at the Glow. We hung out and danced and talked, but it was late and we decided to get together the following day to really hang out and catch up.
Megeara always lives someplace interesting. I visited her years ago at a very hippie communal type place that included an alternative library, vegan cuisine, gigantic kombucha carboys, optional shoes and clothing, and many many loving people. Her current household is much smaller, only 6 roommates, but still has lots of character and loving people. The picture at the top of this blog is a mural painted on the wall of their living room. Here is a closeup of another:
We had a great chat about all things in life over the past 4 years. Megeara enlightened me in many ways. She is a healer and mild clairvoyant. She tells me I’m a “world-bridger” capable of going between starkly contrasting worlds and bringing traits of one to the other. I see this in my life, like the contrasting worlds of Lopez and Chicago, or Seven Springs and Conneaut Lake, engineers and hippies, outdoorsmen and citydwellers. We discussed the world and the evolution that’s happening, as well as our roles in it. Megeara wants to start a midwifery collective on San Juan island to welcome the new souls entering this world. Megeara guided me through a great meditation session, and we went to her friends studio for a yoga session. After all the skiing I’ve been doing, this was exactly what my body needed.
We decided to have a potluck that night, a gathering of friends, to enjoy a meal together and make some music. I invited Nick, and we made a delicious Thai curry in Washington style, with yams, apples, and fennel. Delicious. It turns out that Megeara’s roommates are great musicians (surprise, surprise) and one of them used to play guitar for Nicks current band Snug Harbor. We had an epic jam session with acoustic guitars, banjo, cajon (wooden box shaped drum), vocals and whistling. Great times in Bham for all.