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Squeak and Squawk Music Festival 2012

The indie rock and pop music festival is back for a five-night stand in Tacoma

OBERHOFER: First, hanging with David Letterman, and now, headlining Sunday night at Squeak and Squawk. Photo credit: Billions

The Back Pockets, Squeak & Squawk 2012

A mesmerizing encore performance from The Back Pockets, hailing from Atlanta, GA. This was the closing performance of the opening night of Squeak & Squawk, a Tacoma grown music festival featuring a dynamic array of local and touring indie talent.

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Sure, the Mayans had a lot to say about 2012, but one thing they forgot to mention was that it would reckon the return of Tacoma's Squeak and Squawk Music Festival, running April 5-9. When Squeak and Squawk originator Sean Alexander left Tacoma for New York, this third installment went through a spin-the-bottle style search for the right person to helm the ship, landing on Jena Stedtler, who was soon joined by the Weekly Volcano's own Rev. Adam McKinney. 

Stedtler and I chatted over drinks at craft cocktail lounge 1022 South where she works and where, on the patio last summer, the agreement to "make this thing happen" was forged between the two. The pair hardly knew each other then but they have since become a production machine - Stedtler manages most of the logistics (booking venues, taking care of ticketing, wrangling volunteers) and McKinney, with his musical connections, has been in charge of booking the lineup.

And what an impressive lineup it is. Squeak and Squawk 2012 boasts Tacoma favorites like the Wheelies, Paris Spleen, I Will Keep Your Ghost, Makeup Monsters and Brad Oberhofer, who since his last Squeak and Squawk has gone on to perform worldwide, including dates at Austin's SXSW and, just a week or so ago, on Late Night with David Letterman with his Brooklyn-based group Oberhofer. With a lineup of 35-40 groups, the festival has too many gems to mention.

While designing the festival, Stedtler and McKinney had their eyes on the goal of putting the festival, and Tacoma as a musical destination, on the map. "As much as we love Tacoma, we were also reaching out to other talent," says Stedtler.

In fact, McKinney has brought in groups from as far away as Atlanta - the stunning 12-piece folk punk art band the Back Pockets - and Australia - the psychedelic rock band Pond.  

Says McKinney, "After so many months of working on this, it still seemed so abstract until I looked at the final playlist and thought, shit, this is really happening."

With no prior experience putting together something of this magnitude, Stedtler and McKinney have nonetheless forged a productive alliance based on trust, blind faith and serendipity. Their efforts noticed, they were nominated for a place in Shunpike, a program that provides training, support and networking opportunities for arts entrepreneurs. With this instruction, and the kamikaze hands-on training of putting together Squeak and Squawk part three, the goal to make the festival an annual event doesn't seem so far out of the realm of possibility.

"This should run more smoothly next year," says Stedtler. "We have an amazing group of volunteers right now, and hope to have more and more of a chance to delegate and get a real process nailed down."

The burning question: where does the name Squeak and Squawk come from?

"I don't know," says Stedtler.

Fair enough. I thought I would ask festival originator Sean Alexander, but he was not available for comment, as he is rumored to be walking (yes, walking) across the United States at the moment. A quick Google search reveals that the phrase "squeak and squawk" is known to describe the sounds that occur when a musician gets too close to a hot mic. That seems appropriate. For sure, there will be some hot mics courtesy of this year's artists.

Google further revealed that the phrase is also a lyric from the 1960s Academy Award-winning hit "Talk to the Animals": If I could walk with the animals, talk to the animals, Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals...

This also seems oddly fitting ... the forces of nature seem to be working to keep Squeak and Squawk alive. To be part of the jungle, find Squeak and Squawk on Facebook and view the complete lineup. The festival will have both all-ages shows and 21 and older shows.


Thursday, April 5, All Ages, 6 pm, Tahoma Tea and Co.
Not From Brooklyn
Tallest Tree
Humble Cub

Thursday, April 5, 21+, 9 pm, The New Frontier
The Back Pockets
The Cutwinkles

Friday, April 6, All Ages, 6 pm, The Space
A Leaf
I Low

Friday, April 6, 21+, 9 pm, The New Frontier
Derek Kelley and the Speedwobbles
The Shivas
The Riffbrokers

Saturday, April 7, All Ages, 6 pm, The Space
Makeup Monsters
The Tea Cozies
Watermelon Sugar

Saturday, April 7, 21+, 9 pm, The New Frontier
Paris Spleen
I Will Keep Your Ghost
Saucy Yoda

Sunday, April 8, All Ages, 6 pm, The Space

Sunday, April 8, 21+, 9 pm, The New Frontier
Umber Sleeping
Red Hex
The Hoot Hoots

Monday, April 9, All Ages, 6 pm, Tahoma Tea and Co.
Si Si Si
The Rusty Cleavers
Secret Wives

Monday, April 9, 21+, 9 pm, The New Frontier
Free closing night show
Row House Road
N. Dybevik
And more!

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