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A very loud weekend

Bleak Outlook: Vol. 5 is set to coat Tacoma in cacophonous mayhem

Blotterz is just one of nearly 40 bands set to ring ears for Bleak Outlook. Photo credit: Facebook

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I think it's safe to say that I'm a wimp. Let me count the ways: I have a bad hip at age 28; I sometimes listen to Iron & Wine before falling to sleep, Sam Beam's hushed voice spiriting me away to a dream land where I almost always miss my bus stops and have to debase myself by asking the driver to let me out; when I got mugged, my attacker apologized afterward, seeing how much he'd inconvenienced me after learning I only had a dollar; my favorite Beatle is Ringo; my favorite cartoon character is literally named Wimpy; when I was a child, my mom showed me The Birdcage, and I left the room because I felt it was too adult for me.

This is all to say that I come up fairly short in terms of toughness and resilience. As Tom Waits sang in "The Piano Has Been Drinking," I'm "cream-puff, Casper, milquetoast." I'm no blushing violet, but I can count the number of hardcore shows I've been to on one hand. This makes me uniquely unqualified to write about the Bleak Outlook festival, but at least I've been punched in the face before, so we'll call that good.

Bleak Outlook is a weekend-long festival, curated by Brian Skiffington, that's now entering its fifth year. The product they trade in is aggressive, heavy, no-nonsense rock, metal, and punk. This is a weekend of concentrated noise, bone-rattling eruptions, and eardrum-pummeling sonic assaults. For five years, Bleak Outlook has been assembling a murderer's row of hard-hitting bands from all across the Pacific Northwest, and outliers from far-flung areas of the U.S. Nikki McCoy wrote about Bleak Outlook in this fine rag, lo those many years ago, "Whatever the bleak outlook is, nobody's taking it lying down."

She was right. These are bands that specialize in visceral music, stuff that gets your blood pumping and the hairs on your arm standing up. With at least seven venues, and nearly 40 bands, Bleak Outlook is set to take over Tacoma with a cacophonous wave of pure mayhem. With so many bands to showcase over just three days, Bleak Outlook covers a hell of a lot of ground in such a short time. Styles range from doom metal to hardcore punk to powerviolence to math-rock and even to shoegaze, with the inclusion of Seasons of Strangers.

The venues showcasing these bands are as diverse as the bands themselves, with usual suspects like the Valley and the New Frontier mixing with the all-ages Real Art and house venues like the Fifth Dimension and newcomers like the Mule and the Airport Tavern. This is a sprawling event that's cramming so much show into so little time, stretching out over a huge swath of Tacoma.

As for the bands, I may not be a devotee of heavier music, but I know what I like, and there are some very exciting acts participating this year. Local up-and-comers Blotterz and Cheap Sweat will be among the bands opening up the festival, and both of them bring a raucous energy that'll aid in kicking things off. The Proletariat hail from Boston, and their politicized punk is utterly electric. Vancouver-natives Weird Candle bring compellingly dark electro-punk that brings to mind the industrial synth music of the ‘80s.

You'd be hard-pressed to catch everything that Bleak Outlook has to offer. With so many options to choose from, though, you can't swing a cat without finding a worthwhile show to hit up over this long, loud weekend. The outlook may be bleak, but the music's electrifying.

Bleak Outlook: Vol. 5, March 24-26, full list of events at

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