Alder Arts Walk

An embarrassment of musical riches once again returns to Alder

By Rev. Adam McKinney on April 20, 2017

Isn't the arrival of spring a hell of a relief? After a cold, wet, utterly uninspiring winter, we've emerged on the other side of a collection of very exhausted butterflies. What's our reward? Well, we get the opportunity to continue marching inexorably forward in our long-standing battle against the ravages of time, pausing only to dutifully see the next reboot and to check in on what Kanye West is doing. Oh, and I guess there's flowers and sunshine and stuff. Mostly just the fighting against time thing, though.

Turning the corner into spring also means that we're once again greeted with the Alder Arts Walk, which is now entering its 11th year. For those unfortunately not in the know, the Alder Arts Walk is a yearly celebration of the Alder neighborhood and the vibrant music and arts scene that unfurls from the University of Puget Sound and beyond. It's regularly one of the most eclectic and intimate festivals in Tacoma, running from noon past midnight and taking place in a number of house venues and other unorthodox locations. As the organizers put it, this is an event that is informally passed down from generation to generation, reflecting the ever-evolving music scene in Tacoma. With college students coming to town and eventually moving on, this keeps the authorial voice behind the event consistently changing with the times.

This year, like usual, the organizers have assembled a colorful lineup of acts that play off of and challenge one another. There's seemingly no guiding aesthetic beyond getting a very cool group of bands together. With too many bands worthy of coverage to include, I'll instead highlight some of the bands that make me weak at the knees.

I've always enjoyed the Fabulous Downey Bros., but I recently saw them perform in the basement of a house venue, and that show positively blew my mind. Their penchant for borderline performance art has grown into something truly awe-inspiring. Leaning even more heavily into their Devo-ish sound, all wiry, jittery New Wave, they effectively performed an entire rock opera, complete with several costume changes and choreographed lighting cues. They are not to be missed.

Also playing is Gender Wizard, an up-and-coming band that values sincerity and naked honesty. Lead singer Talison Crosby conveys a striking vulnerability which is given more weight by the ‘90s-indebted guitar rock of the band. One of my favorite recent discoveries is Scorn Dog - which is certainly in the running for best Tacoma band name - a duo of goofballs who make short, hilarious punk songs that are reminiscent of the Dead Kennedys and Wimps.

Following Scorn Dog is Oh, Rose, one of the best bands currently going in Olympia. They make driving indie rock that is ideally suited for long, dreamy rides in cars - though they sometimes descend into dark contemplation. Wild Powwers have been getting a lot of attention, recently, and the Seattle trio deserve it. Their grungy psych-rock is once more a throwback to the ‘90s, but it surges with a vitality that isn't always found with bands that cherish a certain period of time.

As the Alder Arts Walk stretches deep into the night, things get hazier and a little wild. Simic is an electronica act from Ben Block, all chilly beats and spacey synths. Fellow Secondnature collective resident Aos is next, with yet more techno. Raica come next, abstracting electronica into experimental soundscapes. The night closes out with Flørist, a popular multimedia artist and house DJ from Vancouver, Canada.

This is a marathon of art and music, and a good way to find what may be your new favorite band. Take some chances, hit as many houses as you can, and make that march against time a little more enjoyable.

11th Annual Alder Arts Walk, noon to 1 a.m., Saturday, April 22, free, various locations, full schedule of locations of events at