Behind The Blues

The Stories Behind The Scenes

Opening Doors with Songs & Stories

The 14th Annual FAR-West 2017 Music Conference Offers Professional Panels, Networking, Showcases & Jams, October 5-8, 2017 at Hyatt Regency Bellevue

PB&J perform at a “Guerilla SHowcase” in one of the hotel rooms at Hyatt Regency Bellevue

The FAR-West Music Conference is Far-Out! Okay, maybe I’m dating myself, but this 3-day gathering of musicians, storytellers and industry professionals is really something: cozy and intimate, affordable and approachable, FAR-West welcomes artists of many styles, musicians of any level and is attended by industry pros who give classes and mingle with performers. Even if you’re not currently booking gigs, but maybe want to learn more about opportunities, marketing, fundraising or recording gear, there is a place for you. Attend workshops during the day in subjects like music publishing, radio airplay, international touring and songwriting craft. Then check out the big showcase of talent from Alberta to Arizona, and get ready for the party upstairs, playing or visiting two floors of hotel room “Guerilla Showcases” until all hours of the night. A salon in the best sense of the word, a couple hundred musicians and support people roam the halls where ideas and songs and harmonies are discovered and shared. Jams and sing-alongs have been known to go into the early morning hours. The pre-sale tickets are past, but a non-member entry is available for $210-$235 for 3 long days of music performances, panels, classes, storytelling, networking and just plain fun.

You don’t need to be a member to attend and you don’t need to attend the conference to experience a crop of diverse musicians and bands from across the western US & Canada. A nightly showcase is open to the public for $15/night to see up to six acts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in one of the ballrooms. Seating is limited so save the dates (Oct. 8/9/10) and check out the archives and other info at  where you can also see the lineup, artist websites and get tickets as the event approaches.

One of the local conference organizers and contributors, multi-instrumentalist Joel Tepp, describes attendees and artists as representing a diverse kaleidoscope of musical styles under the broad banner of “Folk.” Indeed, it seems a good fit for acoustic blues, roots, folk and Americana artists. Last year, in addition to some traditional folk, bluegrass and lyrical artists, the evenings featured northwest artists that blues society members might be familiar with, including  Orville Johnson, Tepp, Steve Peterson with PB&J, and Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons, fresh from their Memphis IBC win.

Nathan & Jessie surprise and delight attendees stopping in the the hotel room “Guerilla Showcases” at the FAR-West Conference in Bellevue.

Some of the Washington artists in the evening showcases this year are Larry Murante and Nathaniel Talbot on Friday and Reggie Garrett on Saturday. There’s also a dinner for Lifetime Achievement Awards and this year the Alliance is honoring Seattle’s own trail-blazing songwriter and performer, Alice Stewart, with the Best of the West Performer Award, which they give for demonstrated excellence in the craft and to those who have endured through the years and throughout their region. Yay Alice!

The Hyatt Regency Bellevue lobby gets quiet toward the end of opening day registration, as attendees and the public attend showcases in the ballrooms.

I’m writing about this conference two years in a row because it was a great experience in 2016 and seems to be a well-kept secret. The theme this year is Opening Doors with Songs & Stories. This is our last chance to open this particular door for a while, to catch FAR-West in the Puget Sound area before it moves back to California. As part of the Folk Alliance International family, this regional conference rotates between the western states and Canadian territories, usually spending two consecutive years in each spot. It’s great for folks who live in the area, because you don’t need a hotel room. But if you want to stay, the Hyatt Regency Bellevue gives a special rate for FAR-West attendees. You can find more information at

Orville Johnson was a highlight of the 2016 FAR-West Conference


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