Karl Blau still remembers the shows he played in Everett about 20 years ago.
They almost always took place in funky and under-the-radar warehouses, but were cool nonetheless. The singer-songwriter from Skagit County says he sensed back then that Everett was passionate for music and was cultivating a scene. But, it was often overlooked in favor of Seattle just 30 miles away.
The Fisherman’s Village Music Festival, set for March 30 through April 1 in downtown Everett, is helping to change that, Blau said. The Anacortes-based musician and his band are scheduled to play their brand of country soul at 8 p.m. March 31 in the Historic Everett Theatre.
More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the fifth-annual all-ages event put on by the Everett Music Initiative at four venues — Normanna Lodge, Tony V’s Garage, Black Lab Gallery and the Historic Everett Theatre.
It’s billed as the largest urban music festival north of Seattle.
“Everett is huge and it has a lot of support to offer,” Blau, 43, said.
Ryan Crowther, the festival’s founder and the leader of the Everett Music Initiative, said the festival is helping to grow Everett’s music scene, which he considers young”compared to Seattle.
“But I would say it has more going for it than it’s ever had before,” Crowther said.
More than 60 local, regional and national acts — 30 of which are brand-new to the festival — will play hip hop, Bollywood, electro-pop, rock, pop folk and more.
Blau, signed with a London-based record label called Bella Union, is part of a small contingent of well-known Anacortes musicians playing the festival. They include, Phil Elverum and John Van Deusen.
Elverum has played in other bands over the past 20 years, but remains best known for his music project Mount Eeerie, which has received acclaim from publications like Pitchfork. It began under the stage name the Microphones in 1997.
Van Deusen was the front man for The Lonely Forest, which performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in 2011 but has since gone on hiatus. These days, he is a solo Christian and gospel songwriter. He recently wrapped up a winter tour in Europe, runs his own label, Monopath Records, and plays with the Anacortes punk band Buffet.
Inspiration was all around Blau when he was growing up.
“Anacortes has a really rad music scene,” Blau said. “There’s a buzz of people making music and recording their own tunes and taking their stuff on the road. Early on, I got this bug to record a lot and see if I could play them at shows. I just put one foot in front of the other. Twenty years later, I got signed to a major label out of London.”
He went from playing any and every show he could — even in living rooms — to traveling overseas to Europe, Asia and Australia. He recently finished a tour of Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, the U.K. and Ireland. He’s also toured with Laura Veirs, another Pacific Northwest native who sings folk and alternative country.
His sound is constantly changing; he’s played everything from hazy blues to bossa nova. Blau recently coined one style of his music “free folk.”
He also likes to “ride the edge” when he’s performing.
“Pushing myself to evoke an artistry is really important to me in a show,” Blau said. “It’s kind of a rush to pull it off.”
“If I’m not nervous before a show, something is wrong,” he added.
Acclaimed indie rocker Kevin Morby, the festival’s headliner, follows Blau at 9:30 p.m. at the Historic Everett Theatre.
Many of the other acts may be relatively unknown to people in Snohomish County. But, that’s OK, Crowther said.
“This isn’t necessarily about singing along to your favorite bands,” he said. “This is about discovery and learning about new, emerging music and artists in the Pacific Northwest.”
All ages can attend. Caspar Babypants, a children’s artist with four albums of original songs just for kids, is opening the festival at 4 p.m. March 30 at Tony V’s Garage. Caspar Babypants is the stage name for Chris Ballew, the former lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America.
DJ Prashant, known nationwide for bringing Indian-flavored beats to the dance floor, is curating the festival’s first-ever Bollywood night 9 p.m. to midnight March 31 at Normanna Lodge.
There will be a crash course on the basics of Bollywood dancing before Prashant starts spinning tunes.
“I’ve always wanted to do a Bollywood event in Everett,” Crowther said.
If you go
The Fisherman’s Village Music Festival is March 30, March 31 and April 1 in downtown Everett at the Historic Everett Theatre, Normanna Lodge, Tony V’s Garage and Black Lab Gallery.
Mount Eeerie is playing at 5 p.m. March 31 in the Historic Everett Theatre. John Van Deusen is playing at 7:45 p.m. April 1 at Tony V’s Garage.
To purchase tickets and view the full lineup and schedule, visit www.thefishermansvillage.com.