The good news for the team behind Rain Fest, the annual festival that has attracted fans of hardcore to Tacoma for the last four Memorial Day weekends, is that this year’s fest—featuring standouts Seven Seconds, Supertouch, Wisdom in Chains—sold out in 72 hours, four and a half months in advance. The bad news, for Tacoma at least, is that the fifth installment will be taking place in Seattle, at Neumo’s.
“Personally, just being from Tacoma and being able to do something to put Tacoma on the map has been a driving force for me to promote shows,” says Brian Skiffington, one of the festival’s two promoters who call Tacoma home. “But I have never looked at this as being something specific to Tacoma or Seattle, or anywhere else.”
The decision to move the festival occurred after the Viaduct, the longtime host of the event, shut down last July, after the owners and workers ran out of gas (yet another reminder of how difficult it is to run an all-ages music club). The festival’s ties to the venue were tight—Skiffington worked as the club’s promoter, while festival co-head Zack Ellis owned the place—but the future of Rain Fest was never in doubt.
The duo, joined by Matt Weltner, sought out a new home, strongly considering staging the event at Green River College in Auburn before approaching Neumo’s, where Skiffington sometimes works security.
“I’m an old hardcore kid from back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and I was just like, yeah, this thing will kill at Neumo’s,” says club co-owner Steven Severin. “They’ve spent a number of years and a lot of work building it up down in Tacoma. Each year it’s gotten bigger and better and it just keeps growing. That’s what happens when you do festivals right; they just keep growing.’”
The 650-capacity room—50 percent larger than the Viaduct—offers a prime location in the middle of Seattle’s Capitol Hill, though it also sets limitations, allowing Skiffington and company to book 40 bands, rather than the 52 that played last year. The contraction doesn’t concern Skiffington, who sees a future of larger stages up I-5.
“It’s definitely staying in Seattle from now on,” Skiffington says, “But we’re going to have to move it to some place bigger next year. I don’t know if we can go as big as the Showbox. I don’t know if we could sell out that venue with hardcore and punk music, but who knows.”