As fall sweeps in, the colors start to change, and Washington gets a little darker and a little colder, some folks tend to migrate inside. In Bellingham, though, a brand new season is just getting started. The world of art comes to life in the northwest corner of Washington, especially in the fall, and provides a wonderful reason to visit and see everything there is to offer.
Following is a list of first-rate music and theater, from comedy improv and captivating concerts to thought-provoking plays and cinematic adventures.
Tucked in the heart of downtown Bellingham, the beautiful Mount Baker Theatre is a historic non-profit organization that shines the spotlight (literally and figuratively) on many of the best local and national performing artists in the region. Now 92 years old, the theatre weaves together community, history and world-class acts into one venue.
An Evening with Jake Shimabukuro | October 12
Chart-topper and YouTube sensation Jake Shimabukuro is a ukulele virtuoso and composer. He’s performed at the Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center, Sydney Opera House, and even played for Queen Elizabeth II. Catch him this October at the Mount Baker Theatre.
Hear the best of New Orleans on an evening jam-packed with the most influential figures of modern New Orleans funk, R&B, soul, and jazz. Starring: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Ivan Neville, Ian Neville, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Mardi Gras Indians with “Big Chief” Monk Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles and “Big Chief” Romeo of the 9th Ward Hunters.
The Phantom of the Opera: Silent Film | October 27
Need something spooky to do this Halloween season? How about Phantom of the Opera with a live pipe organ? Watch Lon Chaney’s 1925 “Phantom of the Opera” at Mount Baker Theatre’s 1927 movie balance, joined by world-renowned film historian and accompanist Dennis James on the theater’s Wurlitzer pipe organ. Anyone in costume gets free popcorn, and you can join the Halloween costume context for tickets to a future show.
Pearl Django | November 16
Pearl Django is a regional favorite! Originally starting out in Tacoma in 1994, the group incorporates the music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappeli in American swing music, and is the reason Gypsy jazz exists in North America today.
Gloria Steinem | November 22
Meet Gloria Steinem, legendary voice in women’s rights, at the Mount Baker Theatre with a moderated conversation and Q&A session. Premier ticket purchases will include a copy of her new book, Truth Will Set You Free, But First it Will Piss You Off.
Jesse Cook | November 23
Considered the “king of the rumba flamenco,” Juno-winning master guitarist Jesse Cook dazzles audiences with an around-the-world experience through jazz and flamenco.
Bellingham Symphony Orchestra represent a breadth of genres. With over 80 volunteer musicians from the community, the orchestra performs several times a year at the Mount Baker Theatre. Their 44th season opens September 29 with Music in Motion, lead by renowned pianist Jon Kimura Parker, with moving music from Tchaikovsky to Massenet. Tickets are now on sale for their 2019-2020 season.
Borodin Meets Beethoven with Amit Peled | November 17
A show guaranteed to be a triumphant performance featuring works by Borodin, Beethoven, and Saint-Saëns. Isaraeli-American cellist Amit Peled returns to Whatcom County to join the orchestra for Saint- Saëns’ Cello Concerto, Borodin’s Symphony No. 2 and Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.
You can always find something inspiring at Western Washington University. The public is welcome to catch unique student performances and big names you can’t see often. Student concerts are frequent and free, and WWU’s concert series draws professional musicians from around the world.
– Sanford-Hill Piano Series: Benjamin Hochman | October 4
The Sanford-Hill Piano Series provides access to professional pianists from around the world for both students and the community, hosting legendary pianists from Ian Parker to Di Wu to Tamara Stefanovich. This season, catch the eloquent and virtuosic Benjamin Hochman.
– Global Spice World Music: Dale Russ and Tom Creegan | October 9
Global Spice is a concert series highlighting music that blends western and non-western music traditions. Come October, listen to the renowned and catchy works of self-taught, Connecticut-born Irish fiddler Dale Russ and Dublin piper Tom Creegan, who now calls Seattle home and is regarded as one of North America’s foremost pipers.
– #HereToo | October 24 – November 2
#HereToo is a play chronicling the first-person experience of gun violence survivors and young activists across the country. WWU’s production is part of the West Coast premiere. The project will evolve in schools around the country, highlighting the activism and survivors of each community, and culminate in a final version produced in New York City.
The Pickford Film Center is self-described as a fiercely independent and downright neighborly theater showing the best in independent, foreign, and documentary films. Throughout October, Pickford hosts its annual Doctober: a month-long celebration of documentary. With over 60 films, the entire month features diverse programming with something for everyone.
– Bleedingham | October 27
Get ready to scream. Bleedingham showcases indie horror films from filmmakers around Washington and the world. The Short Horror Film Festival plays the weekend before Halloween at both the Pickford Film Center and its sister theatre, the PFC Limelight Cinema. Check it out for a look at fantastic indie horror from local filmmakers.
The Upfront Theatre | Thursdays through Saturdays
The Upfront is an improv comedy theater established by television’s Ryan Stiles in 2004. Shows play every Thursday through Saturday, performed by Upfront students, a satellite ensemble and their mainstage cast—and sometimes Stiles, himself. Check it out for a special piece of Bellingham that’s guaranteed to deliver laughs.
The Sylvia Center is an amazing, accessible, and affordable space for Whatcom artists and audiences alike. Discover locally made music, theater, and dance with Sylvia and their prolific in-house production company, iDiOM Theater, here to make the arts available to everyone.
– 48-Hour Theater Festival | October 11 – 12
Come join iDiOM Theater for their 48-Hour Theater Festival, a long-running festival where teams write short plays overnight and perform them, fresh out of the oven, less than 24 hours later. Performances are Friday and Saturday.
– The Norman Conquests | November 1 – 30
“The Normal Conquests” is a hilarious trilogy of plays written by Alan Ayckbourn. Each play is smartly designed to be watched in any order, individually or all together. “The Norman Conquests” will run from November 1 to 3 and include two “marathons” on Saturdays for binge-watching.
The FireHouse Arts & Events Center is a local, regional, and national venue for performing arts renovated from a 1927 fire station. Starting October 3, catch “Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons”. Sam Steiner images a world where a new quietude law limits each person’s speech to 140 characters. The play is the story of a young couple struggling to communicate and get to know each other as they work through the new law. The story is a thought-provoking exploration of relationships, free speech, and democracy.
Featuring the widest and wildest variety of music, The Wild Buffalo is one of Bellingham’s top music venues. The Buffalo hosts both local and nationally recognized artists, from Snoop Dogg to Andrew W.K. and many more. Upcoming shows feature MC Lars and Okilly Dokilly on October 8, Com Truise with Altopalo and Beshken on October 24, and Eve 6 with Dead American on November 22.
Breweries and food are a big deal in Bellingham, and plenty of them have music scenes. Award-winning Boundary Bay Brewery hosts Stringband Thursdays, Irish & Folk Night on Mondays, and piano every Tuesday with local musician Paul Klein. Kulshan Brewing Company, another popular spot with locally brewed beer and the best food trucks in town, has regular local performances at their Sunnyland location. Honey Moon Mead & Cider, a unique, intimate meadery, is a fantastic venue for local musicians, and also hosts Irish and Folk Mondays. And, last but not least, The Shakedown is a much-loved local spot with quality music, pinball, cheesesteak, and cocktails. Their stage hosts all types of music, from local to Seattle to all over. Special mentions go to Bad Honey, an American rock trio from Seattle, playing October 12, and hip-hop group ¡Mayday! performing October 20.
Be inspired by these events and many more happenings as you plan your getaway to Bellingham. If you’re searching for a new theater or music scene, be sure to check out Bellingham.org, where you can peruse events calendars for shows and concerts. Need a fantastic place to stay while you’re here? You’ll find a myriad of lodging options there, as well.