Paul Allen on Why He Created Upstream Music Fest + Summit

As we look forward to the beginning of Upstream Music Fest + Summit’s second year, Paul Allen talks about how he came up with the idea, what sets Upstream apart and who he’s excited to see this year.

The Editors: How did the initial idea for Upstream come to be?

Paul Allen: It really just started percolating and grew out of conversations with my team. Seattle’s arts scene has always been great and we have also always been a place for innovation. While there has never been a shortage of live shows to catch here, we thought there was an opportunity to create a festival that focuses and supports up-and-coming acts. We are excited to showcase emerging musicians across all genres—from jazz to R&B to electronic and rock.


With so many music festivals already on the map, what sets Upstream apart for you?

Allen: Upstream is designed for people who enjoy a wide-range of genres as I do. By working with venues in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, we’ve created what I think is a unique music experience where fans can discover new artists, bands or genres just walking down the block. Many of the artists playing Upstream work and live here in the region, which means fans can continue to support them after Upstream ends.

It’s well-known how passionate about music you are. Where and how did that passion begin?

Allen: I’ve loved music as far back as I can remember, but the real game-changer was witnessing Jimi Hendrix in the late-60s here in Seattle. Those performances burn themselves in your memory. And I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the greats play and have some amazing experiences as a musician myself. I love seeing live music and regularly attend concerts and music festivals – like New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival always leaves me feeling inspired. We want Upstream to do the same for the Northwest.

Who are you excited to see at Upstream?

Allen: Saturday night Bill Laurence, The Funky Knuckles, Khu.éex’ and Forq are playing, which will be a great experimental jazz showcase. I’m also excited to discover some new regional bands and of course The Flaming Lips on Sunday.

AlunaGeorge-at-the-Upstream-Music-Festival-149-Conger-1024x683 AlunaGeorge performs at the Main Stage for Day 2 of the 2017 Upstream Music Festival in Seattle, WA on May 12, 2017. (Photo by David Conger / Upstream)