So yes, we get it. Formerly honest, bucolic, blue collar, hard working town is being over run by too-fashionable haircuts, skinny jeans and whichever retro sneaker is en vogue right now. It’s not long before Anacortes resembles nothing so much as the bastard child of Portland and Shoreditch, it’s authenticity long since a memory, another northwest jewel ground to dust under the fashionable heels of the careless young.
But why? Why is this seemingly random town falling under the Northwest Curse? How is it a mini Olympia? And God Forbid you try to RAISE A FAMILY NEAR A RECORD STORE.
There’s actually a couple good reasons for this; it isn’t as random as it seems.
One: location. Anacortes exists in that sweet spot; far enough from the I-5 corridor to avoid congestion, but not nearly as isolated as the peninsula commnunities of Port Townsend or Port Angeles. This is not a hipster-specific concern, but it does allow a self-contained community of artists to grow their own identity outside of Seattle, Vancouver or Portland.
Two: A few NW indie superstars live in, love, and represent Anacortes. Phil Elverum, of Mount Eerie and the Microphones creates art beloved by a lot of folks. He lives in Anacortes. Karl Blau, prolific performer, musician, zinester, lives in Anacortes. They may have initially moved there for the isolation and cheap property, but their presence confers a sort of “cool” that goes beyond simply having a brochure-worthy downtown strip with bars and coffee shops.
Which Anacortes does have.
Three: A lot of people worked very hard to create a culture in Anacortes. The Department of Safety was a model DIY all ages arts space for a long time in the 00s. When myself and friends were researching how to get a sustainable all ages music space going in Bellingham, the two places we talked to were the Department of Safety and Vera Project. The first time i heard of TV on the Radio was because a friend of mine had seen them at DOS. And so on.
This led to What the Heck Fest, a town-encompassing music and arts festival that ran for ten years and drew people from around the country. It’s no longer running, but ten years of a dedicated artistic community creating an identity for a town that already has striking architectural and geographic features. . . well that doesn’t just dissipate.
Four: Jumping off that, hipsters, like all people since the beginning of time, like to go where there are more like them. Sure, on paper Mount Vernon or Kelso or wherever may seem more likely, but there’s already been a foundation laid. Anacortes has a reputation as an arts town (0ne it’s earned) and now that’s paying off. Such things self perpetuate; this article alone has probably put Anacortes on the minds of three or four more fashionable types who wouldn’t have thought of it otherwise.
Wait– you were SERIOUS, weren’t you, Peter?
Also published on Medium.