Columbia City BeatWalk Returns for 24th Year

by Gus Marshall

On Sunday evening Columbia City’s flourishing business district will host this season’s first Beatwalk.  From June to October, every second Sunday of the month, Columbia City’s neighborhood bars, and restaurants will transform into the stages and venues of one the best free music festivals this musically overpopulated city has to offer.

The Columbia City Beatwalk has been operating in one form or the other since its inception in 1994. Originally it was a Friday evening event that took place in the few establishments along Rainier Avenue South that were willing to host a musical act with hopes of getting some new business in return.

Sunday will see Rainier Avenue overrun with musicians hustling from gig to gig, buskers occupying alcoves, families enduring the calming madness and music-lovers and barroom-patrons alike floating from band to band and bar to bar. It will be a time reminiscent of when bands and other performative acts, had a unanimously agreed on value and purpose in society, and especially in any place trying to attract patrons.

Before the time of the home stereo and even the jukebox’s appearance on a mass produced scale, musicians were still considered a necessity for any hopping to thrive establishment trying to turn a profit. Bands were synonymous with good-times, and good-times often led to lucrative enterprises.

And although throughout the history of music in this country and the world, musicians seldom do get paid fairly for their vast contributions to society, most great musicians never get in it for the money, they do it for the love of it.
Leading the charge of the Columbia City’s Beatwalk Steering Committee are booking agent Tish Gallow and general coordinator Laurie Becker.  Gallow and Becker spoke with The South Seattle Emerald about this Sundays upcoming events, and how to help support and sustain the Columbia City Beatwalk.

Gus Marshall: How long have you two been involved with The Columbia City Beatwalk?

Tish Gallow: This is my second year on the Beatwalk Steering Committee.  I have been attending for the last 6 or 7 years.  I became involved last year after the owner of Lottie’s Lounge, Beau Mason, became too busy after opening his other restaurant, Jude’s Old Town, in Rainier Beach.  He asked Tia Matthies, owner of the Royal Room, to reach out to me because he thought I’d be a great addition to the committee. And he was right!

Laurie Becker: I’ve been going to Beatwalk since my family bought a house in Hillman City in 1999. Those were the years it was on Friday nights with a low cover charge for entry into all the venues. I officially started out by helping to organize Columbia City Beatwalk Fat Tuesday in 2017. That event is also known as “mid-winter Beatwalk”. I used to live in New Orleans and worked in music clubs there so it was a natural fit. Summer 2017 was my first season on the Beatwalk steering committee. The previous organizers needed a break and were looking for others to take it on and keep it going. I had gotten to know some CC venue owners though my work with The Royal Room and with my side project, Columbia City Music Beat. When they approached me, well, I had to say yes. How could we let Beatwalk go?  Beatwalk started in 1994 so this is our 24th year. We’re already thinking about some exciting things we might do next year for the 25th-anniversary summer.
GM: What can we expect this coming Sunday, and the following months to come?

TG: This Sunday’s theme is Global Beats/World Rhythms.  I am the booking agent for most of the venues.  We have everything from old school R&B jazz, to Latin music and Latin dance, to African jams.  We also have a street party on Rainier and Ferdinand with a DJ.  Last year we had a soul train line going down Ferdinand St.  However, for this first Beatwalk of 2018, our street party has been moved to the parking lot behind the Royal Room and Royal Esquire Club.  Next month’s theme is R&B, Funk and Hip-Hop.

LB: We have different themes for each month, with most of the bands tying into the theme:

June- Global Beats/World Rhythms
July – R&B, Funk, Soul, Hip Hop
August – American Routes
September – Anything Goes

We have a few great buskers this month out on the sidewalks (as we do every month!)– Mohammed Shaibu’s  Soyaya (African inspired rhythm and blues) and Johnny Bousquet (Songwriter/Keyboardist). We also have a returning caricaturist, local artist Lou Patnode. I had one drawn last summer and it’s a really fun thing to have to take home. He’ll be in the Full Tilt area, so the kids can get their caricature drawn while they eat their ice cream.

GM: Can you tell me about your sponsors?

TG: The majority of our sponsors are neighborhood venues and vendors. We depend solely on donations to have a successful Beatwalk.  So, anyone can donate to the cause and we encourage it!

LB: We have several sponsors who’ve supported Beatwalk for a number of years. We also have some new sponsors this year, which is so exciting! All sponsors are listed on our FB page. We have several levels of sponsorship available – all info posted on our Facebook page. We just added a PayPal link on the FB page which should make it easier for individuals to donate. No donation is too small! Many, many thanks go out to all our donors. We are pleased to have several generous corporate level sponsors which enable us to keep the ball rolling. Special thanks to: Caffe Vita, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Columbia City Business Association, Georgetown Brewing Company, Eileen Fisher Renew, Windermere Realty Mount Baker office, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture. Without them we wouldn’t have a base to grow from.

GM: How do you feel Beatwalk represents the South Seattle community?
TG: We represent South Seattle by building community with diverse themes each month.  A lot of the musicians are from the neighborhood.

LB: As many of us know, South Seattle has been going through some major shifts. We have people with generational ties to this area, along with those that are brand new. On Beatwalk Sunday we will see those people who’ve been to numerous Beatwalks dancing next to those whose first Beatwalk will be June 10. We are very fortunate to have Tish Gallow as our main booker. She has long-time ties to the area, seems to know everyone, and is very enthusiastic.

We’ve added several new venues and had new bands play Beatwalk since she started. They’ve come on board because she asked – and when Tish asks you to do something you automatically want to say YES!

GM: What are you two the most excited for this coming Beatwalk? New venues, new bands?

TG: My music taste varies.  I just love watching live performances. We have a great lineup on Sunday: BackYard: Overall Express, 6pm-8pm; Tutta Bella: Keyboardist Alex Guilbert, 6-8pm; The Bourbon Bar at Columbia City Theatre: The Totusek, Butkovic, & Lochev Trio, 6:30-8:30pm; Royal Room: Trovadora, 7-9pm; Royal Esquire Club: El General, 7:30-9:30pm; Hummingbird: The Washboard CutUps, 7:30-9:30pm; Lotties Lounge: The Bryant Moore Band, 8-10pm; Rumba Notes: L’Orchestra AfriSound, 8-10pm; Fult Tilt: Lou Patnode drawing children caricatures, 5:30-7pm; Street buskers, 5:30pm and a live DJ behind the Royal Esquire Club and Royal Room, depending upon the weather.
LB: Like most Seattleites, I feel summer coming and can’t wait. I think our June theme of Global Beat/World Rhythms is perfect for kicking off the Beatwalk season and getting that summer feel. All the bands we have on the bill bring that sun-on-the-shoulders warmth and the rhythm-in-the-hips moves.

We’re happy to have Caffe Vita as a first-time sponsor this year, and they’ll have a sidewalk booth to hand out free coffee throughout the evening.

GM: How can people get involved with supporting and sustaining the Beatwalk?

TG: They can reach out to the Beatwalk Steering Committee by emailing us at

LB: As I’ve been saying to our committee, BeatWalk is like organizing a music festival – except it’s once a month, for 4 months in a row! It’s no small task and is a lot more complex than the average Beatwalk attendee realizes. We’re a bunch of volunteers pulling it all together, with no paid staff. We have several new committee members this year and we already see a big improvement. But we can use more folks to keep it going, and make it better. People can email us to express their interest. But please wait until June 11- we have a June10 Beatwalk to pull together first!

Featured image by Hannah Letinich