Arts & Entertainment

Louie Fest 2012

With guitars in hand, the crowd gathers to play “Louie, Louie” with the Wailers outside the LeMay museum. Photo illustration by Andy Cox.

Hey, Tacoma music fans! Have you ever heard of the band The Wailers or the song “Louie Louie?” Well if you grew up in the fifties or sixties or have parents from that era then you’ve more then likely heard it. This song helped change rock music forever, especially here in the Northwest. The song “Louie Louie” is known to be the most recorded song in rock music history and you can trace its routes all the way back to The Wailers from right here in Tacoma. For over 50 years, The Wailers and their song “Louie Louie” have inspired many artists all throughout the Northwest. Tacoma is one of the birthplaces of rock music and is one of the greatest places in the world when it comes to art.

Louie Fest is all about celebrating Tacoma as one of the biggest art capitols of the world and celebrating the history of the song “Louie Louie.” This year, Louie Fest was held at the LeMay America’s Car Museum, right across the street from the Tacoma Dome. This was a nice treat for those who came because the car museum admission was included with a ticket to Louie Fest. The event ran all weekend from July 27th to 29th. It kicked off Friday evening with The Sonics playing at the Pantages Theater on the 27th. The Sonics are known for helping to establish the white rhythm and blues movement here in Northwest, and they got their career started by singing the song “Louie Louie.” The event lasted all day Saturday and Sunday with entertainment, food, cars, and of course, music. Louie Fest comprised of four stages; the Acoustic Stage, the Rock Stage, the Blues Stage, and the Main Stage. 40 bands played throughout the weekend. Moby Grape headlined the Main Stage Saturday evening and The Wailers headlined the Main Stage Sunday evening with a 1,000 guitars finale all playing the song “Louie Louie.”

Unfortunately there were not 1,000 guitar players this year due other events, such as the Good Guys Car show going on in Puyallup. There were still a few hundred people playing the song together and it was still a very fun experience.

I caught up with The Wailers’ bass player, Buck Ormsby. Buck is the last standing member of the Wailers from the early sixties. He joined the band in 1960 when the Wailers came back from playing The Dick Clark Show and needed a bass player.

Buck talked about Louie Fest and its importance to the city of Tacoma, “The whole idea is for Tacoma to recognize their talent and the magic they have for art. Tacoma doesn’t seem to recognize this and we try to sell them this and encourage them to recognize the music here.”

Louie Fest has been going on annually since 2003. Next year will be the 10-year anniversary of the event. If you want to check out Louie Fest yourself for next year, check out their website for all the details at