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2013 Squeak and Squawk Music Festival to drop jaws

Tacoma tradition lets its freak flag fly again

Carletta Sue Kay, the singing alter ego of Randy Walker, performs Sept. 13 in the Library at Sanford and Son Antiques. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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With a swagger and stage presence that is both unassuming and surprising, Carletta Sue Kay is a sight with broad shoulders, disheveled wig and gaudy gowns. But when this powerful singer grabs the mic, it's on.

Randy Walker, aka Carletta Sue Kay, hails from San Francisco but is making his way to Tacoma for this year's Squeak and Squawk Music Festival (SQSQ), which is set for Sept 12 to 16. The festival boasts more than 30 bands, and in its fourth installment is becoming a Tacoma tradition known for letting its freak flag fly.

"I've always felt that Squeak and Squawk was about the uniqueness of the artists that perform at the festival," said Adam McKinney, co-producer and music critic for the Weekly Volcano. "Carletta Sue Kay is a perfect example of this. What could come across as a silly gimmick in theory - large man sloppily cross-dresses and sings torch songs - becomes surprisingly affecting in practice. I think this highlights the surprising nature of Squeak and Squawk in general. Put bluntly, we like weirdos. Weirdos in the audience and weirdos on stage."

McKinney does most of the booking for the festival and first caught a glimpse of Carletta at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas in 2011. He was so enamored; he brought the performance back for last year's Broadway Center Free For All Festival in Tacoma.

McKinney is not the only one with an eye for a hot mess.

The New York Times featured Carletta in an April 2012 online article.

"Mr. Walker's female alter ego has been enthusiastically received by local audiences since he started performing as Carletta around 2007," it reads. "But recently, Carletta has been getting more national buzz ... in the realm of sweaty rock 'n  roll ... his voice, a tenor, can easily slide up and down the scale but frequently sounds slightly out-of-control in live shows, with a backing garage band."

>>> The Fame Riot / photo courtesy of Facebook

Festivalgoers can expect to see even more entertaining performances during SQSQ. The Hoot Hoots are known to dress up like robots or star people to enhance their power pop performance, and The Fame Riot is a Tacoma band notorious for its glam rock antics: leggings, sequins, guitar solos and all.

The Pacific Northwest is a haven for indie music and representation from Portland to Olympia and Tacoma to Everett will be on board. There are two shows a day: At 6 p.m., all-ages performances take place at Broadway Center the Library at Sanford and Son Antiques followed up with 9 p.m. shows at The New Frontier Lounge for those 21 and over.

Thursday, Sept. 12 kicks off the party with The Fame Riot, Xylophones and J. Martin, and the evening wraps up with I Like Science, Week of Wonder and People Under the Sun.

Friday at 6 p.m. is when to check out the all-ages Carletta Sue Kay performance, with Hands In and The Optimistics.

"We are beyond excited for SQSQ," said Walker. "We can't wait to see and hear The Hoot Hoots, Lake, La Luz and lots of others. It's going to be a really fantastic line-up that is I believe very well rounded, eclectic, bold, odd and super cool. So everyone HAS to come out and check out the shows. SQSQ is going to be very special and we just can't wait."

>>> Not From Brooklyn / photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger

Saturday night has a dance party vibe with I Will Keep Your Ghost, DJs and more, and Sunday The Wheelies and Not From Brooklyn will jam. Monday offers free shows for both time slots and features Goat, Rowhouse and assorted friends.

When asked why SQSQ is so important to Tacoma, McKinney said it's the only festival of its kind in town.

"Not only is it the biggest, with five days and 30 bands," he said, "but we put a special emphasis on bringing in outside talent. There are plenty of festivals in Tacoma, but they mostly focus on highlighting Tacoma bands. We want to introduce Tacoma to the country and the country to Tacoma."

Tickets are $7 per show. Tickets for any show, including festival passes, can be purchased at the venues - the Library at Sanford and Son Antiques and The New Frontier Lounge. For more info and a complete schedule, visit

SQUEAK AND SQUAWK MUSIC FESTIVAL, Sept. 12-16, The New Frontier Lounge and the Library at Sanford and Son Antiques, Tacoma, $7 per show

LINK: Squeak and Squawk 2013 band schedule and tickets

LINK: Squeak and Squawk Storify

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