Wednesday, August 31, 2016

NedFest 8.26.16 (Photos)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Jam in The Trees 8.27.16 (Photos)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Leftover Salmon 8.13.16 (Photos)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer Meltdown 8.11 - 8.14.16

Darrington, WA

Words By Mitch Melheim
Photos By Coleman Schwartz

Darrington, Washington’s Summer Meltdown is one of the most beautiful festivals I’ve ever been to. Whitehorse Mountain soars over the intimate amphitheater as a gorgeous river flows behind it. The camping is mostly shaded and close to the stages, local bands still make up a large chunk of the line up, and scheduling conflicts are almost never a problem. That being said, a growing emphasis on larger crowds and more expensive line ups has proven to be a distraction towards the festival’s initial focus on community and sustainability.

Thursday, August 11, 2016:

We pulled up to a very long check-in line that we luckily avoided since we were media. After parking, we walked to the box office to pick up our credentials. Acquiring our passes was easier than expected with minimal lines and helpful staff. The only problem was that I wasn’t given a schedule. No big deal. I was curious where I could get one so I asked the box office worker and was told that they weren’t doing paper schedules this year to save paper. He told me that we were supposed to print off the .PDF file before we came if we wanted a physical copy and that there was originally a plan for a mobile app that never came to fruition. Since it was done for environmental reasons rather than financial, I was more than fine with it and continued my way towards the gate.

I was met at the gate by friendly security who did nothing more than smile and wave as we walked past with our passes. So far, so good and the venue was as beautiful as I remembered it being. Walking down the hill towards the amphitheater, I stopped to take in a full 360 degree view of the mountains and trees I was lucky enough to call home for the weekend.

I arrived a couple hours after the rest of my group due to some car troubles on the way up so my campsite was already set up and waiting for me once I arrived. Their campground map makes more sense than most music festivals and I was able to easily find my group with minimal time spent searching. The map consists of paths that are cleverly named alphabetically, such as “Disco Street” and “Funk Street.”

Bellingham, Washington’s 8-piece soul-funk ensemble, Snug Harbor, kicked off the festival with a fun and exploratory set on the smaller Garden Stage. Following them and opening the Main Stage for the weekend were up and coming Vermont jammers, Twiddle. As is typical when a jam band is crammed into a one hour set, they started out lacking energy, but that soon changed with a fantastic second half of the set that brought upon the best improvisation we saw all festival. Things really took off during “Cabbage Face” with guitarist Mihali Savoulidis leading us down a deep hole of darkness before the set ending segment of “Gatsby the Great” > Bela Fleck’s “Big Country” > “Gatsby the Great” floored the audience, most of whom were seeing Twiddle for the first time.

Another Bellingham band, Polecat, was next on the Garden Stage and they brought heaps of energy as usual with their unique blend of Bluegrass, Celtic, and Reggae. Led by guitarist Jeremy Elliott and drummer Karl Olson, this band is extremely talented and their contagious energy gives them the opportunity to win over those that may be off put by their unusual style.

The night’s headliner, Beats Antique, was next on the Main Stage and while typically a fan of their music, I was unimpressed with their set. This was my first Beats Antique show since their 2014 Oregon Country Fair set with the MarchFourth! horns and after being blown away by their ability to turn their music into such an interesting and completely live show, I thought the opposite after seeing them at Meltdown. There seemed to be minimal live instrumentation and they were just repeating the same tricks they used the last few times I saw them, but without any of the surprise factor.

Brooklyn’s Moon Hooch closed out the night at the Garden Stage and put on the show that I think a lot of people were hoping Beats Antique would provide. It was intense, filled with impressive instrumentation, and impossible not to dance along with. They make dance music in the realm of the dreaded umbrella term “EDM,” but the band is only comprised of two saxophones and a drummer at its core. Those musicians branch out to play synthesizers and an EWI, while also running their horns through Ableton software to process recorded effects.

Most of us took it fairly easy after the music Thursday, spending time with good friends around the dab rig while a loud DJ set took place at a near campsite. The great community of friends that I have at this festival is the reason I continue to come back and I have multiple groups of friends that all repeat the same about their own friends. While there is definitely a diverse group of attendees that don’t always mix well together, it's almost never noticeable because you are surrounded by so many close friends.

Friday, August 12, 2016:

The second day of the festival started out strong with original host band Flowmotion’s Josh Clausen & Friends opening the day at the Garden Stage, followed by band competition winners and Olympia, Washington jam band, DBST, and the funky horn-led Denver band, Analog Son. San Diego’s Progressive Metal/Math Rock band, Chon, played next on the Garden Stage and put together one of the more impressive performances of Summer Meltdown. Their guitarists will leave you even more speechless than the drummer playing time signatures that I can hardly count.

Portland’s Shook Twins opened up the Main Stage for the day and played a fun set that continued their recent upward trajectory of higher energy shows and more amplification. They’re such a versatile band that I’ve decided to no longer try and explain them to people because every time I do, they play a set opposite to the style I explained.

Seattle’s Ayron Jones & the Way followed on the Garden Stage with some of the more entertaining blues I’ve seen all summer. Jones can absolutely shred the guitar and possesses a powerful voice that is enjoyable to listen to. I would keep an eye out for these guys and see them live if you get the chance. It was my first time seeing them and I can’t remember being that excited about a new Blues act since first seeing Gary Clark Jr. a few years back.

The Budos Band played next on the Main Stage and I may never be the same after that performance. I’ve never seen Afrobeat played so aggressively. It was funk with a Staten Island edge and chock full of Heavy Metal influence -- and alcohol. If Phish is “cow funk,” they are “satan funk.”

With their persona however, came consequences as keyboardist, Mike Deller, destroyed a 49-year old organ that was loaned out to them as backline equipment by local band and fellow Meltdown artists, Snug Harbor. After the organ was thrown to the ground, Deller decided to ripped all of the keys out of the instrument one by one. The blatant disrespect was enough to turn me off of a band who had just won me over as a fan minutes prior. The half-assed excuse they posted on Facebook describing it as an “unfortunate side effect of our stage show” was the final straw and I would urge anybody to not support this band or encourage their drunken antics.

Seattle rap duo and underground heroes, Blue Scholars, followed on the Garden Stage and while I enjoy their music, I expected more from their live performance. There seemed to be many fans enjoying the set though so I wouldn’t take my word as the definitive decision on whether they’re worth seeing or not. One thing that is definitive is their reputation as great lyricists which I wholly agree with.

Friday’s Main Stage headliner was Gramatik and he definitely did not disappoint. The Slovenian-born producer has always made music that I enjoy listening to, but it wasn’t until recently that his live shows have really grabbed me and made me a fan. I probably like his older, more laid back music better but his new, higher-energy music translates better live and when mixed with the old style makes for one of the most enjoyable and intelligently plotted DJ sets in the scene.

After Gramatik, it was off to the Late Night Tent for the first time of the weekend. Filled with awesome production and surrounded by amazing art installations and even more incredible lasers from “Slick Rick” of Burning Man fame, the festival continued the momentum they’ve picked up the last couple of years with making the late night area a sight to behold.

Boulder, Colorado’s Sunsquabi opened the late night and this is probably an understatement, but those guys are the real deal. It was my first time seeing them live and while I’ve definitely considered them a band I “liked” based off of what I’ve heard from their studio releases, they might now be a band I love after that performance. I’ve always placed their sound somewhere in between Griz and Broccoli Samurai, leaning more towards Griz’s computer-focused Funk sound. After seeing them live, I would say they’re much closer to Broccoli Samurai or Skydyed because of the fact that they’re up there playing the entire time and include sections of improvisation and creative segues.

Another Colorado-based band, Michal Menert and the Pretty Fantastics, closed out the night and while outdone by their opener they were fun and a band I would probably see again if they came back around. Menert was one of the first producers I liked when I started getting into electronic music so it was exciting for me to be able to hear some of my favorite songs played live with a full band.

The night was taken a little less easy on Friday and while most of which can’t be written about, just know that we all had a great time until the sun came up and that Saturday started before we knew Friday was over.

Saturday, August 13, 2016:

Eventually, we decided to acknowledge the fact that it was now a different day and headed down to the river once the sun came out. The river is one of the highlights of the festival. You can either access it through the side of the late night area or walk the trail that goes alongside the river. There’s always a party at the river, but what’s great is that you can just walk further down the river or trail until you find a secluded spot for your group. The weekend’s perfect weather translated into great water for swimming and we managed to spend the entire day down there before heading back to camp before ALO started.

ALO opened the Main Stage for the day and proved why they are one of the more underrated bands in the jam scene. They tend to get overlooked because of their unwillingness to commit to being a “jam band” and their tendency to create very poppy and catchy music. When it comes down to it though, Dan Lebowitz is one of my favorite guitarists to watch and keyboardist Zach Gill is extremely talented with a great voice to match. Some of their music may sound like Jack Johnson wrote a kid’s album, but when they jam, there’s not a ton of bands that can keep up with them.

Yet another Bellingham band played the Garden Stage next, this time Acorn Project. Acorn is a jam band that is somewhat hard to define. They incorporate elements of progressive rock, funk, and electronica in their music so the immediate comparison is Umphrey’s McGee, but it's not Metal or spastic enough to be Umphrey’s. They definitely have a similar sound and I’ve had a good time every time I’ve seen this band that’s becoming harder and harder to catch live as their tour schedule has been dwindling for quite some time.

Toronto’s Keys N Krates played the Main Stage afterwards and I was surprised to be honest. I usually have a strong distaste for Trap music, but they managed to play it in the most easily digested way. Full of live instrumentation and nearly impossible to not dance along with, their instrumental brand of Hip-hop was highly energetic and not overly repetitive.

Seattle’s Beat Connection was next and they were another pleasant surprise for me. I went into the show thinking it was just Electronic music, but they proved to be so hard to describe that I actually went to their Facebook page to see how they described themselves only to find their genre listed as just “Music.” Seems about right. There was a DJ, but there were also live vocals, a guitarist, a drummer, a bassist, and a keyboardist. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I would call them, but the best comparison I came up with in my head during the show was Disclosure. It was the closest I could think of, but it’s still pretty far off from how they sounded at other times during the show.

The Main Stage headliner for Saturday was Griz and I was kind of anxious to see him again after not having seen him for a few years. I was once really into Griz, but my musical tastes shifted away from how whompy he had gotten, more so my fault than his. It was really refreshing to see this show as he now tours full time with fellow Michigander, Muzzy Bear, on guitar and put together one of the more entertaining sets I’ve seen from an Electronic producer in a long time. There were some great segues and a lot of change ups from the studio to live versions of his songs, my favorite of which was him playing the “Too Young For Tragedy” outro without the beginning of the song and turning it into almost five minutes of drum & bass bliss.

After Griz was the funkiest decision of the weekend, Monophonics at the Garden Stage or Manic Focus at the Late Night Tent. I chose Monophonics because I wanted to see a live band, but later found out that Manic Focus played with a live band as well. It was a great Monophonics show as usual. Their shows don’t change up much from one to the other, but when you haven’t seen them in awhile they will blow you away more often than not.

Gramatik’s full band sex funk side project, Exmag, followed in the Late Night Tent and was rather enjoyable. I made my way up to the front for a bit to see exactly what was going on and saw everybody singing along to their samples and then the keyboardist and guitarist switch instruments with joints in their mouth, so they couldn’t have looked any cooler during the few minutes I spent up close.

I hadn’t slept in a couple days at this point so after some time in the dab tent followed by eating all of our snacks, the majority of us parted ways and got some sleep that night. There were others that kept it going for a third night and I commend them for it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016:

I woke up well rested and hungry, ready for some Sound Tribe and Bluegrass. I went straight to the food stands when I woke up and ate at Steal Your Plate. I had some of the best macaroni & cheese I’ve ever had called the Mac Attack that was loaded with pulled pork. It was amazing while it lasted, but the cook’s warning of it making me sleepy was spot on and as advertised.

I made it back to camp after eating and realized that it seemed dirty and after filling up all of our garbage bags that we had with stuff, asked for more garbage bags to find out that we had not been given bags during the festival at any point. I don’t know if living in Oregon has given me different expectations when going to festivals, but I was really turned off by that and thought that it seemed irresponsible to bring so many people together without providing them with trash bags. It made me wonder if not giving out paper schedules was really for sustainability reasons like I had believed. It didn’t seem worth thinking into any further so I found different types of bags to use as trash and ignored my curiosity about the situation.

Two Portland bands started the day on the Garden Stage, Psychedelic Funk band, Dirty Revival, and fast rising Bluegrass band, Crow & the Canyon. Crow & the Canyon recently added Polecat guitarist, Jeremy Elliott, and have since become one of my favorite bands in the region. Between their talented mandolinist Ben Larsen’s lyrics, Leigh Jones’s beautiful voice, and Elliott’s unreal flatpicking ability, this band is a force to be reckoned with and has a chance to get as big as fellow Portlanders Fruition.

The final Bellingham band of the weekend, Rabbit Wilde, continued their massive momentum of success with another crowd-pleasing, foot-stomping show to open the Main Stage for the day. Missoula, Montana’s Lil’ Smokies played the Garden Stage next and brought with it a hell of a show as they always do. They remind me a lot of the Infamous Stringdusters with the way they move around the stage and jam together, as well as the Paul Simon influenced Bluegrass sound. These guys are no longer a secret in the West, but they may be elsewhere so I recommend checking this band out for anybody that hasn’t yet.

Southern sister world-folk act, Rising Appalachia, were next on the Main Stage and played one of the more entertaining shows that I’ve seen from them, but it still didn’t do much for me. I enjoy their music at home when in a mellow mood, but I’ve yet to see them live when it was what I wanted to see at that time. Trevor Hall followed at the Garden Stage and it was the exact same story with him. I like his music, but it’s not there for me live. This was definitely the best show I’d seen from him though and would never knock his music.

The headliner of the weekend, STS9, was next on the Main Stage and played even better than the year before which left me with my jaw dropped, stunned as it was my first show with Alana Rocklin on bass. They opened up the show on fire with some older tracks “Inspire Strikes Back” and then an outstanding “GLOgli” > “Instantly” filled with an abundance of bass and Alan Watts samples. “Equinox,” “Monkey Music,” and surprisingly “When the Dust Settles,” were more highlights of what was one of the better Sound Tribe shows I’ve seen during the 2.0 era and the best set of the weekend.

The festival’s original host band, Flowmotion, closed out the festival afterwards on the Garden Stage and had guest guitarist, Andy Coe of Seattle, with them. Normally a decent band, they turned great with Coe. Unfortunately, my curiosity about the festival’s sustainability practices was brought up again after their set when the festival MC told us to make sure and take all of our garbage home with us because, “it costs a lot for us (them) to pick up.” A tall order from a festival that failed to provide us with garbage bags and claimed to go without paperless schedules for environmental reasons rather than financial.

After Flowmotion, we went down to the Renegade Stage that had been set up throughout the weekend and watched some pickin’. It was a rather mellow night and after some more unexpected bonus sleep, we woke up to pack out which is where I came across my one final complaint about an otherwise great festival. While packing everything up, we had staff come to our campsites early in the morning to inform us that they’re recycling was full and that we had to either take our recycling home with us or use the landfill. This decided it for me. Those decisions were made for money and no other reason. To oversell to the point where you no longer have a place to properly dispose of everybody’s waste falls short of West Coast sustainability standards and I assume everywhere else as well.

It was an amazing festival aside from my questioning of their priorities. They still throw a great event that is easy for festival goers to enjoy and do it in one of the most beautiful sites in the country. They still keep it small enough that you don’t have to worry about scheduling conflicts or not being able to camp with everybody you came with. But they’re growing rapidly, and with success comes change. I just hope it’s for the best.

Coleman's Photo Gallery

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Yonder Mountain String Band 8.20.16 (Photos)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Old Crow Medicine Show, Brandie Carlile & Secret Sisters 8.14.16 (Photos)

Friday, August 12, 2016

PREVIEW: YarmonyGrass August 18 - 21, 2016

Rancho Del Rio
Bond, CO

We at MusicMarauders have been attending and covering YarmonyGrass in some form or another for going on six years. This is one of our absolute favorite festivals due to the great line-ups, incredible site, the ability to float down the Colorado River and the fun staff! So many amazing memories have been created among our team at Rancho Del Rio and this year will be no different!

Get your tickets now and join us for Jeff Austin Band, Roosevelt Collier's Colorado Get Down, The Drunken Hearts, Coral Creek, Andy Hall's Joint Set, The Grant Farm, Rapidgrass Quintet, The Railsplitters, Dead Winter Carpenters, Caribou Mountain Collective, WhiteWater Ramble, Kitchen Dwellers, Uptown Toodeloo String Band, Whiskey Tango, Missed The Boat, The Lonesome Days, Mile High Express, Hog MaGundy, Timber, Liver Down the River, The Robin Davis Duo & Cosmic Mesa August 18 - 21 at Rancho Del Rio in Bond, CO!

Tickets are available at

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The String Cheese Incident 7.23 & 7.24.16

Cuthbert Amphitheater
Eugene, OR

Words By Mitch Melheim
Photos By Coleman Schwartz

Saturday July 23, 2016:

There’s weird, and then there’s Eugene. Even further past that is the String Cheese Incident playing in Eugene. Having been prepped the year prior during their Sunday-Monday two night run at the tiny McDonald Theatre, I knew what exactly I was in for. We stocked the car full of weirdos and took off down I-5 towards the People’s Republic.

My buddy was raving about this brewery called Block 15 Brewery in Corvallis that we had to stop at on the way. Good decision. They had some of the best beer I’ve had in this hop-addicted state and great food to go along with it. They explicitly serve only fresh hops and it makes for an unrivaled fresh taste. My favorite was the Sticky Hands Hop Experience Ale. Advertised as featuring ample additions of sticky, resinous, lupulin-packed hop buds grown in the Pacific Northwest with an aromatic blast of citrus and dank herbs, it tasted exactly like a green hit of “dank herb” to borrow their terminology.

Despite leaving with ample time before the show, we arrived at the last second and in a hurry. Big surprise there. Being used to it, we handled it like champs and after a quick stop at the Airbnb were ready to head to the venue. That’s when things got a bit more complicated. Unbeknownst to us, Eugene doesn’t have Uber or Lyft services. Not a big deal, but it can sure throw a wrench in your plans thirty minutes before showtime. After some unsuccessful calls to local cab companies, my wonderful photographer decided to take one for the team and be the designated driver for the night. Thanks Coleman.

Arriving at the Cuthbert Amphitheatre just as the show was scheduled to start, it was a pleasant surprise that the band took into account how unorganized we all are and waited an extra fifteen minutes to take the stage. When first arriving to the Cuthbert, you see no ampitheatre at all. The only thing in sight is the river and a bunch of trees sprawled about a beautiful green space. You then get to the gates and still without having seen the amphitheatre, enter the venue and walk around some more trees until finally confronted by an absolutely gorgeous amphitheatre.

Exploratory from the start, a fifteen minute “Shine” kicked off the show while Eugene sun was still shining. A funky portion of improv near the end of this song got me excited, but overall the daytime vibe and low volume from where I was standing in the amphitheatre proved too mellow for me so I walked down the grassy hill towards the stage.

The quirky tune “Missin’ Me” reached a climactic peak from keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth before segueing into the Allman Brothers’ “Jessica.” Ever since learning that “Jessica” was actually written as a tribute to two-fingered Gypsy Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, the intervals in the song always stick out to me and Cheese does a good job of maintaining those intervals throughout the jam while still keeping it interesting for almost nine minutes.

So far a jam-heavy and vocally deprived show, that changed with guitarist Billy Nershi’s soft rock ballad “Farther.” Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman” followed and led by some funky Kyleboarding, had me dancing the hardest I had at that point and revived the energy with great setlist placement. The first electro-Cheese of the night appeared with a fantastic synth solo from Hollingsworth that faded into a funk jam led by Nershi and then multi-instrumentalist Michael Kang, playing electric mandolin this go around.

Another cover, Peter Rowan’s “Sweet Melinda” was next and featured some jazzy playing from Nershi before Kang took us into space. Keith Moseley’s bass and the drumming duo of Michael Travis and Jason Hann led the next section before Hollingsworth came to give the jam a decided direction. The direction was funk and the rest of the band picked up and threw down as they segued into Kool & the Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging.” While fun to dance to, I felt the cover lacked the punch a classic funk song of its stature should’ve had.

Hollingsworth’s dancey electro-funk tune “Colliding” followed and didn’t disappoint as he turned the amphitheatre into a dirty, dark rave basement for a few minutes as the sun had officially gone down and Andy Cass‘s visuals began to take effect. As Hollingsworth was working his synth like nobody’s business, Kang teased “Another One Bites the Dust” a few times through before fully committing with a vocal tease.

The set break was quick and they came out swinging, punching me with the funk that was missing during their Kool & the Gang cover. The funky yet jazzy mystery song turned out to be the seldom played “¡Bam!” and was a treat to start off a mind-blowing set. If starting out the set with a melodica solo from Hollingsworth wasn’t enough to let me know what we were in for, segueing directly into James Brown’s “In a Cold Sweat” and then “Howard” was.

Heavy from the start, this was the darkest “Howard” I’ve ever witnessed live. Beyond the point of darkness to just plain scary. About a third of the way into the twenty minute odyssey, everything became quiet as we dropped down an evil sinkhole controlled mainly by synthesizers and vocal effects. Moseley’s bass brings us back into the territory of music, but it never brightened up the song as we continued to fall deeper into darkness.

Speeding up quite a bit before dropping back into the boundaries of the song and then slowing down for a spacey drum segue into “Bollymunster,” the dark vibe continued. This Celtic rave standard exhibits heavy use of both the synthesizer and fiddle, a combination I’m sure everybody sees all of the time. The reverberating arpeggio from Hollingsworth was delightfully funky and as much as I like to make fun of the song from time to time, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it this time.

New single “Get Tight” came next and I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a fan of the song. It sounds to me like it should be on Pop-Country radio which brought upon an overheard nickname of Keith “Urban” Moseley for the song’s lead singer. As much as I may not like the song, it’s damn catchy and I was dancing and maybe even singing by the end of it. I won’t fully admit to the last part.

A short and sweet “Desert Dawn” followed and segued patiently into a cover of Bob Marley’s “Exodus,” featuring The Wailers’ Dwayne “Danglin” Anglin. This was one of the few times I’ve seen a reggae front man sit in with a jam band on a reggae cover and actually mesh perfectly with the band rather than take over the song. Great vocals and equally good stage presence made for a surprisingly awesome sit in for something thrown together last second during the set break as Moseley admitted during his introduction of Anglin.

After a speech inspiring racial unity from Anglin, the band segued out of “Exodus” into a spacey jam labeled on the soundboard release as “Soft Landing Jam.” Finally, some bluegrass came next to close out the set, “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” One thing I love about Cheese is how many different ways they can make you dance in one set and this set was a perfect example. Starting with the funk and then diving through the depths of darkness before an electronica hoedown, country song, and reggae jam eventually bring you into a hopping bluegrass dance. This set was mapped out perfectly and featured a little bit of everything while still managing to keep a constant flow. Beginning with pure evil and bringing you out of darkness slowly but surely before you can end with your hard earned happy bluegrass tune.

A great encore of the Jesse Stone penned, Jerry Garcia Band famed “Don’t Let Go” followed, but left me a little disappointed because they encored with the exact same cover the last time they were in Eugene. While not quite as good as that McDonald Theatre version that included the house lights getting turned on during the song before eventually being turned back off once they realized the band wasn’t going to stop playing, this was a great way to end a fun show of exploratory jams with a fifteen minute Garcia tune.

After the show, there was a variety of after party options that descended upon Eugene for the weekend. Cycles was playing at Luckey’s Club, Sneaky Pete and the Secret Weapons at Sam Bond’s Garage, Kitchen Dwellers at Cozmic Pizza, and Yak Attack with Acorn Project at HiFi Music Lounge. Even though the Kitchen Dwellers are one of my favorite bands, it was a no brainer for me that I had to go see Yak Attack. Our entire crew made our way to a packed Yak Attack show that had us drowning in sweat between so much dancing and the lack of dance room, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Yak Attack is a dance band through and through, and if you aren’t sweating during their show you’re doing it wrong.

We partied at somebody else’s Airbnb after the show because there happened to be a couple upstairs and cat downstairs at ours that were unexpected to us. The cat was a definite plus, but we were wary about bringing our group of weirdos in our weird post-Yak Cheese state to somebody else’s house for the festivities. We eventually made it back to our Airbnb, but only for copious porch dabs and sleep.

Coleman's Saturday Photo Gallery

Sunday July 24, 2016:

We all woke up the next afternoon ready to eat anything and everything and decided on Glenwood Restaurant, my favorite place to eat brunch whenever I’m in Eugene. I had the biscuits & gravy with a pancake, eggs, and bacon. Pure gluttony, but it was amazing.

Unfortunately, the overindulgence was too much, too fast and I suffered from a severe case of the “itis” in the moments leading up to the show. I eventually gathered enough energy and motivation to get up and catch a cab to the show and unlike the night prior, arrived with plenty of time to spare before the show. I hung around the lot with some friends and helped other friends get tickets before making my way into the venue for night two.

“Song in My Head” started off the show. Not my favorite song, but a great opener so I was satisfied with the choice and the execution was there as well. Moseley kicked off the jam that Hollingsworth eventually took over. “These Waves” was next and provided me with a great chance to sing along to one of my favorite corny sing alongs before dropping into some of that stanky funk cheese.

The stank was “Djibouti Bump,” a funky track with a rock overtone. This song is a perfect example of some of the perfect sloppy funk, as I like to call it, that Cheese plays. A real funky sound comprised of what seems to be a myriad of musical sounds, but all come together perfectly to make your body dance and move in sporadic ways you never thought were possible.

This section became a highlight of the weekend as it segued into what’s labeled as “Cuthbert Jam” and then their new song “Hi Ho No Show.” “Cuthbert Jam” consisted mostly of spacey synth pads and the occasional spaced out guitar note. I’m sure it sounds painfully boring when I explain it, but hopefully you can trust my word that it was an enjoyable few minutes and was the perfect transition into “Hi Ho No Show,” my favorite song the band has made in a few years.

The song sounds similar to “Valley of the Jig,” but separates itself a few minutes in when it turns into a full on electronica get down. A section of solid percussion from Jason Hann preceded the Hollingsworth led jam that featured as much synthesizer as was necessary, which was a lot.

“It’s National Tequila Day today. Did anybody know that?” Nershi says as they build up and drop into the crunchiest jam of the weekend. The jam was made up of all electronic sounds for a bit, even the drums. There’s a couple times during every String Cheese show where I chuckle to myself thinking of how bad the old school traditionalist fan must hate what’s happening; this was definitely one of those times. I loved it though and it seemed like everyone else around me did as well.

Peter Rowan’s “Midnight Moonlight” was next and brought us back to the bluegrass that the band’s name so deceitfully suggests. Kang on acoustic mandolin is becoming more and more rare these days but it’s usually a treat. Hollingsworth’s bouncey “Falling Through the Cracks” followed and was fun as his songs always are.

Another newer funk song “Stop Drop Roll” came after and I enjoyed it. The music reminds me a bit of “Rosie,” but it’s definitely more of a party song lyrically. Kang shredded a nice solo before the band segued into the “On Fire Jam,” a funky bluegrass jam that turned housey before returning to bluegrass and satisfying every part of my String Cheese fanhood.

Segueing into a Cuban jazz jam that I soon identified as “Texas,” we were then off on a fifteen minute set closing journey. A full type two jam emerged after the song and lasted longer than the actual song did.

The playful “It Is What It Is” opened the second set and brought with it a heavier jam than usual. Led mostly by soaring guitar riffs and top notch percussion, the song was surprisingly better than the last time I remembered seeing it. After the jam, they stopped for a second and returned back to the usual song structure.

“Smile” came next and kept the happy vibe going as well as my upward trajectory of dancing. Kang brought out the fiddle for a nice jam and some great hand-drumming from Hann foreshadowed the next song, “Drums.” Joined by “an old friend from their old Northwest days” Jared Kaplan, the drums jam actually took a fresh approach and avoided any electronic drums at all as opposed to the usual EOTO jam.

What came next competes with “Howard” for being the highlight of the whole weekend. The band invited guitarist Jeff Pevar of Jazz is Dead and Phil & Friends fame up for a cover of John Coltrane’s “Impressions.” Lasting well over eighteen minutes this jazz odyssey reached multiple peaks. Pevar’s sit in was the clear standout of the song and one of the better sit ins in recent memory. Transitioning through jazz to funk and spacey reggae, back through funk and returning to jazz, no moment of improv was wasted as every musician on stage was firing on all cylinders for this one.

Nershi’s “Hotel Window” followed, a sign that he may be missing his wife Jillian at the end of tour. An emotional song, Kang pitched in a very beautiful and emotionally charged solo leading the song from slow ballad into rock’n’roll. The fun, dancey singalong “Sweet Spot” came next and is just such a “catchy little number,” as the lyrics say. There’s no way you can not like this song. Drummers Travis and Hann switched places for this song and it was fun to hear Hann on a kit bigger than that tiny thing he plays with EOTO.

“Can’t Wait Another Day” started out the encore as Hollingsworth explained during the song that it was written while his wife was pregnant and is about how he couldn’t wait another day to see the baby, or actually to have another beer as he joked because he had to stay sober in case he needed to drive her to the hospital. Both Pevar and Kaplan then joined the band again for the weekend closing “Shakin’ the Tree.” Pevar provided some great harmonica to match his earlier contributions on guitar before the guitars took over the rest of the jam and then one last chorus brought the two-night run to an end.

Another great after party followed the show, this time World’s Finest at the HiFi Music Lounge. A band that’s hard to describe, I’ve caught myself explaining them to people as Portland’s version of the String Cheese Incident, but unique to themselves as they mix bluegrass, ska, jam, world fusion, and dub together flawlessly. It’s hard to say after two great Cheese shows, but both of the after parties that I saw over the weekend were great and honestly had me dancing just as hard as I was at the Cuthbert earlier in the night.

We wandered to a friend’s for the after party’s after party with a rather unfortunate mission on our minds. Due to our truly accidental and now discovered over occupancy at our Airbnb, we had to figure out how to come back to our Aribnb that night with two less people than we currently had. While this may seem like a tough task for some, I had faith that there would be at least two people in our crew with no plans on sleeping that night and luckily there were. After a couple more hours there, we returned to our Airbnb while they still happily partied until being picked up on the way out of town a few hours later. There’s a good reason we pack the car full of weirdos every time we head to Eugene and yet again, it paid off.

Coleman's Sunday Photo Gallery

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

PREVIEW: Summer Meltdown Festival 2016

Darrington, WA

Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Jason Charme Photography

Summer is finally in full swing here in the Pacific Northwest, and as August arrives, anticipation is building in Washington for the annual Summer Meltdown Festival. Started by local jamband Flowmotion as a backyard party back in 2000, this event has expanded into the state’s premier boutique music festival. The event takes place at the incomparable Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater, located in Darrington, WA. The venue takes its name from its jaw-dropping view of snow-capped Whitehorse Mountain, one of the jewels of the North Cascade.

One thing about Meltdown that I haven’t seen before at any other festival is their offerings of outdoor adventures to occupy your daytime hours. They have licensed whitewater rafting guides and horseback riding instructors on hand to lead day-trips for interested festival patrons. This offers patrons the chance to see more of the area’s natural beauty as they relax and prepare for a long night of music. The rafting trip (which is tame as far as rafting goes) proved to be an excellent hangover cure for me last year.

2016’s lineup has taken a pronounced step in the electronic direction, particularly with respect to the headliners, while retaining a diverse swatch of artists from other genres to offer something for all types of music lovers. Thursday sees Vermont jamband Twiddle opening the mainstage, with Beats Antique bringing their unique blend of electronic and world music to headline the evening. Friday night will feature the indie-folk of the Shook Twins, the Budos Band’s instrumental afro-soul music, and a headlining performance from downtempo producer, Gramatik.

Friday’s late-night artists are Sunsquabi and Michael Menert and the Pretty Fantastics. Saturday’s mainstage shows will include a contagiously joyful set from California rockers ALO, leading up to a highly anticipated set of future-funk/electronica tunes from Michigan’s GRiZ. Saturday’s late-night sets will be performed by Manic Focus and Exmag. While you’d generally expect Sunday at most festivals to be a relaxed night, Meltdown has elected for their patrons to rage extremely hard on the final evening with a performance from Georgia’s STS9, who reprise their epic headlining slot from last year.

On top of these stellar national acts, the festival boasts plenty of talented bands that are local to the Northwest. Flowmotion’s late-night set following STS9 will feature the festival hosts with Seattle guitar hero Andy Coe sitting in for the entire set, in what promises to be one of the most interesting sets of the weekend. Earlier that day, the side stage has a bluegrass segment with Portland’s Crow and the Canyon and Montana’s Lil’ Smokies. Bellingham’s Acorn Project and Polecat also make side-stage appearances.

From top to bottom, the lineup is packed with varied offerings to attract a diverse crowd of music fans. The music combines with a serene setting in a forest of Douglas Fir to provide you with ample reasons to consider stopping by Summer Meltdown Festival this coming weekend. Tier 3 Weekend passes are still onsale, and they are $215 with camping included.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Northwest String Summit 7.14 - 7.17.16

Horning's Hideout
North Plains, OR

Words By Mitch Melheim
Photos By Coleman Schwartz

The third weekend of July brought upon an agonizing decision for many in the Pacific Northwest. The region’s favorite music festival, the Northwest String Summit, was returning to magical Horning’s Hideout for its fifteenth year. That very same weekend Phish was playing two nights at the Gorge Amphitheatre, a bucket list item for most who live in the area.

While most contemplated and beat themselves up about it, my decision was easy. Two nights of Phish at the Gorge or four nights with most of my favorite bands at Horning’s Hideout? The trees were calling and it sounded grassy to me. String Summit was my decision and there was no alternative.

I, like everyone else, spent a large chunk of my early summer asking others which they chose. The Phish fans would be at Phish, that was a given. Which of the usual faces at Horning’s would be absent this year? That was the real question. One by one the Strummit crew grew until it became evident that the festival’s loyal fan base didn’t put any more thought into the decision than I did. That didn’t necessarily surprise me, but the fact that with such an attractive alternative I managed to ride into the festival with two String Summit virgins.

Thursday July 14, 2016:

Creeping down the narrow winding road with nothing in sight but the trees immediately surrounding you is one of my favorite parts about coming to Horning’s. Very shortly after you enter the property you lose cell phone service, another favorite of mine.

Luckily, we had some buddies who were allowed into the festival the night before so we gave them our tents and arrived at Camp Turtle with our campsite set up and waiting for us. Thus eliminating the most stressful part of the festival, we were off to a good start. The next task would be establishing the newly purchased dab lounge. In a MVP-caliber move, my photographer Coleman bought an eight person tent for the sole purpose of providing ample and uninterrupted space for dabbing during the festival.

With music starting soon we decided to break in the new lounge and head towards the stage for Brothers Comatose. The main stage at Horning’s Hideout is really unlike any I’ve ever seen. You can’t see that it’s there at first as you walk through the forest of trees. Eventually, you notice that the ground drops out up ahead and as you get past the trees, you see the perfectly shaped bowl that drops deep down to the main stage which is backed up against a lake.

Brothers Comatose was a good start and have become a great draw as a daytime set at festivals. Fun and easy to dance to, I’m sure they will eventually get their time as a night act at these bigger festivals, but I like them just where they’re at right now. Afterwards, we ran back to camp to get our things a bit more settled for the weekend and grab something to eat.

We arrived back to the bowl while the Shook Twins were already playing. Always a little unpredictable, the Shookies used a bit more amplification than usual and set the pace for what was the most electric String Summit I’ve seen yet. Once their set was over, we turned around to walk up the hill for one of the Furthur Bus “tweener” sets that happen atop the bowl in between main stage acts. John Craigie and his tongue in cheek folk music were up there this time, preceding hometown heroes, Fruition.

After Craigie, I walked back down the bowl to find some friends to dance with during Fruition. Having just played the festival’s pre-party at Portland’s Aladdin Theater the night before and scheduled to close out the festival Sunday night, I expected the band to dive a little deeper in the catalog than normal. While that didn’t happen during this set, it left the door wide open for Sunday night and provided us with an efficient set of some of our favorite Fruition songs. Consisting mainly of songs off their most recent album, Labor of Love, the heavier more rock’n’roll sound was no surprise. The highlight of this set came with their cover of the Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling.”

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades played the Furthur Bus after Fruition and while a fan of their music, I needed to get back to camp to prepare for the six consecutive hours of can’t miss music coming up. Maybe for a visit to the lounge too.

Once prepared, our whole camp mobbed out together towards the bowl for Greensky Bluegrass. For many years in a row now, Greensky has played a full two set show to headline Thursday night at the festival while Yonder Mountain String Band does the same on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Once just a pre-party or “the little engine that could,” as festival MC Pastor Tim Christensen explains it, Thursday night has blossomed into one of the more action packed nights of the festival. They continued the trend again this year with Cabinet, Sideboob and the Infamous Stringdusters following Greensky.

Introduced by Pastor Tim as a “Righteous rock band,” Greensky took the stage and broke into “No Idea” to open an outstanding set. “Jaywalking” followed before a face-melting sandwich of “Reuben’s Train” inside of the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle With Care.” The set then slowed down with “In Control” before taking a complete 180 into the rapidly paced “A Letter to Seymour.”

The band then welcomed fellow Michigander, Josh Davis, onto the stage. Any big Greensky fan immediately noticed the implications of this sit in since they’re so used to hearing the band cover Davis’s tunes, but rarely ever get to hear them play together. The first song they played was Davis’s “Last Winter in the Copper Country,” a song I’ve been chasing to hear live for years. This version did not disappoint as both Davis and Greensky mandolinist, Paul Hoffman, shared vocals during a twelve minute version of the song before heading into another Davis cover, “Delta 88.” With Davis now off the stage, the band closed their first set with an eighteen minute “Don’t Lie,” chock-full of teases as usual.

After a quick set break another Josh Davis tune opened, this time “Dustbowl Overtures” and without the help of Davis. “Burn Them” followed and then “Working on a Building” before launching towards outer space and not returning for the rest of the night. “Tarpology” funked me up and down as it transitioned into Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and then back into “Tarpology.” “Better Off” came next, then Silas Herman of Gipsy Moon joined the band for some mandolin madness that made for an incredible “Worried About the Weather.” A dark and heavy “Kerosene” closed out the set and then just when I thought I had seen it all for the night, during the encore of “Ain’t No Bread in the Breadbox” guitarist Dave Bruzza places his guitar on his lap during the jam and begins using it as a cajon, inciting a full on percussion jam from the string band.

Jon Stickley Trio played the Further Bus set afterwards so I ran up there for my first Stickley experience and they earned themselves a new fan during their short Twenty minutes. They’re extremely talented musicians that put on an intense live show, self-described as “Bluegrass/Gypsy Jazz/Hip-Hop.”

The main stage was done for the night and it was now time to choose between our late night options. The first choice was Wood & Wire in the Kinfolk Revival Tent or Cabinet at the Cascadia stage. We chose Cabinet and made our way towards the Cascadia stage which is hidden deep in the woods and sits above a creek that runs alongside the crowd. I can’t figure out if this stage is prettier in the daytime when you can see everything or at night when all of the installations are lit up. Either way, the stage is beautiful enough to make up for the lack of space and occasional cramping that occurs.

Cabinet was one of the more impressive sets of the weekend. I could hear their funky bassist long before I could see the hidden stage and he had me dancing the entire walk down. They played an unannounced cover set that included Cake’s “Arco Arena,” the Grateful Dead’s “Easy Wind,” and a jam loosely based on “Shady Grove” sandwiched inside of The Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman.” This was one of the more versatile bands I’ve seen in recent memory and while they have already gained a large following out east, I expect these guys to get very big soon.

Sideboob followed Cabinet, but were scheduled to play later so we walked to the Kinfolk Revival Tent for the Infamous Stringdusters. The Kinfolk Revival Tent is a tent located just down Shakedown Street from the Furthur Bus that holds the main late night show for each night. The Stringdusters have become one of the most consistent bands in the scene and this late night was no exception. Extra funky and even more jammy, this show was everything I’ve come to love about the Stringdusters. Nicki Bluhm sat in for a couple of the songs, but the highlight for me was “End of the Line” > “High Country Funk.”

Pulling myself away from the Stringdusters late night was one of the harder decision I’ve had to make at a festival, but after last year’s Sideboob set on the Furthur Bus, I had to make sure and see some of their late night set at Cascadia. They played one of the more fun sets of the weekend last year, but bringing the one-off act back for another set proved to be disappointing as it lacked energy and seemed forced at times.

Friday July 15, 2016:

I woke up rested thanks to the dab lounge and was able to catch a little bit of Horseshoes & Hand Grenades’ early set at the Cascadia Stage. These guys will give you more than your fair share of harmonica, but do it in a fun and unique way, like as the lead melody for their cover of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place.”

After a quick meal I caught the tail end of the band competition to see Minneapolis’s Ginstrings win followed by another awesome Cabinet show. This time much more bluegrass. The rest of the afternoon had a great schedule of music featuring Della Mae and a Furthur Bus set with Dave Bruzza and Larry Keel, but I had to get to an interview with Leftover Salmon and wasn’t able to catch either.

As you could imagine with a character like Vince Herman in the band the interview was quite entertaining, but I was ready to get back to seeing some music. I was able to catch a good chunk of the Infamous Stringdusters’ second set of the weekend and was satisfied as always with what I heard. A mix of Stringduster staples, some great covers, and more Nicki Bluhm collaborations made up the set while “Tragic Life” and a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” featuring Bluhm being the highlights.

Following the Stringdusters was Railroad Earth, a band whom I’ve always thought makes great music but have found myself bored occasionally when seeing them live. This was not one of those times. Picking right up with the energy that the Stringdusters got brewing the set prior, Railroad had me dancing from the get go. There seemed to be more extensive jamming than their usual festival sets, especially the “Birds of America” > “Like a Buddha” section that lasted for what felt like an eternity.

After Railroad we went back to the lounge to thoroughly prepare for the first Yonder sets of the weekend. Although there were some definite high points, I was admittedly disappointed with their sets last year and was starting to question their status as headliner, but right off the bat, they brought the energy that I felt was missing the year prior. From sandwiching “Landfall” inside of Bruce Springsteen’s “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” in the beginning to the fun cover of the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane” and the closing sandwich of “All Aboard” > “Jack A Roe” > “All Aboard” with the Stringdusters’ Andy Hall and Jeremy Garret and Railroad’s Tim Carbone and John Skehan, the energy was high and never dwindled.

The second set was more of the same, opening with a twenty minute segment of “Pass This Way” > “Eat In Go Deaf Eat Out Go Broke” > “Pass This Way” before covering Bob Dylan’s “Spanish Harlem Incident” and playing their classic “40 Miles From Denver.” The highlight of this set came with their “Shakedown Street” cover that featured Ben Kaufmann on electric bass and displayed a jamgrass sound I had never heard before that sounded something like Anders Beck’s dobro, but without the resonating sound of the high action on his instrument.

They never really let up from there, playing “Idaho” and “Insult and an Elbow” before an eerie and spacey ten minute “Jolene” that took me to places Dolly Parton doesn’t usually take me. As I thanked my lucky stars for Allie Kral and her fiddle, the band welcomed some guests onto the stage; Andy Thorn of Leftover Salmon, Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass, and Jon Stickley. Reminiscent of last year with all of the Infamous Stringdusters on stage, they closed the set with a smoldering hot “Traffic Jam” that was even better than the previous year’s. A short but sweet encore of Townes Van Zant’s “White Freightliner Blues” wrapped up the show as I found a rejuvenation within my Yonder fanhood but wasn’t ready to make a final call on the matter until seeing their next two shows of the weekend.

After Yonder it was 1:00 AM and time to go get weird with Leftover Salmon in the Kinfolk Revival Tent. Seattle funk band Polyrhythmics had a set that overlapped with Salmon’s causing me to miss a band that I would normally always make it a point to go see. While not usually a problem at Strummit, schedule conflicts are part of music festivals so I chose to ignore it and have as much fun as possible at Leftover Salmon.

To be honest, they managed to give me a little more fun than I thought was possible from them. My first time seeing them since the departure of keyboardist Bill Payne, I was not only impressed with the new keyboardist Erik Deutsch, I was as excited about Leftover Salmon’s music as I’ve been in a long time. He brings a spacey, jazzy feel that does not only fit in with Leftover Salmon’s music, it adds a completely new element to it. An element that the band both needed and excels in.

If I’m being completely honest, I can’t remember a single song that was played during the Salmon late night, but that’s just how it should be when Leftover Salmon is playing til 3:00 AM. I do remember being thoroughly impressed, dancing to the point of exhaustion, and sit ins by Paul Hoffman, Sean McLean of World’s Finest, Vince’s son Silas, and Silas’ Gipsy Moon bandmate, Mackenzie Page.

Saturday July 16, 2016:

Although there were quite a bit of Leftover shenanigans the night before, I managed to get a little sleep and was up in time for Billy Strings. Now playing the main stage, this young guitar virtuoso did not disappoint as he and his band brought unmatched energy for a 1:00 PM set. Strings is an incredible picker as most know, but the guy has a hell of a voice as well. His original “Dust in a Baggie” was a highlight, so were his “Shakedown Street” and “Don’t Lie” teases.

Forcing myself away from Billy Strings was tough but I knew that I wouldn’t regret the decision once I got down to the Cascadia Stage for World’s Finest. Self-described as “Ska Americana Dub Grass” the band’s musical style is hard to pin down, hard enough that my best way of explaining them to people now is that they are like Portland’s version of the String Cheese Incident, but with ska in lieu of latin influence.

It was a fun daytime set with feel good songs like “Mighty Fine” starting it out before diving deep into jam territory with “Any Little Minute,” a song that had everybody around me dancing so hard I caught an elbow in what could only be described as a hippie moshpit.

I managed to catch a bit of MarchFourth Marching Band’s main stage set on the way back to camp and they sounded great and funky. I will make sure to catch more of their set the next time I’m around them because I always manage to just see them for a minute or randomly marching by me playing music which is the case with them at Oregon Country Fair.

Once back at camp, we found some friends duct taping a mannequin head to a shake weight. While that may sound weird, I’ve yet to mention that there was a butt plug attached to the opposite end of the shake weight. So yes, it is weird. Her name was Kristi and she danced with us all night long. (Disclaimer: She was a rage stick)

Steep Canyon Rangers were next on the main stage and to say I was impressed with them would be an understatement. It feels safe to say that these guys were some of the most talented musicians at the festival. Grammy award-winning progressive bluegrass with a few great pickers, some added percussion, and a fantastic fiddle player, Nicky Sanders, who sat in with Leftover Salmon following the Rangers’ set.

Sanders’ sit in contributed to the spaciest segment of Leftover Salmon I’ve ever heard. Starting with some synth pads from keyboardist Erik Deutsch, drummer Alwyn Robinson joined in as banjo player Andy Thorn began to add some percussion with his banjo. Vince Herman then put down his guitar and started swinging around the stage like a ballerina until walking off the stage which followed shortly after with Drew Emmitt setting down his mandolin and walking backstage to lean up against the rail, taking a first hand seat for the rest of the jam. Whisking windy noises came from Deutsch and Sanders as Robinson began to break it down a bit and started playing breakbeat style on his kit. Eventually, Herman came back on stage to play the washboard and they segue out of the darkness into some happy Salmon to untie us and get us dancing again.

After Salmon, it was time for a quick trip back to camp to gather up the crew for another convoy towards Greensky’s final set of the weekend. Pastor Tim’s introduction led into the “Reverend” opener that was followed by a top notch version of fan favorite “Leap Year” whose clear MVP was Anders Beck’s dobro. “Wings for Wheels” and “Demons” came next followed by an always fun cover of John Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aereoplane.” The emotional singalong that has become the band’s most popular song, “Windshield,” preceded “The Four” before the band brought out Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, and Andy Thorn.

“I’m not really placing blame on them but if you like us, it’s their fault. This entire thing that all of us do, it’s all Leftover Salmon’s fault.” Beck says before beginning the best segment of the set, a “Freeborn Man” > “Freebird” > “Freeborn Man” sandwich that started with Herman mocking Beck and laying his guitar flat like a dobro teasing the Woody Woodpecker theme and ended with my jaw on the ground.

A cover of Rayland Baxter’s “Yellow Eyes” mellowed everybody out a bit before “Broke Mountain Breakdown” brought everyone back up with its fast pickin’ start and funky ending. A direct segue into a cover of Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” had me thinking this could be the end, but I was wrong as the Bruzza led cover of Jimmy Martin’s “Hit Parade of Love” began before ending the set with two songs off the upcoming album, the fun and goofy “Take Cover” and the emotional hard-hitter “Living Over.”

Montana-bred progressive bluegrass quintet the Lil’ Smokies played the Further Bus set after Greensky. At this point, I had already made the commitment to not return to camp for the rest of the night since the schedule was packed with music I didn’t want to miss. The Smokies made me dance as usual, led by Andy Dunnigan’s dobro.

Next was the highly advertised set of Yonder’s all electric cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals album. The band brought in drummer, Jay Elliot, and keyboardist, Asher Fulero, to help electrify their sound, but played a normal first set of originals with the regular line up first.

“Winds of Wyoming” opened the set before heading into “Around You” and then right back into “Winds of Wyoming.” “Love Before You Can’t” and “Bound to Ride” followed and then the highlight of the first set, a bouncing twenty minute “Casualty” > “Sidewalk Stars” > “Casualty” sandwich.

The band then brought out Elliot and Fulero for an obscure and jammed out cover of R√∂yksopp’s “Remind Me” that featured a funky solo from Kaufmann on the electric bass that stood out amongst the rest of the solos. An electrified version of “Criminal” ended the set as Kaufmann broke the bad news that “Pink isn’t well” and that they’ll be filling in for the band next set.

Returning to a stage that now featured full production for the Animals set, they of course opened with “Pigs on the Wing Part 1” with Kaufmann on vocals. The first thing I noticed was how much I liked Kaufmann’s voice covering this album. Sometimes I can be a bit off put by his vocals, but he nailed this album from start to finish. The long saga “Dogs” was next and featured multiple mind melting sections led mostly by Allie Kral’s fiddle with Fulero providing some some great contributions on the synthesizer.

At twenty six minutes long, this way by far the longest song of the weekend and while a long song on the album, Yonder reimagined “Dogs” and brought it to sections of improv that somehow improved upon an already epic composition. The mixture of Fulero’s synthesizer and Jacob Jolliff’s mandolin was a perfect match that I was not expecting. Jolliff’s mandolin took off near the midway point to become the star of the second half of the song as they put a bluegrass touch onto the album for the first time in the set.

As the euphoric ending of “Dogs” came to a close, the sound effects of pig noises arrived and a hypnotic synth melody hit. It was time for “Pigs (3 Different Ones).” The funkiest song on the album brought upon more percussion than the previous songs and included the use of some heavy vocal effects on Kaufmann’s vocals. Elliot’s cowbell could’ve been louder, but that’s more of a personal gripe because the cowbell refrain after the verse is probably my favorite part of any Pink Floyd song.

Sounds of chirping insects and mooing cows started the next song, accompanied by some gentle keys from Fulero. A minute or so of that and then boom! We’re off. Easily the most fast paced and grassy song of the set, “Sheep” was also the song in which the annual Saturday night Tyler Fuqua Creations surprise installation appeared. Three lit up dance platforms suddenly appeared in the crowd a few minutes into the song as people dressed in cow and sheep costumes began dancing on them while launching balloons at the crowd with LED slingshots bigger than their bodies. There was also a huge pig face in between them with lit up, glaring eyes. “Pigs on the Wing Part 2” then finished the album before coming back out for a bonus encore of two other Pink Floyd songs, “Fearless” and “Wish You Were Here.”

After another quick Smokies set on the bus, we walked to the Kinfolk Revival Tent for Keller Williams with More Than a Little. It was my first time seeing his funk band and they played a nice little set. Hard hitting funk that you actually feel the punch from, that’s what I look for and they had it.

While it was just after 3:00 AM, due to a Saturday night tradition at Horning’s called “bubbles” the night was still young. We all prepared ourselves for bubbles in various ways. I spent most of my time in the dab lounge while others were taking their nights in the opposite direction. Bound to end up at the same spot come sunrise anyway, we didn’t bother to try and keep people together.

After copious preparation, it was time for bubbles. I evacuated the lounge and took its remaining occupants with me down to the lake. Two of which being those same String Summit virgins I mentioned earlier who were at this point still as confused as you all probably are reading this.

What the hell is bubbles?

Bubbles is a Horning’s tradition where after a long Saturday night people go down by the lake, in whatever shape they may be in at sunrise, to make bubbles and bounce them across the lake. While this may not sound all that interesting to you, it’s more than likely a bit more interesting to those recovering from the Pink Floyd set prior.

After what was honestly probably close to two hours spent watching bubbles, we headed back to the lounge before all passing out shortly after. Most made it out of the lounge and into their tents, some did not.

Sunday July 17, 2016:

I woke to my alarm. Yes, I set an alarm at a music festival and yes, it was for 1:30 PM. I wasn’t going to miss Yak Attack’s set at the Cascadia Stage. Bringing a much different vibe than the rest of the festival, Yak Attack is a three-piece live electronic band that incorporates elements of jazz, breakbeat, hip-hop, dub, house, and funk into its diverse repertoire along with a hefty dose of improvisation.

“We’re going to act like it’s still night time,” bassist Rowan Cobb said as the band walked on stage. “This is the super late night set,” jokes Cobb as they open with “Club Hit,” an upbeat and uncontrollably dance-inducing song typically deployed later in their sets. They weren’t kidding, they were going to make this the super late night set that Cobb joked about.

Bouncing between house and funk but with the most delightfully poppy overtone, “Club Hit” has become a fan favorite of Yak-a-holics, as Yak Attack’s fans are so affectionately called. “Kinetic Dub Station” followed and as the name would suggest, it's a dub song at its core, but it ends with one of the happiest and danciest codas you will hear.

Fruition’s Kellen Asebroek and Jay Cobb Anderson joined the band next for a cover of Bill Withers’ “Kissin’ My Love,” anchored by keyboardist Dave Dernovsek’s funky keys. Soulful as usual, Asebroek’s voice was a great addition to this song as was Anderson’s guitar. Both guests stayed up for the next song, a cover of Lonnie Liston Smith’s “Expansions.” Some great funk guitar from Anderson mixed with spacey atmospheric playing from Dernovsek started it off before both broke into solos and finally a bass solo from Cobb brought it back into the song as Asebroek sang the last verse.

With all guests now off stage, drummer Nick Werth shows us what he’s got for a second while transitioning into “Swing Thiwi.” Without a doubt the jazziest Yak Attack song, the swinging feel has you bouncing and snapping your fingers until transitioning to what sounds like you may be in some sort of alien speakeasy. Not just any alien speakeasy, a cool one where the aliens wear fedoras in the dark and smoke cigarettes with long tips on them while Yak Attack plays intergalactic jazz in the corner.

“Jellied Fire” was next. Full of bass and synth, this was initially my favorite Yak song off their debut album Real World Conditions and would probably still be if “Marian’s House” and their collaborations with the amazing Aniana hadn’t since won me over. Anderson was brought back out for a cover of the Villains’ “When I Wake Up’ that featured extensive guitar and brought a much more rock sound to Yak Attack than I’m used to hearing. Without question, the highlight of this song was Dernovsek and Anderson trading licks near the end.

With Anderson still on stage, the band continued the rock trend and covered Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold As Love.” As you would assume, Anderson’s guitar was the clear winner here. Anderson then exited the stage and was replaced with World’s Finest’s, Sean McLean, on saxophone and Yonder’s, Allie Kral, on fiddle. This made for the peak experience of my festival. A twelve minute jam that took a song I’m very used to, “Ahimsa,” and turned it on its head, taking me to places it hadn’t yet taken me before. The interplay between McLean and Kral was good enough that I was already prepared to call this the best sit in I’ve ever seen. Just when I started thinking that, their interplay speeds up the tempo so much that all of a sudden Werth kicks his drums into full on bluegrass mode and for the first time ever, Yakgrass appears. Not to be one upped, Dernovsek comes in near the end with a rapid-fire winding and sweeping synth that brings it back into the “Ahimsa” ending that we all know and love.

Next up was Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had never heard them before, but if it’s Keller doing the Dead, I’ll be there. Heavy on organ and including a gospel choir, there was no question it was gospel but they incorporated many elements of jam and funk as well. The choir added a lot of depth and texture to the music and even with a heavier emphasis on the vocals, I found myself dancing the entire time and satisfied with what I’d seen.

With everybody moving a bit slower since it was Sunday, we decided to head back to camp afterwards and eat some food before the last Yonder set of the weekend. After a few minutes of much needed rest, we headed back to the bowl for Yonder.

“Northern Song” opened followed with the funky “New Dusty Miller.” A new Dave Johnston song “Alison” was next as Johnston explained that they’re working on a new album and after a jab from Allie, admitted that the name is spelled incorrectly. “Alison” is everything you would expect from a Johnston tune, equipped with both gravely vocals and banjo.

Jolliff got a section to himself preceding “Gloryland” that showed everybody why he’s regarded as one of the best mandolinists on earth right now. “Gloryland” was full of energy and segued into a long “You’re No Good” to keep us dancing. Longtime Yonder collaborator, Danny Barnes, was then called onto the stage for a cover of his oft-covered song “Get it While You Can.”

“It is impossible to overstate how much this man means to this music and this scene,” says Kaufmann in regards to Barnes.

“Get it While You Can” was a party as always. Hearing this song with Danny Barnes singing is such a treat after hearing it covered so much. Another Barnes tune “Going Where They Don’t Know My Name” followed. Starting with a classic Danny Barnes mindwarp on banjo, they kicked off this uptempo tune and never looked back as I about passed out from trying to dance fast enough to keep up with the music.

Kaufmann then invited Nicky Sanders up onto the stage to get some double fiddle action going for the near thirty minute sandwich of “On The Run” > “Black Sheep” > “On The Run”. In my opinion, Kaufmann’s best song and always a scorcher live, I was stoked to have Barnes and Sanders on stage to join the madness.

Another new song, this time guitarist Adam Aijala’s “Bad Taste,” was next followed by a “Dancing in the Moonlight” that included a slightly jammed out middle section. “Travelin’ Prayer” sung by Kral was as fast as you’ll ever hear a Billy Joel song and then they slowed down for a beautifully relevant cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth.”

Keller Williams and Larry Keel were invited on stage for an outstanding “Kentucky Mandolin” with a whole lot of scatting. Another long, fun jam sammy “All the Time” > “Pockets” > “All the Time” ended their last set of the weekend.

Before the band’s encore Kaufmann talked about how String Summit is his favorite weekend of the year before playing a self-described “super heady downtempo” cover of Lou Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wildside” and finishing with Ralph Stanley’s “Sharecropper’s Son.”

I missed most of the Lil’ Smokies because I was eating food. You could blame the lounge, but it's moot at this point. Fruition closed out the festival in the Kinfolk Revival Tent and played another good set, although there were a few repeats from their main stage set Thursday which always rubs me the wrong way. Some great guest spots helped make this a fun show though, including the Smokies’ Dunnigan on “I Don’t Mind,” Brad Parsons and Pete Kartsounes on “From Time to Time,” and the encore of “There She Was” > “Superstition” with Applegate Lodge’s, Duke Davis, and World’s Finest’s, Sean McLean.

Tired from the weekend, we decided to forgo any further partying and head back to the lounge. As we walked back, the two String Summit virgins were talking about their first Strummit and how they planned on coming back any year that it was an option. Assuming that would be the case since before I brought them, it made me smile to know that the Horning’s magic still works.

To be honest, it may only be getting stronger. I fell in love with everything all over again during the 2016 Northwest String Summit, the best year yet.

Coleman's Photo Galley