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.


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