Silver Cloud Campout 6.9 - 6.10.17

Silver Cloud Campout
Haugan, MT

Words by Mitch Melheim
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media

Nestled in the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains just off of Interstate 90 lies Haugan, Montana. Known mainly for its 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar and tourist area, it was in the woods directly behind that where the focus was shifted for one weekend referred to as the Silver Cloud Campout.

The event has grown rapidly in its three short years of existence. The inaugural campout was headlined by locals who played for a sparse crowd in a rainstorm. The following year, Tauk and Fruition joined defacto host band Kitchen Dwellers for an intimate two-day festival with around 200 in attendance. Dumpstaphunk, The Infamous Stringdusters, and Spafford joined the party this year along with 800 happy campers who helped solidify this as a festival to be reckoned with, especially when considering the never-ending beauty surrounding the site that begs for expansion.

Friday June 9, 2017:

The festival was set up with one main stage and a “between acts” stage that allowed smaller bands the opportunity to play multiple 30-minute sets each day. In fact, nobody got less than an hour of stage time all weekend. A model that I wish more festivals would follow. Canyon Collected’s “folk ‘n roll” sound kicked off the festival with Folkinception’s even more unique take on the folk genre following.

Missoula’s funky dance floor instigators Shakewell brought upon the sunset with some of the more infectious grooves of the entire festival, quite the accomplishment considering their set preceded Dumpstaphunk, your typical shoe-in for that title.

Dumpsta’s set was full of those deep, dark, and gargly grooves we’ve come to expect after years of perfecting the brown note. I don’t think I’ll ever stop getting a kick out of when they decide to employ a double bass attack. They were scheduled to play two sets, but stopping wasn’t an option for them that night as what should’ve been the set break was instead one of the spaciest funk jams heard in recent memory.

Hometown heroes, the Kitchen Dwellers, closed out the night with a long late-night set lasting well past 3:00 AM. Their set spanned the entirety of their career with newer songs “Ghost In A Bottle” and “Guilty” leading into a cover of John Hartford’s “Back In The Goodle Days” before the bust outs began. The rarely played but fan favorite “Redneck Bastard” off of their debut album sandwiched The Bad Livers’ “Death Trip” and was followed immediately by my personal favorite, “Rejuvenation,” your typical 20-minute galaxy grass exploration.

Saturday June 10, 2017:

The most surprising set of the weekend for me was Locksaw Cartel, who kicked off the schedule on Saturday with a mesmerizingly psychedelic start to the morning. With listed influences ranging from Portishead and Ween to John Scofield and Les Claypool, it's no wonder why I can’t quite put my finger on how to describe their sound; it’s just something you need to experience for yourself.

Bozeman’s “revved-up Montana soul” act Hawthorne Roots is led by sister duo Emma and Madeline Kelly and I can’t explain their sound much better myself. For obvious reasons, I couldn’t stop myself from making the Shook Twins comparison, but both them and their bandmates bring a bit more of an edge than you would typically see at a Shook Twins show. They also brought their dogs, Tater and Keller Williams, the former of which rushed the stage and decided to finish the rest of the set with his mom. Something normal fests may scoff at, but not this one. In fact, all dogs are allowed to attend and can be found roaming freely throughout the festival grounds.

Another homegrown band followed, this time Dodgy Mountain Men and their “home-brewed stompgrass” as they call it. There wasn’t much for bluegrass in this set though, and I mean that in a good way. This band really straddles each side of the genre beyond recognition at times. Exploratory playing and experimental pedal usage define their sound just as much as their Bozeman counterparts, the Kitchen Dwellers.

The Shook Twins played their typical diverse set ranging from straight-forward folk music, to poppy songs that will make you dance, and even off the psychedelic deep end at times. Multi-instrumentalist Niko Daoussis continues to impress on mandolin and guitar as well as bassist Josh Simon, proving this group runs deeper than the quaint sister act their name suggests.

“Bluegrass” then took back over for the next couple sets as Colorado’s WhiteWater Ramble took the stage, plugged in with drums. They have an impressive sound and will definitely make you move around a bit, but I was bummed to see a set of so many covers from a band whose material I was anxious to check out. That being said, they can all play the hell out of their instruments and I did enjoy the set.

The Infamous Stringdusters headlined the night with two sets on the main stage. These guys are in my opinion, and I know I’m not alone on this one, the most talented “jamgrass” band on the scene right now. I’ve become so used to getting blown away by them that it’s almost lost its surprise factor for me. That is, until they’re chasing each other around the stage trading riffs on a fifteen-minute “Black Rock.”

Up and coming Arizona jam band Spafford closed out the festival with a two hour late night set that featured some of their more known material such as “Virtual Bean Dip” and “Electric Taco Stand” (yes, those are real song names.) Coming into the festival, this was the particular set I had my eye on most because of the staunch amount of support they’ve received over the past year or two. While there were flashes of impressive musicianship, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed by their set due to having such high expectations heading in. Admittedly, as a Spafford virgin I wouldn’t take my word as the deciding factor and do think they’re still worth checking out for yourself.

It got cold the last night, cold enough that I took my dog and cuddled up in my tent instead of seeing what type of mischief I could find in the campgrounds. There was, of course, no shortage of that although it remains a very family-friendly festival. Those who stayed up crowded around bonfires, some played their instruments and others just shivered.

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