PREVIEW: Summer Meltdown 8.10 - 8.13.17

Darrington Bluegrass Park
Darrington, WA

Words by Mitch Melheim
Photo by Coleman Schwartz Media

Summer Meltdown returns to beautiful Darrington, Washington on August 10-13 and once again boasts an impressive line up for this rapidly growing festival. Two nights of the String Cheese Incident lead the bill followed by Nahko & Medicine for the People’s conscious, feel-good brand of roots-rock. The diversity of the festival begins to shine through with electronic acts The Floozies, The Polish Ambassador, G Jones, Boombox, and Opiuo countering the acoustic sounds of The Infamous Stringdusters and Elephant Revival.

The Shook Twins, World’s Finest, and Polecat also provide a bit of a string band feel, but excel well-past the boundaries of the genre and all feature drums. Tauk will bring their heavy brand of instrumental electro-prog to the festival for the first time just like reggae legends, The Wailers, who are also making their Meltdown debut. Tons of Pacific Northwest jam talent make up the rest of the lineup as well including Acorn Project, Flowmotion and Polyrhythmics.

Aside from a great schedule of music, expect lots of time spent enjoying the wonderful river access or even exploring one of the festival’s many “adventures” which so far include helicopter rides and a two-hour rafting trip down the Sauk River in the gorgeous North Cascades. Weekend passes are currently $235 and that includes your camping for the weekend. The adventures are purchased separately, but affordable ($40 per raft trip) with more options expected to be announced as the festival nears.

Five Must-See Bands at Summer Meltdown:

Yak Attack - Anybody like to dance? This is your band. The Portland organic electronica trio has captivated the Pacific Northwest for the past couple years, but this will be their Summer Meltdown debut. Live-looping master Dave Dernovsek is one of the more impressive keyboardists I’ve ever seen play live electronic music, and exuberantly explores the pocket that bassist Rowan Cobb and drummer Nick Werth keep so prevalent. Expect the set to touch on everything from funk, jazz, and house, to breakbeat and trip-hop. Thursday: 9:25-10:25 PM (Garden Stage), 1:30-2:30 AM (Forest Stage)

The Infamous Stringdusters - I don’t know that there’s another string band more talented than The Infamous Stringdusters right now. Watching them chase each other around the stage when a jam gets going will never get old to me, especially when it means I get to watch Travis Book run around the stage with his huge upright bass like it’s a normal thing to do. Fiddle player Jeremy Garrett, obviously no slouch on his instrument, also possesses one of the better singing voices in all of bluegrass. Thursday: 8:20-9:20 PM (Main Stage)

Elephant Revival - I think this band is one of the most dynamic and beautiful groups playing music right now. Comprised entirely of multi-instrumentalists, there is no easy way to describe their music, but the emotional depth and purity of their sound is one aspect which you can always count on. Gorgeous harmonies, inspiring songwriting, and subtle yet striking instrumentation can be expected as well. Sunday: 6:30-7:40 PM (Main Stage)

The Main Squeeze - One of the funkiest new bands on the scene, The Main Squeeze, bring a louder rock & roll approach to the genre that when paired with Corey Frye’s soulful vocals create the unique combination of heavy shred and soft soul that comprise the band’s sound. The shred comes courtesy of the afroman, Max Newman, who's sure to leave you speechless at least once during the set. Originally formed in Bloomington, Indiana, but recently relocated to Los Angeles, expect to see a lot more of these guys on the West Coast from now on. Saturday: 12:35-1:45 AM (Garden Stage)

The String Cheese Incident - This one was so obvious that I almost left it out, but after further thought, I realized how blasphemous that would be. The String Cheese Incident doesn’t just play at a festival, they are the festival. Expect to see hoards of cheeseheads ruling the campgrounds with smiles, tequila, and hula hoops. The band themselves, well, they’ve transcended description for almost 25 years now and have only become harder to peg. Prepare for anything from a jammed-out fiddle tune like “Orange Blossom Special” to a whompy original such as “BollyMunster,” which feels kind of like square dancing at a rave. Saturday: 10:30 PM - 12:30 AM (Main Stage), Sunday: 2 sets 9:00 PM - 12:00 AM (Main Stage)


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