Thursday, August 31, 2017

NedFest (Rehearsal, Oteil's B-day, Genetics) 8.25.17 (Photos)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jam in The Trees 8.26.17 (Photos)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

NedFest 8.25.17

Monday, August 28, 2017

Portugal The Man. 8.23.17 (Photos)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Dark Star Orchestra 8.19.17 (Photos)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Gov't Mule, Yonder Mountain, Marcus King Band 8.19.17 (Photos)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dark Star Orchestra 8.18.17 (Photos)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Sawtooth Valley Gathering 7.28 & 7.29.17

Sawtooth Valley Pioneer Park
Stanley, ID

Words by Mitch Melheim
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media

Located in the breathtaking Sawtooth Range of the Rocky Mountains, Sawtooth Valley Gathering is one of the more beautiful festivals I’ve ever been to. Jagged cliffs flank one side of the grounds as desert hills roll alongside the other. Streams and rivers can be seen in every direction, each of which make for great places to take a quick dip in between sets. The market, grocery store, and bar (where late night shows are held) are only a short walk from your campsite, just beyond the ice cream shop and several restaurants you pass on your way down the hill. Of course, the beauty and convenience aren’t all that make this a wonderful festival. Their keen ear for booking rising acts and the wholesome vibe they curate solidify it as one of the best small festivals in the Northwest.

Friday, July 28, 2017:

Bamboozle began the festivities on the main stage, providing a plethora of funky jams before High Mtn Heard’s stripped-down honky tonk rock’n’roll kicked off an onslaught of strings that would rule the majority of the festival from that point on.

Quirky singer-songwriter, John Craigie, fresh off of an appearance with Jack Johnson at the Gorge, played next and began Portland’s Friday night takeover of the Sawtooths. Craigie is a uniquely entertaining storyteller, much in the same vein of fellow Portlander Todd Snider’s humorous folk stylings.

Thistledown followed on the side stage, ripe with more strings and pleasant harmonies before another Portland act, Brad Parsons Band, took the main stage. Parsons was generally known as more of a singer-songwriter type, but the band that he has put together is one hundred percent rock’n’roll. Both Parsons and fellow guitarist Dylan DiSalvio shred their instruments and their set even featured an exciting sit-in from the festival’s artist-at-large, Allie Kral, of Yonder Mountain String Band.

Missoula stompgrass collective, Dodgy Mountain Men, have popped up at several events I’ve covered this summer and I must say, they’ve impressed me more and more each time. Their unique blend of blues, rock, jam, and bluegrass create a sound that perhaps strays even further from tradition than their Montana counterparts, the Kitchen Dwellers, do with their patented “galaxy grass.”

The fiery and flamboyant flat-picking phenom, Billy Strings, took the stage next and quickly showed why he’s become the hottest young name in bluegrass, opening with a high-energy cover of The Stanley Brothers’ “Little Maggie” before following it up with a newer original tune, “While I’m Waiting Here.” His songwriting has become the most impressive aspect of his show for me recently after seeing him play mainly covers and traditional songs at first. Everybody knew he was talented, both instrumentally and vocally. What most people didn’t realize yet was how good of a songwriter he is. “While I’m Waiting Here” is a prime example of his wise beyond the years songwriting, focusing on the idea of an inmate whose only real concern about his sentence is whether or not his better half will wait for him until he gets out.

“Turmoil & Tinfoil,” the spooky doomgrass title track off of his upcoming debut album preceded a cover of Greensky Bluegrass’s “A Letter To Seymour,” whose familiarity got anybody up dancing who wasn’t already. The true highlight of the set though, was the abrasively psychedelic fifteen minute “Meet Me At The Creek” that left us adults dumbfounded and the children frightened.

Portland’s Yak Attack played the side stage and showed why they not only deserve a main stage slot next time, but why they’re the hottest band in the Pacific Northwest jam scene right now. Their organic brand of electronica doesn’t necessarily scream jam band, but their ever-changing setlists, exploratory yet efficient improvisation, and ability to effortlessly blend genres together beg to differ. Allie Kral joined the band for some “yakgrass” as it has been affectionately dubbed, ironically opting to go with one of the most downtempo songs in their catalogue, “Jellied Fire.” Make no mistake though, the energy was all there and the song left the boundaries of its typical progression to initiate the spaciest, most mind-bending take on yakgrass yet. “Ahimsa” closed the set with Kral and brought the tempo back up one last time in what was undoubtedly the most high energy set of the weekend as far as crowd participation is concerned.

One more Portland band, World’s Finest, capped off the night. Their unique blend of everything from ska and americana to trance and jam make for a distinct sound that’s as hard to mistake as it is to label. This set, as can be expected with most of their late nights, was heavy on the jam and I was more than okay with that. “Chillicago” made the set for me and featured a hefty amount of instrumental excursions, which is par for the course with this song. Kral then sat-in for nearly half the show, adding her fiddle to several Finest originals before Brad Parsons joined in for a cover of The Band’s “Shape I’m In.”

The official late night set was held at the Mountain Village Lodge, a bar at the bottom of the hill. It was labeled as a “Sawtooth Surprise” and my curiosity got the best of me so I made my way down the hill, toward the bar. The surprise ended up being the Dead Winter Carpenters, one of the young festival’s few past headliners and a band that was scheduled to play again on Saturday. A couple members of the Brothers Comatose, also playing Saturday, sat in during the middle of Dead Winter’s set and rocked that tiny, packed mountain bar until it was time for us to wander back up the hill, which had become a bit chilly by this point in the night.

Coleman's Friday Photo Gallery

Saturday, July 29, 2017:

Holus Bolus kicked off Saturday’s music schedule and was the most pleasantly surprising act of the festival for me. Having never heard of him, I woke up to his music Saturday morning and thought at first that it was just a campsite next to me playing some old Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders. After soon realizing that it was a little too spacey and modern sounding to be Jerry & Merl, I got out of my tent and saw that it was actually just a one man band. Self-described as “One-Man-Psychedelic-Acousti-loop” and acoustic psychedelic groove-rock, he’s not easy to peg down, but that gives you the jist. Everything is done with his guitar, some foot pedals, and a small drum-kit, but was still somehow enough to convince me I had been listening to people playing a full band through their campsite speakers.

After his set, we decided to take advantage of the wonderful nature we were surrounded by and go for a quick swim. We could see multiple streams from our campsite so there was a decision to be made and after a recommendation from our neighbors, we eventually chose a river less than a mile from the venue.

The river was serene and exactly what we needed after a day of dancing and driving nine hours to the festival (which was worth it, if you’re curious.) There was just one other group of people down at the water, a young family who were also there for the festival. While Sawtooth is a small festival, it’s important to keep in mind that the town of Stanley has a population of around sixty people so the vibe and effects of the festival are strongly felt while in town. The venue itself is actually directly in the middle of the mountain town’s downtown area.

A couple of americana bands played the first sets after we returned to the festival. Sheep Bridge Jumpers were a little quieter and on the jug band side while Tylor & The Train Robbers possessed a bit more of an amped up honky tonk feel. The afternoon then took an unexpected, but not necessarily unappreciated turn toward reggae for a couple hours with sets from Voice Of Reason and Pause For The Cause.

Three On The Tree, an acoustic trio featuring the great Scott Law, as well as Greg Loiacono (The Mother Hips) on guitar, and Brian Rashap on bass, set the tone for another string-filled night. A sit in from, you guessed it, Allie Kral made for the most exciting part of the set. I’d worry that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but it’s important that I over-mention her name because she was everywhere, all weekend long.

The funky, yet twangy Free Peoples followed on the side stage and may be even tougher to peg than World’s Finest. Self-described as “intergalactic afro-cowboy world beat,” they bounced, somewhat flawlessly, between spaced out twang and percussive afro-funk with a horn section.

The second Dead Winter Carpenters set of the weekend was a scorcher to say the least. Very impressive from start to finish and of course, the inevitable Allie Kral sit-in boosted it over the top. For the first time all weekend she was locked in a fiddle duel and it was Dead Winter’s Jenni Charles who stepped up to take her on. “Cabin Fever” was one of the most impressive jams of the festival and I was most surprised with the versatility of the band as they alternated seamlessly between frantic-paced bluegrass, half-time doom metal breakdowns, and then back again.

Another Brad Parsons Band set followed, although this one was more of a superjam featuring Parsons’s band, Johnathon Warren and the Billygoats, and you already know which fiddle player. The jam ended up being one of my favorite sets of the weekend as everybody on stage was clearly enjoying themselves which is infectious when mixed with good tunes.

The Brothers Comatose closed out the main stage and their high-energy show was anything but comatose. Led by brothers Ben (guitar) and Alex Morrison (banjo), the band employs a fast-paced style of americana that I’m inexplicably apprehensive about calling bluegrass. It’s not because they can’t pick, because they can. It’s more so because their style leans closer to contemporary indie folk-rock than Bill Monroe or Ralph Stanley, although their respect for the genre’s tradition remains apparent.

I made my way down to the bar for the final late night of the weekend. Boise’s progressive funk and jam band, Jupiter Holiday, was playing and were a pleasant surprise for my first time seeing them. Synth-heavy and trancey at times while prog-rock shreddy at others, they were a refreshing change of pace from the rest of the festival’s line up. We stayed until the bitter end and took one last walk through Stanley, up the hill towards Idaho’s best kept secret, the Sawtooth Valley Gathering.

Coleman's Saturday Photo Gallery

Monday, August 21, 2017

YarmonyGrass 8.12 & 8.13.17 (Photos)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Snake Oil Medicine Show 8.12.17 (Photos)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Brad Parsons & Still Stompers 8.10.17 (Photos)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sigh in July: A Southeast Summer Oasis 7.21 - 7.22.17

Live Wire
Athens, GA

Words & Photos by Julie Hutchins (Tipping Point Designs)

Sigh in July is a musical oasis for the summer music drought in Athens, GA. Primarily a college town, Athens becomes a sleepy place when the students leave. Universal Sigh uses this magical time to curate Sigh in July. In the past, Universal Sigh were frequent summertime residents on the Georgia Theatre Rooftop. The weekly residencies allowed Sigh to open their catalogue for hardcore “disighples” and attracted touring bands eager to meet heady southeast peeps. These residencies left US asking, “How do we incorporate more of our friends in our summertime get down?” Now, in its 2nd year, Sigh in July hosts regional and national touring bands, artists, and vendors! I have the pleasure of being involved with SIJ from the very beginning and it is truly incredible to watch the steady growth of the southeast music community.

Sunny South Blues Band and Moon Chief opened the festival with a bounty of soul blues rock. Next, Kilroy Kobra gave a full performance of their debut album Man of the World. The concept album is tracked to a motion picture of the same name. Man of the World features upbeat psychedelic rock and soft, sublime tunes. Each song is unique and as an album it is a full circle of peaks and valleys. Kilroy Kobra leaves you feeling nostalgic and inspiring. As the sun slowly descended, the Hedonistas brought a wave of friends from Atlanta. The quintet’s funky energy and nonsensical lyrics are light-hearted and fun. The Voodoo Visionary horns joined the stage and dialed up the funky meter to a 10.

Following the Hedonistas, Mister Sigh Dye graced the main stage. Members of Universal Sigh and Mister Tie Dye comprised a 14-piece symphonic orchestra. The set featured originals from both bands and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and Snarky Puppy’s, “Shofukan.” Mister Tie Dye’s fanfare was downright sexy. Tie Dye’s original compositions are breaths of fresh air in the era of modern jazz. The smooth brass and disciplined dynamics masterfully build and ease tension. Universal Sigh’s debut album, Atoms & Void features horns so it was great to see sigh classics like “Marcus Mayhem,” “Atoms & Void” and “Hopsecutioner” reach their full orchestral expression. As the set closed, power trio, The Night Shift., seamlessly transitioned into a soulful, energy pumped tweener set. Their powerful vocals and atmospheric bass kept the momentum churning throughout the 15-minute change over.

Kenosha Kid is Athens (and the universe) best kept space jazz secret. Dan Nettles, Robbie Handley, Marlon Patton and Rick Lollar are fearless trailblazers in the futuristic field of meta-modern jazz. Kenosha Kid typically plays quintessential originals and is known for traversing harmonic surf-rock improv landscapes. Sigh in July was blessed with a set of raw, fresh material. The new pieces were an unexpected surprise for their loyal fans and a highlight of the whole festival. The Night Shift. rocked another tweener set rager and Voodoo Visionary funked everyone’s souls. Their highly experimental set dissolved space and time. The Voodoo Krewe brings a palpable energy everywhere they go.

Saturday kicked off with an array of local Athens bands. Heart of Pine segued into Athens Tango Project. The Athens Tango Project featured lovely classical rumba tunes and even attracted their own tango troop. The trio is comprised of violin, accordion, and stand up bass. The interplay of the melancholic accordion, sweet violin, and deep bass is lively and expressive. True local Athenians continued as Tallulah George opened the outdoor stage. Brent Bolde’s wily tunes tell tales of the earth, simple life, and pontifications of the future. Folk songs mixed with Jerry vibes and tasteful jazz innuendos make for a tasty afternoon delight. Next, Cycles from Denver, CO took the main stage. These tour warriors dominated Sigh in July with four sets on Saturday. Their highly anticipated main stage debut melted minds. They also played the 3 tweener sets and used the 15 minute intervals to leap into extensive shred. Cycles is on fire!

Partials kept the fire burning with their inventive dreaminess. The quintet builds layers of soundscapes with rolling synth waves and percussive enunciations. Partials songs create an organic digital soul mesh and are indicative of a new age in sound. They are as hard as smoke to catch, but when they play, magic takes place. Be on the lookout for their EP release, Glossolalia.

The night continued with Asheville, NC friends Jahman Brahman. Their uplifting songs and infectious groove inspired the acro-yogis to an impromptu jam-sesh. The flow of the bodies coupled with the dynamic flow of music had the energy swirling and soaring. Groove Fetish stepped in and shredded the atmosphere with progressive fusion groove. Their fresh rock prowess enticed Universal Sigh’s Steve Terry to sit in few a few licks and giggles.

Many thanks to MVP artist at large, Jones Maynard, for sharing his world knowledge of percussion with innumerous bands all weekend! Jonesy sat in with almost everyone and still had stamina for the last set. Universal Sigh is the mountaintop of unique artistic expression. Their crafted compositions reflect expertise, exploration, and unparalleled sound. They debuted “The Cover,” a dastardly western funk, and rekindled “Anatta,” a 15-minute composition that begins peaceful and climbs into an intense frenzy. The entire room bellowed “Knights of Cydonia” as sigh galloped off into the night. “Theatrics” an incredibly cinematic and dramatic piece closed the set. During the dark, mysterious musical voyage, I had the great pleasure of tossing popcorn and popsicles to the fierce disighples who raged to the end. Universal Sigh was coaxed by the merry crowd to play one more song and “Bedrock & Paradox” sent our friends and family home with the joyful release of groovy, free improvisation.

All of the sets were recorded and multi-tracked by Georgia State University TV. Be on the look out for the footage release. Overall, Sigh in July is extremely affordable and easy to access. However, the facileness lead to some patrons only checking out their favorite band. Personally, my favorite part of the festival experience is receiving exposure to upcoming bands. In the future, it would be awesome to see Sigh in July morph into a camping event, but right now, we are so grateful to operate out of a comfortable space. Also, in the future, it would be nice to see the line-up diversify with more electronica and bluegrass. Those genres are not necessarily reflective of our regional scene, but as the festival grows, so will the diversity.

From top to bottom, Sigh in July is a home team event. They are partnered with Live Wire, Ever Upward Entertainment, and Nuci’s Space, a local non-profit suicide prevention organization. Ever Upward Entertainment label boasts Universal Sigh, Jahman Brahman, and Cycles. Athens is home to Sigh, Mister Tie Dye, Partials, Kenosha Kid, Tallulah George, Sunny South Blues Band, Heart of Pine, Moon Chief, and Athens Tango Project. Voodoo Visionary, The Night Shift., Kilroy Kobra, The Hedonistas, and I.R.E all hail from Atlanta. Brothers, Daniel, Brendan, and Andrew Robertson manage Live Wire’s beautiful space. The recently renovated facilities are designed with music in mind. I cannot say thank you enough to the staff and production team. Endless gratitude to each person who spent their weekend with US. It is true bliss to make music for the people we love!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Northwest String Summit 7.13 - 7.16.17

Horning's Hideout
North Plains, OR

Words by Mitch Melheim
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media

While sixteen years of hosting a festival in the same location is quite the feat, it becomes less of a surprise after just one weekend spent pickin’ and grinnin’ at Horning’s Hideout. The dust, the “bowl,” “bubbles”… All things which make little sense to most people, but illustrate a weekend in bluegrass paradise for others. A paradise that is sure to include plenty of Yonder Mountain String Band, some Saturday late night funk, and multiple nights of Greensky Bluegrass; a recipe for success no matter the location.

Thursday July 13, 2017:

The Lil’ Smokies were the first band to grace the main stage this year, otherwise referred to as the “bowl” due to it being, well, a bowl. A bowl lined with trees and a flat dirt pit that is ripe for kicking up some dust. The Smokies impressed yet again. I’ve really enjoyed the added energy in their sound since last year’s addition of Jake Simpson on fiddle. His chemistry with dobro player Andy Dunnigan could fool you into thinking he’s a founding member. The band all backed out at one point and let the two of them play off of each other in what was my personal highlight of the set.

A couple of Portland bands followed in the bowl, Shook Twins and Fruition. Both much more amplified than your average band at the festival. The Shook Twins dove a bit deeper into their catalogue due to having two sets at the festival which was an enjoyable surprise after seeing so many of their festival sets already this year and yearning for something different. Fruition played a good but somewhat reserved set, presumably holding onto the heavy hitters for their Friday late night set.

After another Lil’ Smokies set, this time at the top of the bowl in front of the Furthur Bus, it was time for the first Greensky Bluegrass set of the night. String Summit favorites for years now, Greensky has headlined Thursday night of the festival with a two-set show for the past several years.

Bassist Mike Devol’s wife had just given birth to their child so filling in for Devol was original Railroad Earth bassist Johnny Grubb, a welcomed surprise for many attending who had no idea until the show began. An early first set “Train Junkie” set things off into a decided and appreciated jammy start before it was halted by an “exploding bass” as it was referred to during “Living Over.”

Yonder Mountain fiddle wizard Allie Kral sat in on the second set opening “All Four” and “I’d Probably Kill You,” the former of which was as impressive as you’d surely speculate. Heavy hitters “Leap Year” and “Kerosene” filled out the rest of the set until Jay Cobb Anderson and Tyler Thompson of Fruition joined the band on electric guitar and drums for “Wings For Wheels,” “Miss September,” and “Demons.” The band then invited a plethora of backup singers onto the stage for an encore of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”

Afterwards, the attention shifted to the Cascadia Stage and Kinfolk Revival Tent for some late night action. All female supergroup Sideboob played the tent and to be honest, I think this horse has been beaten one too many times. It was a fun bus set in 2015 and they were even brought back by popular demand last year for their own late night. But the third time around proved to be a bit redundant and I think it’s safe to say I may have to choose another set if there’s a fourth.

The remainder of my night was split up between the sonic dichotomy of Split Lip Rayfield’s aggressive brand of “thrashgrass” and the dynamic beauty of Elephant Revival. I chose to split time evenly between the two, opting to begin with Split Lip down at the Cascadia Stage before finishing up at the tent with Elephant Revival.

It was my first time seeing Split Lip and they were even quicker than advertised. Unbelievable, to be quite frank. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen somebody pick as fast as mandolinist Wayne Gottstine. Halfway through their set I was worn out and it seemed like a good opportunity to catch my breath and the last half of Elephant Revival’s set in the tent.

Both of the Shook Twins and Mimi Naja of Fruition were sitting in when I got to the tent. It was probably my favorite sit in of the night and provided the female firepower I had hoped for with Sideboob earlier in the night. An intense and peaking “Hearts & Tongues” led by Bridget Law’s fiddle closed the set with Bonnie Paine coming back out to begin the encore alone with an acapella poem before the rest of the band joined her on Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”

Friday, July 14, 2017:

Friday morning got off to a quick start with Portland’s Brad Parsons kicking things off at the Cascadia Stage at 10 AM. Kitchen Dwellers followed and played an entertaining set per usual. This set focused more on newer material from their most recent album Ghost In A Bottle, leaving plenty of old-school favorites to pick from for their bus sets on Saturday.

Rashad Eggleston’s “Rushadicus” workshop was my next move after the Dwellers and what a great choice that was. This guy was without a doubt the most exciting musician at the festival and that was even apparent at noon in a hot tent. I challenge anybody to find a more entertaining cellist. But seriously, please do if there is one.

Mandolin phenom Sierra Hull graced the main stage with some warm and pretty afternoon tunes. Not many mandolinists are confident enough in themselves to play without a band, but that’s essentially what Hull does as a duo with her bassist. Also, don’t be fooled when you see her play the octave mandolin. She’s not that small. It’s just a guitar-sized mandolin.

A California Honeydrops set in the bowl got everybody up and moving again after most chose to sit down and take in the beauty of Hull’s set. Another Elephant Revival set followed that and much like Fruition the night before, it was a more mellow set than their late night on Thursday.

More Greensky was next, this time a 90-minute slot warming up the bowl for two Yonder Mountain String Band sets. The “Worried About The Weather” > “Time” > “Breathe” > “Hit Parade of Love” opening segment proved to be the highlight of the Greensky set with solid versions of “Don’t Lie” and “Run Or Die” rounding out the rest of the set.

Yonder came out swinging for their first sets of the weekend. “Kentucky Mandolin” with Sierra Hull and “All The Time” with Darol Anger and Greensky’s Anders Beck suspiciously playing electric bass anchored the first set while a “Traffic Jam” sandwich with a tasty “New Dusty Miller” filling kicked off the second set, also featuring Darol Anger on fiddle. Things only heated up from there, eventually culminating in “Angel” > “Girlfriend Is Better” > “Angel” to close the set with, you guessed it, Darol Anger on fiddle, as well as the inimitable Rashad Eggleston on cello.

Another night came with another decision for Strummit attendees. This time it was Dead Phish Orchestra at the Cascadia Stage against Fruition in the tent. As an admitted jam fan first and foremost, Dead Phish was tempting, but I am also well aware of how crazy a Fruition late night at String Summit may get, so I made time for both.

I’ve heard many stories about the time Fruition played at the Cascadia Stage until the sun came up so I decided it was best to make them the second half of my late night venture. Dead Phish was a fun environment and being my first time seeing them, it was more than entertaining to bounce back between Dead and Phish songs. Once they broke into “Fuego” we decided it was probably a good time to head on over to the tent for Fruition.

While this one didn’t make it until sunset, they still played a solid set that was chock full of old school favorites like “Misty Night,” “The Wanter,” and “Boil Over.” There’s usually a “home team” type of environment with a certain band at some festivals, specific examples that come to mind are The Slip and ALO at High Sierra. What Fruition has at Northwest String Summit exceeds that. Packed crowds dancing and singing along to every word are a given at any of their Strummit sets, whether it be Thursday evening while people are still setting up camp or 3 AM Saturday morning, the fruity freaks come to play.

Saturday July 15, 2017:

It was a bright and early wake up call once again, this time for another Portland act and perhaps the city’s hottest up and coming string band, Cascade Crescendo. Last year’s band competition winners, Ginstrings, opened up the main stage afterwards and possess the type of jamgrass firepower that should keep them on lineups like these for many years to come. I would say the same thing for Cascade Crescendo as well.

Blitzen Trapper brought their diverse mix of indie folk rock to String Summit for the first time and were an interesting choice for the festival that proved to be the right one. Their sound is similar enough to fall in line with the rest of the lineup, but different enough to provide a refreshing change of pace from the usual.

Bluegrass legend Del McCoury followed in the bowl and provided the wholesome great time that is expected with all of his performances. I can’t ever get enough of Del’s stage banter and could probably listen to him talk about Grey’s Anatomy for a whole set and be satisfied. A sit in from Danny Barnes only added to the band’s firepower that already featured Del’s sons, Robbie and Ronnie McCoury.

A bus set from Horseshoes & Hand Grenades brought us into southern rock star JJ Grey & Mofro’s String Summit debut which seemed to set the tone for the rest of the night which would stray away from bluegrass for the most part aside from Yonder’s first set and some exploratory bus sets from Rumpke Mountain Boys and Kitchen Dwellers, all of whom would probably be shunned by most traditional bluegrass purists anyway.

The first Yonder set began with a “Saint in the City” that lasted well over twenty minutes and included “Not Far Away” sandwiched in the middle. Keyboardist Asher Fulero and drummer Jay Elliot joined the band for the last two songs of the set as they went full electric. Fulero’s keys turned Dave Johnston’s “Fingerprint” into a funky jam that turned what can sometimes be a rather pedestrian tune into the possible highlight of the set.

The second Yonder set also featured Fulero and Elliot as the band covered Pink Floyd’s Meddle in it’s entirety. Beginning with the sound of swirling winds coming through the PA and the lights dimming down, it was apparent that this was going to be an intense set. Shortly thereafter, they broke into “One Of These Days” and that thought was solidified. The set had a real cinematic feel and had most of us sitting down, not because we were uninterested, but because we were overwhelmed. An expectedly wild “Echoes” closed the set and electric Yonder came back out for an encore of “Run Like Hell” which thankfully woke everybody out of their daze and got them up and dancing just in time for Tukuaz late night in the bowl.

Saturday late night funk has been a tradition for several years now and while I admittedly haven’t seen them all, it’s hard for me to imagine a funk band has ever rocked the bowl at Strummit any harder than Turkuaz did on this chilly night. Juno What?! and Allen Stone keyboardist Steve Swatkins joined the band for the entire show which I can confidently say was the most impressive set of the entire festival.

Yet another late night decision was to be made Saturday, this edition featuring Horseshoes & Hand Grenades at the Cascadia Stage or California Honeydrops in the tent. I once again split up my time between the two, eventually ending up at Horseshoes for the majority of the time because I just couldn’t peel myself away. Their set rivaled Split Lip for the best and most energetic late night at the festival.

The festivities don’t end there however. Saturday night at String Summit is home to a few rather outrageous traditions that keep most up well past the sunrise when “bubbles” occurs on the lake. Bubbles isn’t really something to be explained, just something you need to experience for yourself. Just know it’s where “the weird turn pro,” as Hunter S. Thompson once said.

Sunday July 16, 2017:

For the more responsible folks that got some sleep Saturday night, they woke up to a 10:00 AM Rumpke set billed as “Bubbles with Rumpke Mountain Boys.” If you know anything about Rumpke, you know they aren’t one of those who got sleep the night before. The Good Time Travelers followed on the Cascadia Stage and are highly recommended if you’re unfamiliar with them. The duo consists of Pete Kartsounes and Michael Kirkpatrick, both of whom are exceptional players and singers.

The Travelin’ McCoury’s Gospel Hour was a fun change of pace. It always surprises me how talented this band is, which is absurd when you put any ounce of thought into their name. The “Pickin’ On Phish” workshop followed and featured great renditions of songs such as “Possum” and “Back On The Train” performed by an all-star cast of musicians featuring Asher Fulero, Arthur Lee Land, and the Good Time Travelers.

One of the more interesting storytellers of our time, Todd Snider, followed later in the afternoon on the main stage and played a set drenched with his dry, but efficient sense of humor before host band Yonder Mountain String Band took the stage for their final set of the weekend.

More Danny Barnes sit ins came throughout much of the set, including a huge set-closing “Casualty” > “You’re No Good” > “Casualty” with triple, yes, triple banjo. Dave Johnston, Danny Barnes, and Greensky Bluegrass’s Michael Bont all wielded their five strings with Bont’s bandmate Dave Bruzza sitting in on guitar for good measure. All of this happening while Darol Anger sat in on fiddle for the entirety of the set made for the expectedly wild Sunday show we get from Yonder every year.

The rest of the festival consisted of a Portland takeover with another Cascade Crescendo set following Yonder, this time on the bus, then the funky jam band Asher Fulero Band in the tent, and finally Shook Twins to close out the festival. Aside from the Turkuaz set Saturday night, I don’t think I danced harder at any point in the festival than I did during Asher Fulero Band which is saying something come Sunday at the hilly Horning’s Hideout.

Coleman's Photo Gallery

Monday, August 14, 2017

Chris Robinson Brotherhood 8.10.17 (Photos)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Jerry Garcia's 75th Birthday 8.4.17 (Photos)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Euforquestra & We's Us 7.30.17 (Photos)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Jimmy Herring & The Invisible Whip 7.28.17 (Photos)