Music

Subdued Stringband Jamboree

Everything to everyone

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

One of the things I like about social media is it allows us to pick each other’s brains with relative ease. Often we do this about the serious issues of the day and, well, things go how they go. I prefer the more random inquiries. When people are trying to figure out what mattress to buy or what haircut to get or the name of that coffeehouse that used to be on that one street—those are the conversations I most enjoy.

Frequently, such queries are focused on finding things to do. Since this is an area of interest for me, it makes sense that I tune into those discussions. One of my takeaways: All roads lead to the Subdued Stringband Jamboree.

Want to see a local music festival? Go to Stringband. Looking for a fun, family-friendly outing? Go to Stringband. Need a staycation? Go to Stringband. Looking to start a new tradition? Go to Stringband. Need a budget-friendly romantic getaway? Go to Stringband. Love to square dance? Go to Stringband. Want to see a bunch of bands you already love as well as those you don’t yet know you love? Go to Stringband. Want to track Robert Sarazin Blake’s whereabouts for 72 hours straight? Develop more normal hobbies—and go to Stringband.

That the annual event that has taken place at the Deming Log Show Grounds for nearly two decades is so many things to so many people is definitely in keeping with its origins. A more grassroots, organic, community-driven music festival you will never find anywhere. The Subdued Stringband Jamboree began simply, as an idea hatched by Blake—who, after founding the festival has remained firmly at its helm for all 18 of its years—and a group of musical co-conspirators who basically wanted to throw a pickin’ party for themselves, their friends and whoever else they could lure out to Deming. Enthusiasm and musical ability were high during those early years. Infrastructure, not so much.

It’s amenities may have been a little loosey goosey in the beginning, but Stringband’s charms have been evident and abundant from the jump. By inviting his friends to play his festival, Blake kept the lineup largely local. By encouraging everyone to camp, bring their kids, hang out and spend the weekend, he made the festival seem less like an organized event and more like a party he was hosting. And by marshalling an army of hardworking volunteers, talented in disciplines from cooking to building the stage to engineering activities for kids to first aid, he was able to keep the price of admission low while making sure everyone was well taken care of.

All these years later, Stringband has come into its own as a fully fleshed-out festival, but at its core it has remained unchanged—it’s just grown way bigger. The number of stages has multiplied. The entertainment has expanded beyond bands to include workshops, sing-alongs, circus acts, square dances, song swaps and more. A hodgepodge of tents, trailers and assorted vessels has been sorted into campsites delineated by the needs of attendees. A whole array of activities—and volunteer opportunities—for kids of all ages has been implemented. Food trucks are on hand to feed the hungry masses.

Even so, some 80 percent of the lineup is still local, volunteers still show up en masse to make the whole thing go, Blake still rides his trusty bike all over the grounds as the consummate host—and a whole weekend’s worth of bands and musicians can still be had for less than the cost of a much sadder music-free getaway just about anywhere else.

But one major thing has changed this year: The Subdued Stringband Jamboree takes place Thurs.-Sat., Aug. 9-11, which is a completely different weekend from Summer Meltdown.

Hallelujah.

Without further ado and in no particular order, here’s a somewhat random sampling of the acts you’ll see take one or both of the Stringband stages this year: Petunia, Crow Quill Night Owls, Mingish, Hot Damn Scandal, Bar Tabac, Hot House Jazz Band, Strangely, I Love You Avalanche, Louis Ledford, Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms, the Sons of Rainier, Baby Gramps, Bellow Wing, Meghan Yates, Alexis P. Suter, the Restless Age, High Mountain String Band, the DiTrani Brothers, Bellow Wing, and more. And, of course, Blake will take the stage at a couple of points—it is his festival, after all.

Another thing that makes Stringband special is that it’s an event that encourages collaboration. Much of this occurs during the aforementioned song swaps and in the late-night tents, but it’s also common to see performers on the main and slanted stages mixing it up, at times crowding the main stage to its capacity. It’s during those moments that it’s easy to understand how this festival came to be everything to everyone. No matter how you get there, all roads lead to Stringband.

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