Summer Meltdown

Pledge allegiance to all



What: Summer Meltdown
When: Thurs.-Sun., Aug. 2-5
Where: Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheatre, Darrington
Cost: $53-$260

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Glory be, it has happened. The miracle many of us have longed for has finally come to pass. For the first time in my admittedly short and imperfect memory, Summer Meltdown and the Subdued Stringband Jamboree are taking place during different weekends. No more will we have to choose between one homegrown festival or the other. This is the year we can pledge our allegiance to everything.

I don’t know how it happened that the festivals are split between two weekends this year anymore than I knew why they always occurred at the same time. Luck of the draw, I guess. But I do know enough not to question such things and to enjoy a musical bounty when one lands in my lap.

At nearly two decades old, Summer Meltdown has gone from being a smallish-sized festival organized by a group of friends and volunteers with a decidedly grassroots, eco-friendly vibe to being one of this area’s premiere events—still organized by friends and volunteers and still with its grassroots eco-friendliness firmly intact. After spending its formative years wandering hither and yon, Meltdown found itself a perfect home at Darrington’s Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheatre, and the setting, nestled against the Cascades with ample room for camping and a river for swimming, has become as much a part of the annual event as the music itself.

But no one goes to Meltdown just for the scenery and the swimming. The real draw is, of course, the music. Where many festivals have bloated their schedules along with ticket prices, getting ahead of themselves and sealing their eventual doom at the same time, Meltdown’s growth has been, like so many other things having to do with the event, fairly organic in nature. That means you’ll find a balance between larger names and local acts, known audience favorites and enough to discover to keep things interesting.

Falling firmly into the categories of “larger names” and “known audience favorites” is festival headliner Bassnectar, who hails from San Francisco but has appeared in our neck of the woods enough times to know he’ll be greeted with a warm welcome at Meltdown. Also among this year’s headliners is Big Gigantic, who marry electronica to live instrumentation, which goes over pretty well around here, if this region’s love for Manatee Commune (another Meltdown performer) is any indication. Rounding out the trio of top-billed bands is Greensky Bluegrass because you can’t have a party in the woods without a little bluegrass to go with it.

As with any festival worth the price of a weekend pass, the headliners are only part of the story. The four days of the event—which runs Thurs.-Sun., Aug. 2-5—offers plenty to keep you occupied between naps in the tent and dips in the river. Thursday’s schedule features Beats Antique, Twiddle, Fruition, Flowmotion (aka festival founder Josh Clauson’s band), the Moondoggies, and more. Friday brings with it Lettuce, Dave B., Five Alarm Funk, Ethan Tucker, Smokey Brights, Whiskey Fever, and others. Saturday is Bassnectar day, and Trevor Hall; MarchFourth Marching Band; the aforementioned Manatee Commune; the aforementioned Josh Clauson; Baby Cakes; the Acorn Family Jam, which I have to imagine has something to do with Acorn Project; Chong the Nomad, who just brought down the house at the Capitol Hill Block Party; Petty or Not, who just brought down the house at Downtown Sounds, and more. Sunday may signal the end of Meltdown for this year, but that does not mean it will be a day of rest with Papadosio, Clinton Fearon, Polecat, Lemelo, and the Lil’ Smokies among the acts that will sing the festival into the sunset and beyond.

Upon your return home from Summer Meltdown, should you find yourself suffering from the post-festival blues, it’s important to remember that the Subdued Stringband Jamboree is just a few days away. It’s also important to remember that musical miracles exist and are ours for the taking.

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