Music

Summer Meltdown

Teenage dreams

Attend

What: Summer Meltdown

When: 10 am Thu., Aug. 10 -13

Where: Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater, Darrington

Cost: $100-$235

Info: http://www.summermeltdownfest.com

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

When Summer Meltdown began in 2000, it was more like a backyard party with big ideas and a welcoming vibe than a traditional music festival. Even when it grew large enough to necessitate internal structure and outgrew its venue—a few times—it still retained its proudly homegrown roots and volunteer-staffed, environmentally friendly, grassroots-driven style and structure. It has managed to grow up without outgrowing where it came from—figuratively speaking, that is.

But Meltdown is a teenager now, and I can’t help but notice it wants to get a little wild, as teens tend to do.

When it comes to the festival and its teenage dreams, the sky is, quite literally, the limit.

What I’m trying to say is, along with seeing a carefully crafted lineup of bands and musicians, dancing, camping, river rafting and inner-tubing, horseback riding and all of the many, many other things Meltdown has to offer, you can now take a helicopter ride over the festival site and its surrounding mountains.

Personally speaking, it would take a hefty sum of cash and possibly some pharmaceuticals to get me in a helicopter—even as a teen, I did not much care for taking to the skies—but I’m a confirmed ninny. Were I a braver soul, I would be first in line—I don’t know what your life is like, but mine doesn’t send a whole lot of reasonably priced helicopter rides my way.

However, most of your time at the festival will not be spent flying the friendly skies or floating the nearby river. Sure, those may be aspects of a memorable experience, but make no mistake: Meltdown is about the music and the community of folks who have convened each year for going on two decades to enjoy it.

As it has for more than 10 years now, Summer Meltdown will take place at Darrington’s Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater. As it has for longer than that, it will happen the same weekend as the Subdued Stringband Jamboree—this year, those dates being Aug. 10-13—forcing music fans to pick their favored festival, which seems unfair until you consider that everyone wins, no matter what they choose.

To lure people to their neck of the woods, Meltdown organizers began booking talent for the 2017 festival as soon as they’d taken a couple of days off to recover from last year’s event. As is their custom, they’ve assembled a varied mix of acts who may boast different musical styles and genres but are all right at home playing on a stage in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Also similar to years past is the Thursday-night start and special show, but gaining admission comes with some worthwhile strings attached.

First, if you are one of the many Meltdown-savvy people who purchased a holiday pass back when those were still available, you are cordially invited to show up at 2pm Thurs., Aug. 10 when the gates open and pick a prime camping spot. Otherwise, the only way to gain entry to a night that will include performances by Nahko and Medicine for the People, the Infamous Stringdusters, festival founders Flowmotion, and more (including a special Milk + Honey event), is to arrive at the venue via the shuttle service Meltdown is offering in order to limit the amount of fossil fuel expended by attendees and further live up to its earth-friendly mandate.

For those who can’t arrange their lives around an early Thursday arrival, plenty of festival is still in store for the remaining three days. Friday’s festivities begin during the early afternoon on one of its four stages, and by the time the late-night tent goes quiet during the wee hours, the Polish Ambassador (and his army of onesie-wearing fans), the Floozies, Tauk, the Dip, Polecat, Oso, G Jones, the Grouch, the Russ Liquid Test, and others will have kicked things off proper.

From there, amid the river-floating and helicoptering, Saturday will be filled with te sounds of the String Cheese Incident (playing the first of what will be three Meltdown sets), Opiou, the Wailers, Acorn Project, Shook Twins, Brasstracks, Metsa, the Main Squeeze, and more. String Cheese comes back Sunday, for back-to-back performances that are scheduled to last three hours total, but I have a feeling set times might be more rough guidelines than anything else. Joining them to close out another undoubtedly memorable festival will be Elephant Revival, Polyrhythmics, Vaudeville Etiquette, the Commonheart, Boombox, Pigwar, and Home Sweet Home.

When I was a teenager, my first car was a 1983 Toyota Tercel handed down to me from my mother. Meltdown gets a helicopter and shuttle buses. If that’s what the festival’s teen years look like, its 20s should really be something.

Aaron Neville
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