The time has come
What: Summer Meltdown
When: 2 am Thu., Aug. 1 -4
Where: Darrington Bluegrass Music Park, 42501 State Rte. 530 NE, Darrington
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
This area is home to many summer traditions. Free outdoor music series sprout up like seasonal flowers. Outdoor seating areas of our favorite bars and eateries are packed during happy hour and beyond. The gleeful sounds of late-night swimmers going for a clandestine plunge can be heard at our favorite watering holes.
And, right now, a broad swath of area residents are partaking in a very particular summer tradition, that of answering all inquiries to participate in any of the aforementioned activities from Aug. 1-4 with a succinct, “Sorry. Can’t. Meltdown.”
To outsiders, this might seem like some form of puzzling code. But around here, the declarative carries with it a whole world of meaning, namely that every year when Summer Meltdown rolls around, a goodly chunk of the region’s music-loving folks packs up their tents, swimsuits, floaties, festival garb, glow sticks and whatever else they need to survive four days of musical revelry and hits the road to the hinterlands of Darrington.
As folks here are well aware, Summer Meltdown is a regional music festival that draws talent and audiences from near and far to the 34-acre Darrington Music Park for a weekend-plus of communing with music, art, nature and each other. Thousands of people converge on the venue ready to enjoy bands from the early evenings until the early hours of the morning, marking the time in between with river floats, workshops covering everything from yoga to indigenous wisdom, perusing the many amazing art installations that turn nature into a sensory wonderland, working on their getups for costume night (this year’s theme: animals), and catching up on much-needed sleep.
But it wasn’t always this way.
When Josh Clauson founded Meltdown nearly two decades ago, it was more a means to throw a party for his friends with his band, Flowmotion, as the focus. They staked out a grassy field on San Juan Island, built the stage themselves, powered it with a pull-start generator, and dubbed their decidedly DIY endeavor Summer Meltdown. Admission was $10 and came with a keg cup.
Needless to say, times have changed.
They outgrew their venue that first year, moved it to another, outgrew that one and so on until Meltdown arrived at its current home at the 34-acre Darrington Music Park, where it has remained ever since. The once-Flowmotion-focused party has become a full-fledged festival and multimedia affair—Flowmotion still plays the event, but does so from the smaller Cabin stage rather than the main stage, which has been taken over in recent years by big-name acts who stop at Meltdown as part of tours that include festivals such as Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Bumbershoot. Tickets, sadly, are no longer $10, and the keg cups have been replaced by requests from Meltdown organizers encouraging attendees to bring reusable water bottles, utensils and dishes so as to limit the festival’s footprint as much as possible.
However, the beating heart of Meltdown has always been its music, and every growth spurt has brought with it the opportunity to stuff the schedule with more of the bands, DJs and artists that keep people coming back year in and year out. This year’s lineup features faces familiar to Meltdown, many of which have already expressed their eagerness to get back to nature in the wilds of Darrington.
For the first time, Meltdown will bookend the festival with opening and closing ceremonies, and a whole lot of music lies between. Nahko and Medicine for the People and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong will headline Thursday’s main stage, while Flowmotion, Dirty Revival, Swindler, and more will appear on the auxiliary stages, and Milk + Honey and Underground Transmissions will face off for a late-night silent disco. With Friday comes the first full day of Meltdown action, and the featured main stage artists include CloZee, Umphrey’s McGee, and Bellingham mainstays Baby Cakes. Not to be outdone, Acorn Project, Sky Colony, Brother Ali, Whitney Monge, and others will light up the side stages. Late-night entertainment will come courtesy of Minnesota, Yung Bae, Sodown, and Pheso.
Gramatik, the Polish Ambassador, and Kuinka get Saturday’s main stage action, and the side stages will feature McTuff, Spafford, Dirtwire, the Dip, Hillstomp, and others. Charlesthefirst, Buku, and Levitate will provide late-night entertainment for those who have the stamina to keep the party going into the wee hours.
Sunday should be a day of rest, but there’s no rest for the wicked—or Meltdown festival-goers. Shook Twins will open the main stage, which is also where the closing ceremonies will take place before Tipper and G Jones close things out. High Step Society, Polecat, Moorea Masa and the Mood, and others will give their version of a musical sermon on the side stages. The slightly earlier late-night tent will be given over to another silent disco faceoff, this time between Metanoia Collective and Sus Collective.
After that, the only thing left to do is to pack up (using Leave No Trace principles), clean what needs to be cleaned, recycle that which can be recycled and generally leave the place better than it was found. Only 11 or so months remain until you can once again say to people, “Sorry. Can’t. Meltdown.”
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