Given the sheer amount of music this region spawns, it should come as no surprise this area plays host to two late-summer, homegrown music festivals, Summer Meltdown and the Subdued Stringband Jamboree.
Although each differs in its choice of venue and musical content, they do share some things in common: organizers of broad-reaching vision and dedication, an eco-friendly ethos, staffs comprised mostly of volunteers—not to mention the ability to show each and every festivalgoer a laid-back good time full of and fueled by some really great music.
Meltdown and Stringband also have something else in common, however, and that something has been stymieing music fans since the dual inception of both festivals: with rare exception during the 10-plus years Summer Meltdown and the Subdued Stringband Jamboree have taken place, they have been scheduled for the exact same weekend in August.
This means a decision to attend one is also a decision to forgo the other. And such it has always been, and so, it seems, it shall always be.
Case in point: this year, Summer Meltdown will set up shop at Darrington’s Whitehorse Amphitheater the same weekend (Aug. 10-12) Stringband will be doing the same at the Deming Log Show Fairgrounds.
For music fans, too many festivals is not the worst problem to have, but, as we are all creatures of habit, once a person has joined either the Stringband or the Meltdown faction, that is the festival they continue to attend, year after year. And while no rivalry exists between the two festivals (organizers of each have always been quick to regret the fact that not only can their fans not attend each other’s festivals, but the ongoing scheduling snafu has also meant Stringband organizers are unable to partake of Meltdown and vice versa), each has done their best with regard to booking to possibly lure loyalists from one camp to the other.
Summer Meltdown (see next week’s issue of the Cascadia Weekly for a closer look at Stringband’s offerings) has accomplished this by bringing in outside talent bookers for the first time ever. But while these bookers are new to Meltdown, they are certainly familiar faces to anyone who has attended a show at the Wild Buffalo in the past few years.
When the Buffalo’s Craig Jewell and Buildstrong’s Austin Santiago got the call to pull together bands for this year’s incarnation of Meltdown, I like to imagine they saw an empty weekend in August they could fill with the music of their and Meltdown’s choosing, high-fived each other across the table in the front window of the Buffalo that often serves as their office, and went to work.
And work they did. While Meltdown has long possessed a knack for drawing unforgettable bands to the wilds of Darrington, this year’s roster of talent is impressive indeed.
Once Jewell and Santiago got their capable hands on Meltdown, the show confirmations started to roll with a quickness that says wonders about the depth of their dual contact lists and their overall experience with booking shows. In no particular order, they were able to nab such mainstage acts as eclectic folk rockers Blitzen Trapper; neo-soul-by-way-of-indie-rock band Pickwick; Lukas Nelson, son of Willie and excellent musician in his own right; the funk of Karl Denson and his Tiny Universe; frequent Wild Buffalo visitor and favorite Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground; and what might be the festival’s biggest booking coup this year, the ever-popular Beats Antique.
But just because Meltdown’s bookers are new doesn’t mean they came in and cleaned house. Ever mindful of what has made this festival a success for so many years, they also invited back a whole slew of bands that have proven themselves a hit with Meltdown audiences. This means that when the Meltdown faction assembles in front of one of the four stages at this year’s event, they’ll see such familiar faces as EOTO, Acorn Project, Polecat, Vicci Martinez, That 1 Guy, Skerik, Snug Harbor, and many, many more.
And, as it is the festival they founded, the True Spokes (the band formerly known as Flowmotion) will play two shows during the festival (lest you think this is overkill, I assure you, Meltdown—and True Spokes—fans would have it no other way), one Friday night on the Northern Lights stage in the beer garden, as well as a headlining slot Saturday night on the Meltdown mainstage.
As always, Meltdown isn’t afraid to keep the party going into the wee hours, with DJ sets and light shows extending well into the night (and early morning) for those with the stamina and spirit—not to mention the dance moves. As such, camping is not only available, but also encouraged—but as the festival is a pet-free zone and organizers are not desirous of having to police the alcohol consumption of its attendees, leave your dogs and kegs at home, and Meltdown will remain the bastion of musical goodwill that it has worked so hard to become.
Whatever faction you call your own—be it Meltdown or Stringband, Darrington or Deming—you’re sure to be downright delighted by what this year’s festivals have to offer. And if you’re thinking of jumping ship from one festival to the other just this once, no one at either event will blame you. After all, they’ve probably given some thought to doing the same thing before too.
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