Every year in August, a wonderful festival takes place at the Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheatre in Darrington, Washington. The annual Summer Meltdown brings in a variety of new and established musicians over a four-day weekend that provides camping, exploring and joviality.
This was my third year covering this event, one that I look forward to every year as I reconnect with old friends and certainly meet some new ones as well. This year I was going to be splitting my time between Summer Meltdown and the Festival of the River in Arlington. Luckily, these festivals are only 25 miles apart and easy to commute to.
This is a camping festival were folks wake up late and then dance and party into the wee hours of the evening(and morning). This year’s festival had a variety of bluegrass, rock, pop, world beat and electronic music and one of the nice things about this festival is that they alternate between two stages, the main stage and the beer garden stage. And as the barricades only split the proximity, you are able to see what’s going on from each stage with ease. Surrounded by a tiered seating area, viewing and listening to the music is simply enjoyable. Truly there really isn’t a bad seat in the venue.
My Summer Meltdown started with the sounds from Choir of Crickets who created a jammin’ jazz vibe similar to Medeski, Martin and Wood which provided an easy flow to the day. Hailing from Everett WA, Choir of Crickets has the potential to really expand upon their music.
What I love about Summer Meltdown is hearing new bands that I hadn’t heard before. The next band I caught was A Cedar Suede and was I impressed. Mixing a world beat sound with accordion, flamenco guitar and violin ascents, I’d best describe their sound as a mix of Spanish tango and rhythmic world beat.
Up next, the bluegrass sounds from the Warren G. Hardings exploded off the stage. Over the past 10 years there has been a bluegrass revival of sorts with bands like The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and Trampled By Turtles becoming more mainstream. The Warren G. Hardings brought the festival goers into the beer garden for a festive time.
The Brothers Comatose continued the bluegrass party on the Main Stage and didn’t disappoint. At this point, this is when the festival kicked into another gear. More people were ready to get the evening started and the twirling dancers were having a groovy time. With wonderful harmonies and stylish playing, the Brothers Comatose had the Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheatre buzzin’.
Back at the beer garden, Jon Wayne & The Pain provided a funky reggae beat that kept the party going. These guys played with enthusiasm and power, and the crowd loved them. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Summer Meltdown is one big party.
After Jon Wayne & The Pain, it was back to the Main Stage for another band I knew nothing about. One thing though, the crowd had grown in anticipation of Nahko and Medicine for the People. When these guys hit the stage, the fans erupted and the party went up another notch. Playing with a lot of energy, Nahko and Medicine for the People had their fans singing to their songs in unison and it was simply amazing to see and hear. Nahko and Medicine for the People touch on issues related to the environment and people and it was easy to see why the folks loved them, they fit right into the whole scene that Summer Meltdown offers.
After skipping a day to cover another festival, I returned for the closing day of Meltdown. By the time you get to the end of the weekend, people are moving a little slower and seem pretty relaxed. Four days of camping, dancing, partying and rocking out will do that. On my agenda, just a couple bands for the day.
Eldridge Gravy & the Court Supreme were on the bill and each time out, they continue to improve and refine themselves as one of the best in the region, playing a funky, soul inspired rockin’ set of good time music. Mr. Eldridge Gravy himself takes command of the stage, driving the rest of his band mates into a groovy hip-shakin’ party. The crowd filled the amphitheater floor and there were smiles all around.
Following in the beer garden were the Acorn Project. Out of all the bands that played this stage, Acorn Project packed them in with their distinctive jam band rock and roll. At one point they shifted into a cover of Pink Floyd that completely blew everyone away. The cosmic vibe was out of this world to say the least.
At that point I was toast. Having covered four days of music at different venues, I was tired and ready to chill out after a long weekend of rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’. Once again, Summer Meltdown was a great journey of exploring new music, meeting new people and enjoying the outdoors. Make sure you plug this into your calendar next year!
Link to Summer Meltdown: http://summermeltdownfest.com
My entire photo gallery can be seen HERE: