NW String Summit – Festival
The 15th Annual Northwest String Summit Festival took place at Horning’s Hideout in North Plains, Oregon from July 14-17, 2016. The festival had a peacock theme and a few peacocks roaming the area with an invitation to people of all ages. There was ample parking close to the event with camping all through the trees, open areas and anywhere you could find some space. Along with the artistic talent, open minds and friendliness of everyone was the beauty of experiencing a place where good-hearted people that love music come together.
There was over 50 bands performing at the festival at the Main Stage Amphitheater, the Cascadia & Troubadour Stage, The Kinfolk Revival Tent and the Further Bus Tweener Stage. The Kinfolk Revival Tent featured about a handful of films and was hosted by Epic Creative, which included the sequel documentary Return Of The Peacock(filmed at the 2015 festival) and films Behind The Green Curtain, The Breach and Wild Reverence(documenting sustainability issues in Oregon and more).
The Further Bus has recently added it’s 50th Anniversary tour to the story. The bus had performers reaching out to an audience by way of sound on the top of the bus throughout the festival. The Further Bus is known for it’s time with the Grateful Dead, traveling, art, communication, freedom and mind enhancement. The bus was originally run by Ken Kesey and is now piloted by his son, Zane Kesey. The mind traveler’s movement includes many things that are unique to the psychedelic art community and can be found at key-z.com and facebook.com/furthurbus50th. The Further Bus 50th Anniversary film is playing is select theaters and should be released soon to the public community as a whole soon.
The band that kicked off the festival on the main stage was Brothers Comatose. The band is led by brothers Ben and Alex Morrison(guitar and banjo, and lead vocalists). Ben states that “It all sort of started before we ever picked up instruments” and “our mom was in a folk quartet that sang beautiful songs in harmony. Alex and I would watch them rehearse for hours when we were kids”. The brothers eventually found themselves with instruments in their hands. Ben started playing on his dad’s acoustic guitar and Alex happened to stumble upon a banjo that someone had left behind after a household music party. They releases two records, Songs From The Stoop (2010) and Respect the Van (2012), which was followed by City Painted Gold. “We wrote this album living in San Francisco as it was changing from a weird, art friendly mecca to a place that only super rich tech workers could afford,” Ben explains. “Things started changing – venues were closing down, and artist and musician friends moved away. What is San Francisco without it’s weirdos? That’s what the song City Painted Gold is about and that’s why it’s the name of this record.”
The second main stage performance by Shook Twins was followed by Portland-based quintet band Fruition. The music video “Labor Of Love” was released via Randm Records in March of 2016. Jay Cobb Anderson(Vocals/Guitar/Harmonica) states that “most of the love songs are very much about those rare moments of getting to be with the people you love” and “then other songs are about coming back to the people you love, and trying to deal with the strange ways things change because of being apart”. After releasing their debut EP Hawthorne Hoedown in 2008, the band has performed at Bonnaroo, Northwest String Summit, Telluride Bluegrass and at the Roseland Theater for the 2016 New Year’s concert.
Video: “Labor of Love”
The Thursday night at the Main Stage was closed out by the band Greensky Bluegrass. Greensky Bluegrass out of Kalamazoo, Michigan is Anders Beck (dobro), Michael Arlen Bont (banjo), Dave Bruzza (guitar), Mike Devol (upright bass) and Paul Hoffman (mandolin). Anders Beck states that “We play acoustic instruments, but we put on a rock’n’roll show. We play in bigger clubs and theaters, there’s a killer light show, and we’re as loud as your favorite rock band. It’s not easy to make five acoustic instruments sound like this – it’s something we’ve spent years working on”. Their fifth studio album, If Sorrows Swim was released on September 9, 2014. If Sorrows Swim opens with “Windshield”, “a haunting rumination that slowly builds in emotional and musical intensity around an an insistent pulse from the bass”. The album’s title derives from “Burn Them,” a minor key reflection set to a more straight-ahead, driving bluegrass rhythm. “There was something on This American Life,” Hoffman recalls. “Someone was talking about just how upset and sad they were. They were drinking a lot, but they just couldn’t drink that pain away. When I heard that, I thought to myself, ‘What if sorrows swim?’ I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind.”
On the second day (Friday, July 15th) the main stage was opened at around 3pm by the band Cabinet. Cabinet is a band with roots firmly planted in the Appalachian tradition and was formed in 2006, bringing together players from various musical and personal backgrounds. The band performed the previous night until around 1am at the Cascadia Stage. The band is comprised of JP Biondo(Mandolin/Vocals), Mickey Coviello(Guitar/Vocals), Pappy Biondo(Banjo/Vocals), Dylan Skursky(Bass), Todd Kopec(Fiddle/Vocals), Jami Novak(Drums/Percussion)and Josh Karis(Drums?Percussion). Cabinet’s third studio release and seventh overall was the most recent composition they were supporting.
Following the set by Cabinet and Della Mae was The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm around 6pm at the main stage. The band gained more recognition in 2007 with the album Fork in the Road with Sugar Hill Records. The band’s current line-up features Andy Hall, Andy Falco(guitar), Chris Pandolfi(banjo), Jeremy Garrett(fiddle) and Travis Book(double bass). The band’s album Ladies & Gentlemen was released February 5, 2016 with Compasss Records.
The band following The Infamous Stringdusters was the band Railroad Earth. When they started out in 2001, they were a bunch of guys interested in playing acoustic instruments together. As Railroad Earth violin/vocalist Tim Carbone recalls, “All of us had been playing in various projects for years, and many of us had played together in different projects. But this time, we found ourselves all available at the same time”. Songwriter/lead vocalist Todd Sheaffer continues, “When we started, we only loosely had the idea of getting together and playing some music. It started that informally; just getting together and doing some picking and playing. Over a couple of month period, we started working on some original songs, as well as playing some covers that we thought would be fun to play.” Shortly thereafter, they took five songs from their budding repertoire into a studio and knocked out a demo in just two days. Their soon-to-be manager sent that demo to a few festivals, and – to the band’s surprise – they were booked at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival before they’d even played their first gig. This prompted them to quickly go in and record five more songs; the ten combined tracks of which made up their debut album, The Black Bear Sessions.
Video: Live At Red Rocks
The final concert on the main stage Friday was by Yonder Mountain String Band. The band has been performing at the festival since the start in 2002, when in the beginning they were one of only 10 main acts. For almost 18 years, Yonder Mountain String Band has serenaded the souls of many concert-goers and bluegrass fans. With music of their own design, the band has attracted many fans throughout the country by traveling and performing for audiences that immediately switch their mind’s on to their kind of bluegrass and jam. Their latest album, Black Sheep, scheduled for national release on their own Frog Pad Records, is produced by the band itself.
Band Quotes: “We’ve been growing over the years and I feel like we really don’t have any limitations,” says Aijala. “It doesn’t feel like work when you get to hang out with people that you care about and play music.” Kaufmann adds “It’s not just bluegrass — it’s progressive. Everything Yonder has ever tried to do, we’re doing in this record. It’s gonna take some time for fans to get acquainted with the new Yonder. When you make a big change like we did, it’s a huge thing. But the band is a force, and the album is such a perfect example of our new direction.” Johnston says “Yonder Mountain String Band is as durable as bluegrass itself. It changes and morphs and has an open-endedness that makes anything possible.”
Video: Yonder Mountain String Band – 2016 Northwest String Summit