Summer Meltdown 2016: The Awards

Vortex Music Magazine

On its 16th birthday, Meltdown upped its game by bringing a healthy dose of electronic music to go alongside the usual offering of folk, rock and funky soul. Here are our esteemed awards officially recognizing the best of 2016. Photos by Colin Hudson

Nestled in the mountains of Darrington, Wash., northeast of Seattle, Summer Meltdown turned 16 in 2016Nestled in the mountains of Darrington, Wash., northeast of Seattle, Summer Meltdown turned 16 in 2016Meltdown came and Meltdown went with barely a hiccup, as a veteran festival should. Once again, Northwest Washington’s favorite weekend warmed hearts and moved feet in its 16th year. Within the quaint grounds of Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater, there were new friendships made and smiles shared, which paired nicely with the beers smashed and shoes torn from dancing.

Summer Meltdown made a big splash this year with a revamped lineup that included a hefty amount of electronic music, which strayed a bit from lineups of previous years. There were a lot of new faces this year (including myself), and most would agree this helped make it another successful go round. It went so well, in fact, an award ceremony is in order to make sure that everything deserving of recognition is officially acknowledged.

Joan Rivers Award: Shook Twins


The hilarious stage banter that ensued throughout their show made this contest a no-brainer. Shook Twins are led by identical twins who are as witty as they are musically talented, and they were gracious enough to remind the audience about the pending earthquake that will kill us all unless we support local music. This only bolstered the band’s stage presence during their set, which was needed to have the confidence to mesh “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” amongst their own music.

The Soul Train Award: Monophonics


The Northern California jazz band played a midnight set on the Garden Stage and earned themselves gold medals in the freestyle soul event. Their music was played with passion, plainly visible beginning with charismatic frontman and keyboardist Austin Bohlman and spreading throughout the entire band. Extensive displays of dexterity from the horn section were accompanied by trippy guitar solos, which all fed into a funky cover of “Psycho Killer.” This band carried the audience by their dancing feet until the early hours of the morning.

Brewer’s Choice Award: Hop Slice Session IPA

Nostalgia remains for the former summer seasonal, Twilight by Deschutes, but the festival’s beer sponsor didn’t let us down. Hop Slice is a beer light enough for the hot sun and hoppy enough to hold a lot of flavor. Tasty.

John Bonham Award: The Budos Band


They are receiving this award not just because their drummer operated with a large presence and high level of skill, but because he and the entire band continued to get drunker and drunker as the show progressed. The drummer left his kit mid-song to address the audience, but could barely keep the mic stand upright as he instructed the audience to yell, “Hey fucking Budos!” The rest of the band followed suit, stopping every song to remind us they were from Staten Island. Most importantly though, despite their inebriation, they didn’t miss a beat, playing aggressive jazz rock just as the sun went down on Friday night.

Patrick Swayze Award: Gramatik


The best dance party of the weekend happened on Friday night as Gramatik’s headlining set rocked its way through the amphitheater. Many songs from his recent album, Epigram, were featured in a set that started heavy with a lot of funk and soothed itself out to flash the enigmatic producer’s jazzy side. Regardless of what side was being displayed, the crowd didn’t stop moving until it stopped.

Wonderland Award: Michal Menert & the Pretty Fantasics

Some artists know how to blur the lines between dream and reality, and this one in particular took the audience on a journey down the rabbit hole. Michal Menert’s productions were brightened up by a live horn section to complement the layers of atmosphere he puts on top of his songs, and grounded by a rhythm section to hold the crowd’s attention (somewhat). These elements made his set the perfect place to be at 3am when your brain thought it was bedtime but your body said otherwise.

Wooderson Award: GRiZ


This producer was in the running for many awards, but his use of quotes from the 1993 cult film Dazed and Confused—aka the greatest movie ever made—ultimately helped him win this estimeed recognition. The lines “I did the best I could while I was stuck in this place, had as much fun as I could while I was stuck in this place...” were played behind his glowing saxophone and soft (for GRiZ) beats. Although these lines weren’t said by Matthew McConaughey in his finest role, Wooderson would have been proud of the way GRiZ put a party together.

Tallboy Award: The Stillaguamish River


This year’s meltdown festival lived up to its name with temperatures in the 90s through most of the weekend. Luckily, in the woods just behind the venue is an ice-cold river perfectly equipped for floating on a raft and catching a buzz while the sun was out.

Freebird Award: STS9


This award comes with a bit of irony since Sound Tribe did not give an encore. What they did, though, was play a sundown set that encompassed all the feelings throughout the weekend. STS9 plays electronic music live and can hit hard or pull back to let the soft piano riffs ride until coming through again with heavy basslines. It was a wild roller coaster with awe-dropping twists and turns and then an easygoing free ride before coming to an end.

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