Family, community, nature and music are all words that come to mind when describing the 17th annual Northwest String Summit. This year’s festival boasted one of the best lineups ever, with three nights of Yonder Mountain String Band and many of the bluegrass and Americana scene’s hottest acts such as Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass and Fruition.
The festival continues to grow and evolve by interacting with and listening to the community that visits Horning's Hideout year after year. The humble energy of the musicians carries into the audience as they camp and play music along with the festival attendees throughout the grounds. With small children chasing each other exuberantly through the crowd and everyone from teens to old-timers enjoying themselves on the hillside of the amphitheater, the inclusivity of the all-ages festival helps to create an atmosphere for attendees that feels both safe and open.
With a more diverse selection of jam and genre-blending artists on the late-night stages, along with the expansion of the Kinfolk Revival stage and art installation area, the booking and scheduling of artists and stages gave insight into the festival producer’s willingness and courage to evolve and expand into new territory. On Friday night, after most small children had been put to bed, The Infamous Stringdusters started to raise the ante on the main stage with an extra extended “Possum” jam—watch below.
Directly following their set, the Portland-based electro-funk livetronic trio Yak Attack kept the party going at the top of the hill on the “Tweeners” stage, backed by a giant moving peacock art installation radiating different neon colors. Attendees spilled out around the Tweeners stage and down the path in either direction, trying to get closer to the grooving electro-synth musical stylings. Shook Twins kept things trippy late night with a Total Request Remix Live set tucked away in the Cascadia Village stage. A dynamic array of '90s and '00s covers such as Gorillaz' “Clint Eastwood" and Tenacious D's “Fuck Her Gently” kept the audience busy singing, laughing and dancing into the night.
During the day, the festival stayed true to its roots with acoustic acts such as The Lowest Pair, Drunken Hearts, and The Last Revel on the Tweeners stage in between larger acts on the main stage. The Portland-based four-piece progressive bluegrass band Cascade Crescendo stood out among acts on the smaller stage with their ability to mesh jam-funk vibes into their clean and tight bluegrass chops during their daytime Saturday sets. With great excitement from the audience they closed out their second set with a bluegrass cover of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” that had the audience stomping and singing along.
On Saturday night Yonder Mountain String Band honored their tradition of playing a full album cover set, this year tearing it up with the Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits 1974-78. (Watch them perform "The Stake" featuring members of Fruition below.) The uplifting and fun album was a perfect fit for the energy of Saturday night during the peak of the festival.
Just when it didn’t seem like it could get much better, Yonder flipped some of the songs on their head with their own psychedelic and edgy renditions to keep the audience on their toes. They kept the momentum building until they closed out the set with a bang featuring a massive entourage of large-scale creatures making their way out onto the dance floor to interact with and float above the audience, confetti filling the air. The large-scale interaction and fully immersive and choreographed experience skyrocketed the set past a standard festival headliner that will not be soon forgotten by those who attended. —Patrick Harris