If you live in the Pacific Northwest and love music and camping but haven’t heard about the Summer Meltdown, then listen up! You don’t want to miss this weekend of outdoor musical bliss. The Meltdown takes place in Darrington, Washington at the Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater, August 13-16. This festival is truly one of a kind. I can’t decide whether it’s the wooded setting, the crowd it draws or the largely NW native mix of artists that sets the Meltdown apart from other festivals. Perhaps it’s the combination of all three. Whatever the secret ingredient is, it leaves a lasting impression.
The Summer Meltdown is one of the Northwest’s best kept secrets, still widely unheard of going into its ninth year. The grassroots music festival is hosted by Terra Roots Foundation in collaboration with Seattle band Flowmotion. Since its inception in 1999 by Flowmotion and friends, the festival has grown from the backyard BBQ it once was, to now roughly 4,000 festival goers. Meltdown found its current home at Whitehorse Mt. in 2006 after several of its organizers founded Terra Roots Foundation in 2005, whose focus is largely on the festival.
Terra Roots is a non-profit that advocates sustainable living, responsible action and creating community through grants to local musicians, artists and community organizers. “With an event drawing thousands of people, we felt a responsibility to use that opportunity to promote ideas, businesses, and people who are working to foster sustainability, responsibility and community in their worlds,” says organizer Andrea Wood of Terra Roots. “The idea is that people will walk away from Meltdown with positive experiences and ideas and spread that to their own communities.” This driving force and founding principal is no doubt what makes the Meltdown so special.
Still need a reason not to miss the Summer Meltdown? Because it’s the best outdoor music festival in Washington! Yes folks, even better than a certain festival named after a large footed creature that takes place on a certain river gorge. And here is why I think so; the community, location and lineup. It’s the ultimate festival trifecta!
The Meltdown community has the most positive vibe and it’s completely contagious. The festival is filled with vendors, artists and volunteers involved not for the money, but to perpetuate their passions and exercise their love for music. The populace of musicians and music lovers that come together for the weekend is what makes it so unique. There is music around every corner, not just on stage. It’s not uncommon for random jam sessions to spark up around the clock and in the band camping area some bands will hold their own tent jams; I’m talking amped, not Kumbaya style guitar circles. Last year I witnessed numerous random collaborations of members from interchanging bands, jamming freestyle and creating live music that can never be duplicated. These are not roped off areas reserved for VIPs either! All you need to do is follow your ear.
The festival is also very family friendly, with a Kid’s Village that holds daily activities for the young ones, including a kid’s parade through the festival grounds and kid’s music workshops by Little Seahorse Music Academy. Meltdown really is an experience for all ages.
The Meltdown is also a very environmentally responsible event. The vendors set up in Vendor Village sell only handcrafted wares and the food booths sell all local and organic food and encourage re-usable plates, cups, etc. The festival also has a Green Village, which houses a whole slew of organizations ready to tell you about green living and sustainability. And last year, Meltdown was the first music festival in Washington to power production entirely by B99 biofuel (pure Biodiesel blend of used veggie and soy oil).
The Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater is such a great venue! The grounds are nestled in the Cascade Mountain foothills and provide the perfect setting for a camping festival. The camping area is tucked in the woods just above the amphitheater main stage. The canopy of trees provides refuge from the sun and added noise barriers, unlike the standard festival tent cities we all know so well. And just a short walk behind festival grounds there is a river where many people go and swim. At Meltdown you actually feel like you’re camping!
The lineup for this year’s Summer Meltdown is the best yet. There really is something for everyone. Whether you’re a fan of Funk, Jazz, Rock, Bluegrass, Reggae, Soul, Roots, Latin, Afro-beat, Hip-Hop, Electro or Acoustic, with over 30 bands, the Meltdown has got it all! The festival lineup has more world ingredients this year with LoCura out of Oakland CA, whose sound is Salsa infused with Reggae and Flamenco. And Sabu, an African drum group from San Juan Island who play the traditional music of the Malinke people of Guinea, West Africa. Also on my “must see” list is Vancouver BC’s Afro-funk orchestra, Five Alarm Funk. This eleven-piece Latin and Afro-beat influenced funk band has a full horns section, bongos, congas and more. How can you go wrong? Also not to be missed is Portland’s TapWater, who describe themselves as “world twang.” Who ever heard of a reggae song with a banjo? Not me, but I’m certainly inclined to listen!
Let’s not forget the festival’s anchor band, Seattle’s own Flowmotion who will headline the main stage on Thursday AND Saturday. Their genre bending sound is difficult to label, but if I had to, I’d call them funky-rock. Their sets always keep the crowd dancing and begging for more. Also returning this year are a number of local Washington favorites including; Yogoman Burning Band, Spoonshine and The Panda Conspiracy, as well as Portland faves, Everyone Orchestra and March Fourth Marching Band, which is literally an entire marching band on stage complete with fire dancers and stilt walkers. Bring on the sensory overload! This year’s showcase of West Coast talent should be off the hook!
Already have plans for Meltdown weekend? Never fear, Randomville will be there to capture the magic and bring a full review to your computer screen!