When you stream music on the web, you have the choice of many platforms. Pandora, Spotify, Groove Shark and others all have their merits. You can choose to use one, or you can use all of them in conjunction with one another. I figure that Pandora helps me to learn about NEW bands. When I use Pandora, I am getting suggestions from other community members who like a lot of the same music that I do. I then take my new knowledge and make some adjustments to my playlists in Spotify. I love music apps.
Well, Northwest String Summit is my Pandora. Sure, they have tons of big acts, but they do a great job of picking some extremely talented local (Pacific Northwest) bands that this Colorado girl doesn’t normally get exposed to.
First, a little about the festival. The Northwest String Summit is a musical gathering that is hosted at Horning’s Hideout, a beautiful and versatile venue located in North Plains, Oregon. Yonder Mountain String Band is the festival’s main act every year, gracing the main stage for 6 full high-energy sets of music over three blissful nights. This was String Summit’s 12th year of existence, and they have mastered the art of running an absolutely wonderful festival with a diverse group of talent. String Summit offers out-of-this-world music, great food, delightful patrons, and the nicest musicians on the face of the planet. Past acts include sets from New Riders of the Purple Sage, David Grisman, Del McCoury, The Rhythm Devils (featuring Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead), Jerry Douglas Band, Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon and a ton of other gems. See a trailer for the festival’s new documentary below!
I was lucky enough to get to work Hospitality with my husband this year, but this year was different. They decided to completely blow out a second, smaller stage called “Cascadia.” This stage was where I worked during the 4 days of the festival, and it offered me the chance to check out some of the most entertaining string bands of the Pacific Northwest.
My first FAVORITE of String Summit 2013 is definitely Brown Chicken Brown Cow. The people are as hilarious as the name, but I took their music VERY seriously. Brown Chicken Brown Cow employs guitar, fiddle, bass, mandolin, harmonica and bodhran to create a sound that I found to be unique and even whimsical. They kicked off their morning set with this beautiful song that they wrote on the beaches of Hawaii called “Memories.” The harmonies between Kat and Matt were gorgeous with a large delta between the highs and lows. When I told them that I liked the song, they explained the story behind it. This is something that I always really enjoy; being a song writer myself, I love listening to people’s stories of inspiration. It just solidified the idea that these people were no ordinary string band.
My second new favorite of String Summit 2013 was SUGAR CANE. They came out incredibly strong. I considered them to be extremely high energy Rock mixed with Bluegrass, Caribbean and Blues. They had a huge crowd of extremely dedicated fans who were bouncing around and singing along to the band’s originals. It was a really high-energy show, and I could tell the group was enjoying every second of their set. Not to mention that one of their lead vocalists (“Big E”) wins the award for NICEST PERSON OF NORTHWEST STRING SUMMIT 2013. He got up very early every morning to play music for the children of String Summit at the Cascadia stage. What a noble offering to the young minds of String Summit!
The other obvious favorites for me (not new) were The Keels (Larry and Jenny), and Danny Barnes‘ “Barnyard Electronics.” Larry and Jenny are a married couple who have a true passion for the joy of playing live music; Jenny dances around while plucking the upright bass, and Larry is oftentimes flat-picking his old acoustic guitar into submission. His deep vocals and Jenny’s clear high harmony parts coupled with the dynamics between the guitar and bass create a sound that these ears can truly appreciate and enjoy. I had a wonderful time listening, and I was excited to hear that they will be performing at the ARISE music festival in Loveland, Colorado as “Keller and the Keels” (which is Jenny and Larry with Keller Williams).
Danny Barnes is a master. I don’t think I really need to say much else. He not only can capture a large audience on stage by HIMSELF (trust me, this is hard), but he baffled me by throwing down some serious TECH knowledge. When he told me that he used a simple framework to start building his own looping software, it once again solidified the fact that he is a mad musical scientist. Danny played a bunch of original songs from multiple albums, including both tracks from his new 45 record (vinyl) that he just released called “Falling Hard.” The title track is the A-side, and a song called “Money Moves Up” is on the B-side. When I asked him what he likes most about 45s, he talked about how he enjoys listening to songs that he loves over and over again once in a while. I couldn’t agree more. I have listened to his new 45 loads of times already! My husband and I agree that the Barnyard Electronics set was our favorite music of the weekend, hands down.
In conclusion, I feel very fortunate to have experienced what I did last July. It was a joyous musical adventure that included meeting many new, interesting and passionate people, and learning about a bunch of talent that was flying under my radar. I hope you decide to check out some of these bands and see what you think! I also encourage you to search out NEW and EXCITING musical adventures of your own. After all, life is really just about music, isn’t it?
About the Author: Mary Merritt enjoys all things music, movies, tech and outdoors. Co-Owner of NerdyMind, an online marketing and design company in Colorado, Mary has worked hard to start creating a lifestyle that heavily employs music. When not in the office, she spends a lot of time writing songs and playing mandolin, watching movies and paddle boarding. She does nearly all of these things with her husband (Peter) and dog (Draco).