The 2017 edition of the Northwest String Summit saw bluegrass legends, hometown heroes, and more join the host band, Yonder Mountain String Band, for a four-day musical vacation at Horning’s Hideout in North Plains, Oregon. All weekend long, the majestic ring of old growth firs and pines that encircle the concert bowl of Oregon’s beloved nature preserve and outdoor concert venue rang with the sounds of the best and brightest of the Americana and jamgrass scene. With artists like Del McCoury, Greensky Bluegrass, Fruition, Elephant Revival, Shook Twins, Todd Snider, JJ Grey & Mofro and Turkuaz on the lineup, there was no chance for disappointment, both in the quality and diversity of acts offered.
Beyond its gorgeous landscape, Horning’s Hideout lives up its name in more ways than one. Thanks to its isolated location, the grounds have nearly zero phone signal. Even the most media addicted welcomed the chance to temporarily escape the bonds and burdens of our modern world and its ever-present technology. There was top-notch food from some of Portland’s favorite eating spots, fascinating arts and crafts to be purchased from incredibly talented artisans and creators, and, lest we forget, four days of perfectly lit, masterfully broadcast music.
For Northwest String Summit, the weekend got started a day early, and the size of the crowd gave a solid indication of the dedication of the fans. The folks who come to the NWSS are a family, and at the core of that unit are the Kinfolk, the dedicated Yonder Mountain String Band community. Everyone was hustling around, configuring campsites and carrying chairs and bags of goodies down to the main stage in preparation for the musical fun to come.
Portland’s own beloved act, the Shook Twins and Fruition, helped bring the hometown crowd out early, and masters of the psychedelic bluegrass frontier Greensky Bluegrass served as the headliner for the wild first night. All woman supergroup Sideboob held court in the Kinfolk Tent for the late-night fun before Elephant Revival closed out the evening in joyous reverie. The Sideboob show is coming in its entirety, but until then check out some of the video highlights from Thursday at the festival.
Fruition – “Labor Of Love”
Greensky Bluegrass – “I’d Probably Kill You”
Elephant Revival – “The Garden”
Friday morning got started bright and early as the yoga enthusiasts greeted the dawn. Down in what is best described as a wooded holler, the Cascadia Stage kicked off a daylong series of sets in the shade with singer-songwriter Brad Parsons, Charlie Parr, and more. The Kinfolk Tent once again hosted workshops, theme shows, and more intimate sets from artists all weekend long like Fruition. Faces of all ages wandered to and fro, soaking in the sights, greeting friends, and smiling in the sunlight raining down through the trees. On the main stage, there was a murders row of the best in the scene with sets from Elephant Revival, Greensky Bluegrass, and the first big block of the Yonder Mountain String Band. You can check out highlights of all the fun below!
Elephant Revival – “Have A Cigar”
Greensky Bluegrass – “Windshield”
Yonder Mountain String Band – “Sidewalk Stars”
Yonder Mountain String Band – “All The Time”
Fruition – “Mountain Annie”
There is a feeling that is in the air on Saturday at a music festival. Everyone is finally in and set up, stage locations are learned, and a hard night has passed. The Kinfolk Tent had fun events like violinst Darol Anger and cellist Rashad Eggleston’s set that was both informative and hilarious. JJ Grey was on hand to bring some southern soul to the party as only he and Mofro can. Living legend Del McCoury had a set full of classics from Bill Monroe to Robert Cray on tap, and Turkuaz was getting ready to throw a latenight dance party that would be the late night cherry on top. But none of those performances generated as much buzz as Saturday’s Yonder set, where the jamgrass all-stars took on and remade Pink Floyd‘s Meddle album in their own inimitable style.
The band wasn’t stressing about it though—they were too busy sharing the love with family and Kinfolk. Bassist Ben Kaufmann‘s mother was intered into the Kinfolk Hall of Fame at the backstage meet-and-greet. Besides her actual birthing of a band member, Mrs. K had spent the year fundraising for children’s cancer research and was even going to shave her head for the cause the next day. She shed tears as she was presented with the plaque bearing the names of the Kinfolk who have gone above and beyond the call of duty before her. It was a fitting tribute and served as a wonderful reminder of the impact Yonder and their music has and will continue to have on the world. Check out some of the magic from Saturday below.
Darol Anger & Rashad Egglestone
JJ Grey & Mofro – “The Sun is Shining Down (Glory Glory Hallelujah)”
Del McCoury – “Smoking Gun”
Yonder Mountain String Band – “Take A Chance On Me”
We have already shared Yonder’s entire performance of Pink Floyd’s Meddle, which you can watch HERE. Luckily for the fans at the Northwest String Summit, Yonder had one more Floyd number up their sleeves. Check out the mayhem as they closed their set by advising everyone to “Run Like Hell!”
Yonder Mountain String Band – “Run Like Hell”
There was a certain exhaustion to the faces and postures of the Sunday crowd. While some folks sadly packed and headed out early, the diehards rallied in the sun for one last blast of bluegrass insanity. The Travellin’ McCourys took the faithful to church on the main stage while a rare Old Hands reunion took place in the Kinfolk Tent. Todd Snider showed why a person with a idiosyncratic view point and a guitar is a danger to society. There was something on every stage to see, with eventually the whole festival coming together to watch a woman get shorn for a great cause ahead of a blow-out Yonder Mountain String Band set chock full of guest stars and pickin’ parties. Watch the highlights and head shaving below.
Old Hands – “Wind Through The Willows”
Todd Snider – “The Ballad Of The Kingmen Trio”
St Baldricks Fundraising Head Shave
Yonder Mountain String Band – “Winds Of Wyoming > Funtime > Winds Of Wyoming”
By the end of the day, Northwest String Summit had once again drawn to a close. Children who had paraded with new friends on Saturday now slumped sleepily in seats as weary parents started for home. Exhausted band members and crews high fived and joked about a job well done. The loving back-and-forth vibe between the band, the fans, and the land at the Northwest String Summit is infectious, and everyone who attended took away a bit more of the love that only exists in this one place at this one time.
At this point, I’d like to step away from the narrator voice for just a moment. My name is Rex Thomson and I am a proud part of the Live For Live Music team. I serve as a sort of jack-of-all-trades for the site, making videos, writing, taking photos and I try and generate some good will along the way. Anyway, I am going to be joining the ranks of those who have stepped up to raise money through shaving their heads for cancer research at next year’s Northwest String Summit. Cancer has taken plenty of those near and dear to me, and I’d be more than hapy if it would f@#$ right off. They’re setting up a fundraising page for me as soon as they get the last couple things from this year’s fest done, so get ready to help a hairy man help us all. Thanks!