5,000 lucky music lovers went down into the peacock-rich hollow of Horning’s Hideout in North Plains, OR this past weekend, July 21st–24th, 2022, to dance, cheer, smile, hug, cry, and kick up all that summer festival dust for the 20th and final Northwest String Summit—billed as “The Final Verse.” Tickets to this year’s event sold out within a week of on sale.

Since its inception in 2002, Northwest String Summit, produced by Gregg Friedman and Skye McDonald, has been the premier bluegrass-centric West Coast event of the summer, hosted annually by Yonder Mountain String Band and joined by an ever-growing and rotating who’s who of the acoustic, stringed, bluegrass world.

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Thursday night at String Summit has been headlined by Greensky Bluegrass for the last half decade. This year, the jamgrass titans were joined by Holly Bowling on keys for their entire two-set show, brought out members of Yonder Mountain String Band and Lindsay Lou as guests, and spiced up the first night of the festival with a debut cover of Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around… Comes Around.” Thursday also featured main stage sets by Lindsay Lou, Northwest-bred crowd favorites World’s Finest, and Fruition, and a scorching late-night set from Bozeman, MT’s Kitchen Dwellers going until 3 a.m.

[Photo: Dave Vann – Kitchen Dwellers]

The music of the Grateful Dead has always wound its way into many sets played at Northwest String Summit, and 2022 was no different as Joe Russo’s Almost Dead headlined Friday night in the Horning’s Hideout bowl with an electric two-hour set featuring phoffman from Greensky Bluegrass on “Catfish John” and an up-tempo “Friend of the Devil”. With a main stage nestled in the woods by a small lake and surrounded by towering pine trees in a natural amphitheater, the capacity crowd  at Horning’s Hideout enjoyed a rare West Coast JRAD affair, punctuated by Marco Benevento’s birthday complete with mid-set cake antics and a roaring “Jessica” cover that delighted all in attendance including the dozens of peacocks which live on the 160-acre wooded hideaway. Friday also featured mainstage sets by Ghost Light, Keller & The Keels, Del McCoury Band, and Railroad Earth.

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – “Happy Birthday”, “Yazoo Street Scandal” (The Band), “Scarlet Begonias” (Grateful Dead), “Jessica” (Allman Brothers Band), “Let It Grow” (Grateful Dead)

[Video: Mon Cul]

Annual hosts Yonder Mountain String Band played three sets over the course of the weekend, including Friday late-night and Sunday evening sets which went electric featuring Asher Fulero on keys and Jay Elliott on drums. All three sets were career-spanning in content, including such old favorites as “Pan American” by Hank Williams and welcoming guests such as Tyree Woods from Buffalo Common for a stirring “Ragdoll” during their final set on Sunday.

[Photo: Dave Vann – Yonder Mountain String Band]

Saturday daytime sets found Portland-based heaters TK & The Holy Know-Nothings kicking off a marathon day of bluegrass and beyond sets on the mainstage as Sierra Hull, Kitchen Dwellers, Leftover Salmon, and Yonder Mountain String Band played back-to-back throughout the day.

[Photo: Dave Vann – Leftover Salmon]

Special collaborations between the tight-knit community of bluegrass artists have always been a highlight of Northwest String Summit and the 2022 edition was no exception. Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey’s McGee—who took the Saturday headlining slot featuring both acoustic and electric sets—coupled with longtime friend and collaborator Jennifer Hartswick for a searingly beautiful “Hartliss” set on Saturday afternoon. A longtime fixture of the festival stage, songwriter Benny “Burle” Galloway paired with soaring songstress Lindsay Lou for a lovely Friday afternoon set on the shaded Troubadour Stage, nestled comfortably in the Horning’s Hideout pines. Drawing from some of the festival’s most beloved acts, We’re In Love—as the act was newly minted—featured Mimi Naja, Allie Kral, Kyle Tuttle, and Travis Book joining Lindsay Lou for a set of acoustic love songs complete with roses in the crowd and phoffman joining his longtime friends for a tune.

[Photo: Dave Vann – Brendan Bayliss & Jennifer Hartswick]

The Portland, OR local flavor was highlighted once again Sunday afternoon on the mainstage as Scott Law, Tye North, and Lewi Longmire’s Ducky Pig kicked off a rockin’ afternoon that saw Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway and The Infamous Stringdusters both make the dust and sweat fly as afternoon temperatures and tempos heated up in the amphitheater bowl.

[Photo: Dave Vann]

The Horning’s Hideout magic was flowing throughout the weekend and continued right through the final joyous set of the weekend as Sideboob—the all female truly super group composed of The Shook Twins, Kat Fountain, Megan Letts, Alexis Mahler, Alex Radakovich, Liz Chibucos, and dozens of other female musicians from the festival’s lineup—led the Sunday night crowd through spirited and cathartic singalongs to female-led hits from the ’90s and early 2000s. The supergroup, first dreamed up by Mimi Naja and joined by The Shook Twins and Allie Kral in 2016, has been an annual tour de force and celebration of the strong female representation on the String Summit lineup. The closing set, featuring choreographed dancers, a string section, and a horn sections complete with Jen Hartswick on trumpet, made the sweaty Sunday evening crowd laugh, cry, jump with joy, and ultimately feel all the emotions as 20 beautiful years of Northwest String Summit came to a close with The Final Verse.

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – “Friend of the Devil” (Grateful Dead)

[Video: Max Berde]

Infamous Stringdusters With Dave Bruzza & Jen Hartswick – “Can’t Put Out the Fire”

[Video: T Shaw’s Progressive Bluegrass]

Infamous Stringdusters With Molly Tuttle & Bronwyn Keith-Hynes – “Cluck Ole Hen”

[Video: T Shaw’s Progressive Bluegrass]

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway – “Crooked Tree”

[Video: T Shaw’s Progressive Bluegrass]

Kitchen Dwellers With phoffman & Sean McLean – “June Apple”

[Video: Max Berde]

Kitchen Dwellers, phoffman – “I’d Probably Kill You” (Greensky Bluegrass)

Lindsay Lou & Benny “Burle” Galloway – “Queen of the Country Angels”

[Video: Max Berde]

Yonder Mountain String Band – “Girlfriend is Better”

[Video: Ironman THX]

Greensky Bluegrass – “Give a Sh*t”

[Video: Max Berde]

We’re In Love – “I Am a Generous Handler”

[Video: T Shaw’s Progressive Bluegrass]

Sideboob – “What’s Up?” (4 Non Blondes)

[Video: Rock N Knit]

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