Thursday July 15
It was 5 a.m. July 15 when I loaded up my socks and glowey things, and headed to the airport on my journey from San Francisco to Horning's Hideout, Oregon. Landing in Portland, I was launched away swiftly with my amigo on our drive to Bob Horning's amazing hideout about and hour Northwest of the Portland airport. Surrounded by towering pines, the strumming of strings, and the crying and cawing of Peacocks, Horning's Hideout was the perfect location for this years Northwest Strings Summit which hosted four nights of music: three nights of Yonder Mountain String Band, and an all star line up of musicians from Darol Anger to Mickey Hart. Celebrating it's 9th year, NWSS is full of wonders.
Pulling into Horning's, we were greeted by the volunteer staff who were all pleased to help us get our wrist bands and sent us on our way into the musical jungle. Setting up a great campsite full of the usual festival supplies, we had our tapestries up in no time and were off to explore the area. Horning's layout is beautifully arranged with wide open fields, a big lake, sunshine, peacocks, and plenty of forest giving way to the start of something great. The venders began to set up and more and more people started to fill in. Camp sites were boosting music and art from every little corner and nook of the forest, and the love and excitement filling and churning in my stomach was beginning to leak over. The sunshine was beaming and the beer tent was blinding. Rogue brewery was setting up for a full weekend on the left side of the concert bowl facing the stage, and I set up for a nice spot awaiting fellow Colorado boy Pete Kartsounes of the band Wayward Sons.
Pete welcomed the crowd with beautiful songs about the Rocky Mountains relaxing everyone into their hillside seats for the next couple of hours. His swift and elegant acoustic playing is well complimented by his soulful yet crisp voice. I could feel the love of Colorado sweeping across the faces of my fellow festi-goers and Coloradans, as Pete and Friends played the day to night. Later this year Pete will be hiking the Colorado trail to raise money for cancer.
Heading back to Camp the first night, noticing the piles of cars filling up the fields in front and behind our infamous Turtle Camp, I was only able to yell out in awe for I felt as though I had climbed the highest mountain and now was able to enjoy the view. String bands were filling the alleys and streets of our weekend neighborhood, and exploration was at hand. Taking it all in is not easy, as everywhere you look, something amazing is awaiting your approval. Falling asleep I felt blissful being out of the city and back in a place surrounded by what was about to be something too perfect.
Friday July 16
Waking up in a camp site at a music festival is hands down the best place to wake up ever. Walking around in the morning to locate food and friends I realized just how many more people were making there way into the city of strings. My friend took the lead and showed me around the different areas of the park, including a trip to an old red barn filled with staff, being cooled down by a sprinkler running from the roof. The tradition of the first day at NWSS(not north, west, south, south, as outdoors men like myself subconsciously see) is to hold a band competition. The band Pert Near Sandstone of Minneapolis, MN kicked of the competition blowing everyone away with the quick soulful bluegrass. With guitars, fiddles, banjo, bass, and tap shoes, Pert Near was getting the dirt nice and loose as many enjoyed their first dance of the weekend. Blackberry Bushes featured singer Jessica Raymond creating a beautiful indie take on bluegrass with a taste of lust and hope. The stringing of the banjo and the fiddle worked art with Jessica's voice as the dancing crowd kept growing. Boys of Greenwood Glen took the stage and kicked the can all over the place. The beautiful harmony work between the Seattle boys charged on to whistles and hollers from the audience. The great combination of strings and vocals made this band stand out on its own and left the judges with a lasting impression and a tough choice. Lastly Whistlin' Rufus of Portland, OR led the crowd through some grassy tunes with smooth bluegrass and a local twang. The competition boosted some great underground talent and the judges decided on Pert Near as the winners who would be playing a Sunday set at noon.
Taking a quick break to eat up and meet some more friends pulling in a little late, I ran from the Turtle Camp to catch Darol Anger with his Republic of Strings. For those unknowing to Darol's silky inventive playing, he has played his way into history mashing down with anyone lucky enough to collaborate with him. Joined onstage with Tye North, Scott Law, Mike Block, and Lauren Rioux, the republic of strings played for a crazed loving crowd of grassers awaiting the skills and shred of these great players. The combination of Scott Law dazzling his thick swaying guitar around the feathery slices of Anger's violin kept any witnesses gazing as the tunes raged ahead. Darol, announcing his joy to be at NWSS was only overshadowed by cheers and applause as everyone welcomed his amazing group.
Great American Taxi took to the stage to follow the swirl of Anger's strings, and the crowd made them feel welcome as they began their set. Led by Leftover Salmon frontman Vince Herman, these guys leave nothing out to a leading Jam band in the circuit. Their honky tonk, rock and roll, bluegrass, funk, soul, blues, boogie, swamp rat, jam style is enchanting, and easily sucks listeners in. Chad Staehly grabbed the keys with fierce hands reminding everyone of the existing strings held in the grand container of his upright piano. The vocals and enticing tunes reminded me of the great presence of Colorado musicians in the area making me feel even more at home. The band was oh-too-perfect to set the scene for the first night of the festival. With Great American Taxi creating a luminous aura around the dance floor as night turned on, hips were swaying, people were singing, and Yonder was about to play.
Yonder Mountain String Band stepped onto stage to an explosion of appreciation from everyone in Horning's. Jeff grabbed the mic and welcomed the crowd and told us they were gonna play some bluegrass for us tonight. Joined by friends for the rest of the nights were Danny Barnes and Darol Anger. By the end of the first set, it was almost hard to think of YMSB without these guys. Jeff and Ben Kaufmann, bass, led the way into an over the top 'Peace of Mind' allowing Danny Barnes to spill out all of the place. From the start of the night Yonder was going for it and the crowd was feverish for everything to come. Th