A great weekend of bluegrass was in store for this year’s Northwest String Summit Festival. This hootenanny took place at the infamous Horning’s Hideout in Oregon. It’s an absolutely magical venue with lush green foliage and roaming peacocks…yes, peacocks. Just behind the main stage lay a small lake filled with paddle boats. An encircling hill around the stage made for a great gathering place to hang out, and get down to some grassy tunes.
The music for the first night really began to heat up with a performance from Kalamazoo’s finest, Greensky Bluegrass. From small bar venues to main stages at festivals, Greensky has grown so much. Greensky always promises a high energy show, yet seemed to have reached even greater levels. The boys were throwin down, starting all the festivarians off on a supreme note for the weekend ahead.
Head for the Hills gave a solid bluegrass performance just before the anticipated late night arrived. Poor Man’s Whiskey played a ‘Dark Side of the Moonshine’. During Floyd’s ‘Money’ song band members cracked open Pabst beers into the mic for that cash register sound effect, and went on to pass them down to the crowd. Up on stage Poor Man’s all dressed up as different Wizard of Oz characters. Miss Allie Kral on the fiddle made a guest appearance for the set.
The next morning there was a screening for Strummit’s documentary about the fest called ‘Turn Left at the Peacock’. It captures what the Yonder Kinfolk family, and Horning’s Hideout magic is all about. The end of the film had great Yonder footage from previous years.
Another musical high point of the day was Larry & Jenny Keel performing on the smaller Ninkasi Stage. A small dirt path winds in zig-zags all the way down to the cozy set-up. At the top of the hill is an outdoor wooden-framed coffee and doughnut stand. Grabbing a doughnut is a fun little Strummit tradition, and they are delicious-Pineapple Coconut, Banana Chocolate, or maybe a Peacock Cream.
The Keels put on a great day show, making a beautiful sound with just an upright bass, an acoustic guitar, and some good ol’ singin. Jenny has a crisp, lovely voice, and Larry gives a nice contrast with his deeper tones.
Later in the day the Keels would take the stage with Keller Williams for Keller & The Keels. They did a handful of crowd favorite covers like Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.
Then it was time for that first Yonder set of the weekend, and quite possibly the most stacked set of the fest! Kicking things off with an always rowdy ‘Raleigh and Spencer’, classic ’40 Miles’, and even a dark, passionate ‘Riverside’! A ‘Peace of Mind’ sandwich along with some Beatle’s and Dead covers added to the goodness…what a first night!
Saturday was kicked off with a Kinfolk Gathering, a time where fans and family good get together, share in the Yonder community, and the band mates came out to hang with their Kinfolk too. Banjo extraordinaire Dave Johnston, bassist Ben Kaufman, mandolin player Jeff Austin, and guitarist Adam Ajala joined in for an annual Strummit photo with everyone to end the gathering.
Later in the day David Grisman’s bluegrass experience gave Strummiter’s a traditional grassy experience. It was a quiet show as they shared microphones, which further added to the traditional theme. Grisman preserves the authenticity of the original bluegrass experience, something of which everyone at the festival respected and enjoyed.
The ‘poly-ethnic cajun slamgrass’ known as Leftover Salmon took the stage next. Glancing around the hill there lay countless blankets for people to sit and enjoy the music. Salmon got everyone up and groovin around as always. A fastgrass version of ‘I Know You Rider’ was another treat of the set.
Round two of Yonder arrived next; ‘Illinois Rain’ kicks of the set. With such a strong song to start, it can only mean that Yonder is gonna bring it. A sweet and serenading, ‘Down by the River’ brings the vibe back down to chill. A Stone’s cover, ‘No Expectations’ and the classic ‘Sharecropper’s Son’ are great songs that everyone recognizes and gets into. Another Yonder favorite, ‘New Horizons’ brings back the intensity. It’s sandwiched with the ever so reflective ‘Looking Back Over My Shoulder’. Yonder adds ’20 Eyes’ to the mix to bring the energy back up before finishing off the ‘New Horizons’…now that is a set!
After a quick break the boys come back with a dark ‘Angel’ jammwich. In the center is Phish’s ‘Sand’! The sound is incredibly funky and explorative. There are definite moments of pure space. It is absolutely incredible.
Banjo player Danny Barnes comes to the stage to play a few next. As the set comes to a close we are treated to yet another sandwich, and it’s crowd favorite, ‘Keep on Going’. The boys jam on The Allman Brother’s epic ‘Whipping Post’. It’s another killer cover for the evening. Phish and Allman Brother’s? Well done Yonder!
Yet, we’re not finished. Returning for their encore, the crowd is sung a bedtime stories of sorts with Pink Floyd’s ‘Goodbye Bluesky’. The harmonies are on point, and the riffs are just as spacey and weird as Floyd would want them.
Later, a late night from Fruition closes out the evening. A rising local band, they are nothing but grassy and funky good times.
One neat installation of the festival is the Furthur bus. It is in fact the real, second bus that the Merry Pranksters cruised around in. The paint job is super colorful and intricate and on top lies a small stage set up for set break bands to perform.
Yonder takes the stage for their last show of the fest. Right away the energy is intense. Both the Kinfolk crowd, and the boys on stage are feelin this one.
There’s a fast ‘Rambler’ sandwich and an epic ‘Snow on the Pines’ in the first set. You can hear the audience singing almost as loudly as the band, and the happiness in the air is palpable.
The bluegrass jig is in full swing with ‘Walking Shoes’ in the second set. The classic ‘Half Moon Rising’ is the tipping point for the Yonder explosion occurring on stage; the vibes are strong, and they’re good. John Hartford’s ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ brings the groovin like never before, and suddenly we’re in a ‘Traffic Jam’.
T-Jam is grand in volume, fast in beat, and as the chorus ends the instrumental brings a madness to the dancing in all directions that you can’t help but be a part of.
Yonder interacts with the crowd, all singing together, and then suddenly….silence!! The sound is out, and after a few moments everyone realizes this was not part of the plan.
We learn that a generator has blown…too much Yonder heat!
The emcee, Pastor Tim, announces that the boys will be back once things get fixed. Yet, everyone is left ‘Traffic Jammed’ in that moment. The music was so great and powerful it was jolting for them to stop.
They did eventually return to the stage to finish off the Traffic Jam sandwich, but what a conclusion to the weekend it had been!
Fortunately all the tunes experienced at Horning’s satisfied our bluegrass needs. The sense of community, the kindness of fellow Strummiter’s, the beauty of the land, and many other qualities give more than enough reason to return to Strummit again. Until next time, Yonder.