It’s Time for a Summer Meltdown; The Festival That Is |

It’s Time for a Summer Meltdown; The Festival That Is

August 19, 2010

Article and Photos by Carlton Ward

The Summer Meltdown is a multi day grassroots music festival hosted by Terra Roots in collaboration with Seattle band Flowmotion. and is located at  Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater in Darrington, WA. It took place this past August 6,7 & 8

It was the 10th birthday for the Summer Meltdown and it is amazing that this little festival has managed to stay under the radar as much as it has and continues to maintain its small & local charm. Unlike many of the larger festivals, the meltdown has a larger local attendance and few of the touring festivarians have this marked on their calendars. The festival features many bands from the Pacific Northwest with a few national bands scattered throughout. I attend High Sierra, Earthdance, Hornings Hideout gatherings most years and this was my 2nd (but not last) Meltdown.

The Summer Meltdown takes place in Darrington, Washington at the Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater which is about 70 miles northeast of Seattle (not to be confused with the White River Amphitheater in Auburn, Wa.). With Whitehorse mountain as a backdrop it is a very picturesque setting and features camping in the shaded forest with a small creek running by and 3 stages.

The Main stage is where the headliners play with the Beer Garden stage just to its right that immediately starts with in-between acts so there is music playing all day.

They have a late-night stage, as well, and some of the best music all weekend took place at the there.

There is also a 4th small stage called the Village Stage that is just behind the vending area and it is 100% run via solar power and features ongoing activities during the day such as Vendors fashion shows, hula-hoop workshops and some musical acts as well.

Vending is at the top of the venue and has a great assortment of food, clothing, art-crafts, ATMs, 1st aid & info area & a couple of hippie bling-bling booths as well.  

The festival also has a 4th day that precedes the main fest & starts on Thursday (for an additional $25 fee). This year it featured Michael Gonzalez, 3 On The Tree, Flowmotion, EOTO and the Acorn Project.

Stages are designated as (M) Main Stage – (BG) Beer Garden – (T) Late night tent – (V) Village…

Friday – sunny & cloudy:

Rejoice (BG), Be Careful (BG), Publish the Quest (BG), Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder (M), Dept. of Energy (BG), The Mutaytor (M), Presidents of the U.S.A (M), Randy Hansen (BG) Five Alarm Funk (T), Julia and the Dream (V).

On to the show…

I arrived on Friday on a beautiful sunny afternoon. After getting my credentials and setting up my tent, I took the short & easy stroll down to the theater to catch the last part of Mutaytor. They are a fun vaudevillian group and I wish I had made it a bit earlier to experience more of them. I wanted to see Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder who played earlier but will have to catch his band at the Tost Lounge in Seattle that plays on Monday nights.

Following Mutaytor was the Presidents of the United States who were a very tight & polished band with an edgier rock sound. The Presidents are not my cup of tea musically but they do what they do very well.

Randy Hansen followed in the Beer garden and fronts a talented Jimi Hendrix tribute band. Randy’s facial features & guitar antics are very reminiscent of Jimi. I thoroughly enjoyed his set.

5 Alarm funk was tight & funky and had the late-night tent jumping.

I also caught a bit of Julia & the Dream who made me think “Portishead” with her vocals & sound at the Village stage.

Saturday and the rain:

Polecat (BG), Groove Patrol (BG), Nicki Bluhm (M), Levi Ware (BG), Manooghi Hi (M), Andrew Vait (BG), The Mother Hips (M), One Man Banned (BG), FLOWMOTION (M), Delhi 2 Dublin (BG), Panda Conspiracy (T), Sarah Schmidt (V)

This is the Pacific Northwest and rain does fall, and fall it did. For midwest & east readers who are not aware, the rain is very light like a heavy mist but over time my camera pack & velvet robe started absorbing quite a bit of water and I eventually had to put on a rain jacket.

I enjoyed listening to Polecat while making breakfast at camp and then made it down to catch Groove Patrol at the beer garden stage who were indeed very groovy and then the fantastic (and beautiful) Nicki Bluhm sang & performed on the main stage.

I was also bouncing about a bit as the Vendors Fashion show wastaking place at the Village stage while also visiting with friends (new & old). Jay (Whairnt) was there along with Kashi’s and a couple more festival vendors who make the rounds but there were also locals who offered a Pacific Northwest flavor of arts & crafts that you don’t see at other festivals.

Caught a bit of Levi Ware and enjoyed his band very much before being blown away by Manooghi Hi. I have known Jarrod Kaplan for over 10 years and he is always playing with cool & eclectic ensembles.  

Manooghi Hi were dynamic, entertaining & fun with Jarrod explained their music as being India/Bali meets Seattle grunge. Todd Fogelsongerformed the band with Mehnaz Hoosein as the lead singer and she is an amazing performer. It worked for me and I can’t wait to see them again. They ended their set with Led Zeppelins “I’m Down” which sent the crowd into a frenzy as Ava Chakravartistepped up from her background vocals position to sing lead.

I really enjoyed Andrew Vaits & his band – they are all very talented and I feel are close to making a splash on the scene.

The Mother Hips were fantastic (as usual) and a little after 9pm Flowmotion took the main stage.

This festival is all about Flowmotion as they are the promoters & the centerpiece of the festival. Josh & the band came out strong and stayed that way for the next 2.5 hours. They had some nice laser lights which created some interesting photos as the raindrops continued to fall and they were on top of their game musically. Since adding their newest member – guitarist R. L. Heyer, they have a heavier rock sound and I enjoyed their show.  

Delhi 2 Dublin was up next on the Beer Garden stage featuring Kytami LaBlanc who is exciting & inspiring. I have never seen a fiddle player jump, leap & fly across the stage as she does while never missing a note. It was a challenge to capture a good photo of her on the low-light BG stage but I think I took my best photo the the entire weekend with this one.

Delhi 2 Dublins music is as labeled with instruments like the tabla drums & Kytami’s fiddle providing a celtic kick along with strong bass, & other percussion. The beer garden was rocking and jam packed during their set.

I then went over to the late-night tent to catch Panda Conspiracy. They had additional lighting and were very tight until experiencing a power failure during their set which created an impromptu drum jam with one guy holding a flashlight behind the drummer.

Power was soon restored as I made my way to explore another late-night setup that I will refer to as “Mollyworld”. They had DJ music pumping and some cool lights as well. A few girls threw their arms around me and told me they loved me and I introduced myself – hence my naming of this area. I heard they got shut down at 4am as they were in the middle of prime camping area and after being asked to turn it down a notch, they would turn it back up again in short order.  

Since I decided not to join “Mollyworld” in its adventures, I went back to my tent around 3am and hung out with some of the local production crew who were playing some acoustic music before falling down for some rest.

Sunday – no rain – yippee….

The Librarians (BG), Little Seahorse (M), Vicci Martinez (BG), Wisdom (M), Beecraft (BG), Josh Clauson (M), Spanish for 100 (BG), Hot Buttered Rum (M), McTuff (BG) , Dumpstaphunk (M), Everyone Orchestra (T), Ben Bruce (V)

Listened to the Librarians from my tent then made my way down to catch Little Seahorse who had lots of children on stage with them playing percussion.

Vicci Martinez then hit the BG stage and I liked her voice & music.

After getting some food and an incredible piece of chocolate cake, I slipped into a coma, and when I came out of it, Wisdom was on the main stage.

Wisdom is a hip-hop/reggae act which was not an in your face or militant type rap and I enjoyed them. They played some musically-lyrically smooth & cool songs.  

I then made my way to the creek that runs close by and there were all these inspiring rock stackings everywhere. It is so beautiful & peaceful down by the creek, so I chatted & shot photos of a few people there & the creek itself of course.

I caught the tail end of Beecraft then Josh Clauson was having a CD release party on the main stage and played the music from his new album. which is more acoustic, with a mellower sound than Flowmotion and some nice rhythms as well.

Spanish for 100 was another band I wasn’t familiar with and they played an energetic & rocking set. There was a belly dancing costume show & exhibition at the Village stage and then the Hot Buttered Rum String Band (SF area) took the main stage.

You could feel the energy take a drastic turn up as the Buttered Boys played a diverse & vibrant set. Many of the locals had never heard of HBRSB and this set earned them many new fans.

McTuff (yet another local band) played the BG stage and I quickly became a fan. Joe Dorria on the Hammond started this band as a tribute to the past greats but they have morphed & created their own niche as they have a wonderful jazz/funk sound.

Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk then took the main stage and they had the whole venue dancing and getting their funk on . They played with great energy & created a fun party atmosphere.  

They closed the main stage and I made my way over to Matt Butlers Everyone Orchestra in the late night tent. Matt had all of the Butter Boys, Tim & Nicki Bluhm (Mother Hips) along with 3 drummer/percussionists on stage. They played a variety of musical styles and songs and had the late night tent rocking.

I headed back over to “Mollyworld” but it was gone and a smaller version was set up close by that was much quieter (no louder than a small boombox) but security came along and asked them to turn it down even more and at that point the festival was over.

I then made my way back to the late-night tent and spoke with some of the Flowmotion guys and asked them about the festival. They would like to get bigger and the venue and camping area could accommodate everyone if it doubled its size. If you have never experienced the Summer Meltdown, I highly recommend it and if you have – see you next year.

See all of Carlton Wards Meltdown photos here –

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