No meltdown at Summer Meltdown

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8th Annual Flowmotion Summer Meltdown
Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater
Darrington, Washington
August 8, 2008

The Summer Meltdown has long been established as one of Washington states premier jam band festivals. Although modest in terms of size, word on the street has quickly spread that the fest is large in fun. The full mountain views of the Cascades and pristine river flowing through the grounds pull mother nature in for the fest experience and the heavily wooded atmosphere of the grounds provide acres of shaded camping for all to enjoy and rest easy

 

Flowmotion is band that has taken great care to assure that the festival that bears their name remains at a beautiful venue, and spares no details in catering to its guests in the complete entertainment department.  This event is definitely planned with families (of ALL kinds) in mind. The kids camp held a variety of engaging and educational activities for young and old alike including a drum workshop, craft table and parade. The good people who run this party are definitely taking grass roots planning to an impressive level and do provide a mindful and humanitarian experience for all concerned.

From the bright handmade letterpress cover on the event program to the type of sponsors and vendors they invite and support, this party is setting itself miles apart from your average corporate music event by thinking “green” about everything they plan.  For example, this year’s entire festival was run on B99 Biodiesel. (A huge improvement from just last year-where a 20%  Biodiesel limit that was imposed by generator companies). A “Green Village” was set up to educate attendees on topics surrounding alternative energy and how to incorporate the alternative choices into a healthy lifestyle today for your own community. An “open forum” was held to discuss ideas for further fest sustainability. Topics included solar stages, solar showers, and fuel credits for carpools.

Food waste composting stations were implemented this year, and paper plates and plasticware were eliminiated from the Green Room and Volunteer Kitchen. Discounts were given to those who purchased food and drink items and brought their own dishes/utensils to enjoy them from. Next year the goal is to completely eliminate disposable dishes all together.

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In this historic election year, the Headcount booth was always an active place to visit.  And if philanthropy is your bag, opportunities to give to the Darrington community were made simple. A food bank was set up for donations, and all festival tips made at the beer garden and official Meltdown Espresso and Burger stand went to Darrington Family Services and the Darrington Food Bank.

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Of course, if you attended this festival to enjoy music then you were also in the right place!  Two stages and a “late night tent”  hosted a total of 32 acts. This year’s headliners included Flowmotion, Tea Leaf Green, Buckethead, ALO and The Everyone Orchestra featuring Steve Kimock – an impressive array of talent was offered, and no one band sounded much like the other.

Also notable was the amount of mingling and stage sharing going on. Many of the performers seemed to enjoy a guest or two on their stage. The weekend’s weather decided to mirror the planning and contributed a little bit of everything that mother nature can provide. Rain never seems to hold up any event in the Pacific Northwest too much and certainly didn’t slow down the celebrating of anyone for this gathering. 

Friday night’s highlights included a set of belly dancing by local shakers and was proceeded by a jazzy interlude with Seattle’s own McTuff.  Saxophone maestro Skerik added that ever familiar vibe of smirk to the air and his loveable side kick Joe Doria tickled the ears of the audience with the rejuvenating sound of his B3. Guitarist Andy Coe was also in top form.

A very amusing pre dusk sight to see was the masses of youngsters that filled the front rail to cheer on That One Guy with shouts of “Weasel Pot Pie!”  Dubbed as “future funk” his pipe playing has been taken to extraordinary levels for the ear to decipher. TOG is as much fun to watch as he is to listen to.

Trev-TLG.jpgThe ever and increasingly admired San Francisco band Tea Leaf Green played a two hour set of jam pop to close out the evening. Special moments included a solo by keyboard/vocalist Trevor Garrod for the song “Innocence” and guest appearances by That One Guy for “The Invasion” and  Josh Clauson (Flowmotion) on “Criminal Intent” and “Sex in the 70’s.”

Saturday’s festivities began with a perky mid morning set of steel drums by Symphony De La Steel. They brought a reggae vibe to match the always lingering reggae scent of the weekend! Rain cloud filled skies didn’t hold back the childlike rockers Recess Monkeys. The elementary school teachers/part time band provided miles of smiles to all ages with their goofy lyrics and soon had a mob of toddlers on the dance floor to demonstrate just how fun and therapuetic unabashed lunch time dancing can be.

Handful of Luvin was a band that displayed hints of DMB worship. Fiddle player Andrew Joslyn and guitarist/singer David John have a very polished performance and provided much to watch (as well as listen to) as they jumped about the stage in time. Infectious is a word that desribes their easy listening and active performance.

Delta-Nove.jpgThe Dave Brogan Band added an extra easy air to the misty cool and breezy afternoon. A cover of Cat Stevens “Wild World” made their set extra touching and heartfelt. California group Delta Nove kicked it up a notch and had the beer garden hopin’ to the funky groove and clarinet playing of member Rob Covacevich in no time flat.  The mysterious guitar virtuoso Buckethead amused and delighted the masses with his strange and silent approach to making noise as the crowd slowly gathered towards the main stage for the evening’s headlining set. 

As soon as Flowmotion took the stage, guitar players Josh Clauson and RL Heyer displayed rock attitudes on FIRE. Watching these two gun slingers go head to head is nothing short of powerful and very entertaining. To say they compliment, push and rouse each other is an understatement. Their guitar playing body language alone speaks volumes to how much fun they have at the Meltdown. The opening song “Sgt. Pepper > With a Little Help From My Friends” was a nice way to help prepare the audience for the down pour of rain that was soon to come.

A special guest appearances was made by Trevor Garrod for “Please Don’t.” A complete surprise included an appearance from harmonica player Lee Oskar (War) for an extended version of “Gather Light.” That One Guy joined the stage for a very modern and authentic cover of David Bowies “Fame.”  When the nearly three hour set was complete, it was time for all dawn patrollers to head to the late night tent and take in the highly anticipated All Star Jam. Guests were treated to a melting pot band comprised of musicians from scheduled fest bands. If one was too tired to head that way, the music could be enjoyed from almost any tent near the area.

While I wasn’t able to stay for the entire four days of Summer Meltdown, I did have more than enough time to conclude that I needed to return again. The event lives up to its hippie street hype and credentials, and then some. Flowmotion is leading the way to a healthier and ultimately more prosperous festival example for all to follow, and in this day and age it’s certainly something to support.

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