Northwest String Summit - North Plains, OR (July 21-24)

Where to begin?  I feel like I could go on and on about String Summit.  It is, after all, the best festival ever. There were so many wonderful people there, and we had so many wonderful experiences.  We had spent a couple days in Oregon before the festival, and were well rested and ready by Thursday.  We managed to get a pretty large group of people to get up nice and early Thursday morning, and it really paid off because we were some of the first cars in line.  As we waited and mingled, we ran into more and more Kinfolk friends, and we could tell that we were in for an incredible weekend.

We got into the festival grounds and found our spot - right where we had hoped to be.  We spent the afternoon setting up our camp, eating, and catching up as more and more Kinfolk rolled in.  For some, it was a long-awaited first meeting; for others, it was a long-awaited reunion.  Either way, I don't think any of us had given or received that many hugs since last year's String Summit.

We finally pulled ourselves away from our camp and headed down to the bowl shortly after Pete Kartsounes and Burle started their set.  Vince Herman sat in for the entire set, and Anders Beck and Jeff also sat in for a few songs.  Cornmeal played a fun and funky set, and Greensky Bluegrass closed out the night.  It was a really fun way to start out the festival.  As we looked around, it was hard to believe that it was only Thursday.  We knew that the 10th Anniversary String Summit would bring a crowd, but we had no idea.


One thing that I love about the String Summit is that there is always so much free time on Thursday and Friday.  Once the music started on Friday, it all seemed to whiz on by, but that first day and a half was so relaxed as we all got into the swing of festival life and reconnected with all of our friends.  And ate food.  We always manage to eat so much better at festivals than we do at home.  Go figure.

We finally picked ourselves up and headed down to the bowl for the band competition at 4:30.  The bands were good; I think The Bucky Walters was my favorite of the group.  While we all sat on the blanket and listened to the different bands, I also enjoyed a delicious root beer float.  Yum!

Cascadia Project came on after the band competition, and I must say, anything with Darol Anger and Scott Law is pretty much guaranteed to be good.  

Keller and the Keels came on after Cascadia Project.  I love seeing Keller with Larry and Jenny Keel, and we got to share it with a lot of friends, some who had never seen Keller and the Keels.  Colin and I used to travel all over to see Keller, but we have seen him much less in the past few years, so it just felt so good to see him, and with so many of our favorite musicians sitting in.  This was a high energy, super fun set.  Dave came out for "Winds on Fire" and "Rosalie McFall".  Danny Barnes and Darol Anger came out for "Get it While You Can", "Chicken Train", and "Steam Powered Aereoplane".  Adam came out for "Mountain Song" and "Comes a Time".  Drew Emmitt came out for "Troubled Times", and stayed to finish off the set with Jeff and Ben also sitting in on everyone's favorite, "Portapotty".  

And then... it was Yonder time.  The band that originally brought us all together. The band that brings us all so much joy.  And here we all were, at this Kinfolk family reunion, and we were ready to boogie.  Opening with "Ten", the boys succeeded in getting us jumping right away.

After "Ragdoll" and "40 Miles From Denver", Adam introduced Ben, Ben introduced Adam, and Jeff introduced "Mr. David Johnston with the 'Mental Breakdown', friends!"

Jeff then spoke about how much fun they had been having playing some of their newer tunes before they began Adam's "All the Time".  I really like this one.  After "All the Time", Jeff had us build up a big bubble of energy and send it up to John Kaufmann, Sandy Alexander, and Lilli Trippe before the band ripped into "Up on the Hill Where They do the Boogie".  The love was in the air, and so was the dust as we all started dancing even harder for our friends we have lost.  It was just one of many emotional and inspirational moments at this year's String Summit.  

While introducing the next song, Ben talked about wanting to play this song and being pleasantly surprised to see it on the setlist as they started the show, since Jeff had been in charge of writing the setlist.  It was "Rag Mama", and we were pleasantly surprised as well.  Next was some bluegrass... another of my favorite new tunes, "Little Lover".  "And now from a song about love lost, and disinherited, and alienated, and post-modernized, to a song about love disinherited and post-modernized."  Thanks, Dave.  "Left Me in a Hole".  

Then Jeff introduced one of the first people who was ever nice to them in the world of music, Keller Williams, and they played a killer "New Horizons"> "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough"> "New Horizons".  There was so much energy in this sandwich, and with Jeff and Keller exchanging verses, you couldn't ask for anything more.  

The second set started out with Danny Barnes joining the boys for one of my favorite musical moments of the festival.  "My Gal" and "Pretty Daughter".  After "My Gal", Ben asked who had never been to String Summit before, "on behalf of us and the rest of us who have been here before, welcome home."  He also spoke about the magic of String Summit and the impossibility of verbally explaining it to other people, being one of those experiences that you tell people, "you just had to have been there".  And for this awesome "Pretty Daughter" with Danny Barnes, I'm telling you now; you had to have been there.

Danny left the stage, and after noodling around and building some anticipation, Jeff brought us into "Girlfriend is Better"> "Robots"> "Girlfriend is Better".  I always love hearing "Girlfriend", but you put some "Robots" in the middle, and I'm on cloud nine.  Ben then introduced the next song, "written by one of my favorite song writers in the whole world... ME!"  I love it.  And I love "Jail Song". 

After "Criminal", Jeff grabbed the bizarre sign that had been bobbing up and down in the crowd and held it up for all of us to see.  Then Ben proceeded to do his Jeff "Riverside" impression.  Funny... and weird.  Then things got scary for a second before we were saved with bluegrass and "What the Night Brings".  

After finishing the set with a fantastic "Traffic Jam", Pastor Tim briefly came out and stated, "Well that was a kilt-lifter!" before the band came back out for one more.  The fastest song they know, "Whitehouse Blues".  

Overall, this was a great Friday full of some of the best music of the festival.  We were able to return to our camp, fully musically satisfied.  Then our bellies were fully satisfied with Colin's homemade chicken and noodles.  I'm telling you, we know how to eat!


How did we begin our Saturday?  With bacon.  Lots and lots of bacon.  Then we made sure to get down to the bowl early for some Pert Near Sandstone - last year's band competition winner, and one of my favorites.

After Pert Near, I wandered around a little, but made it back up front for Emmitt-Nershi Band.  I love these guys, and it was a great show, but there was a serious lack of flow.  Long breaks between songs after a late start made it kind of hard to get into the swing of the set.  But it was still great and we got a lot of goodies.

The kid's parade came next, which also meant it was time for a little Facebook-organized Kinfolk meeting.  It was nice to finally put some faces and names together, and to meet more Kinfolk.  There was also a CD swap, which went over really well, and should probably happen more frequently.

I missed some of the Travelin' McCourys, saw the second half from the blanket, then went back up front for the Kinfolk Hall of Fame Induction.  I was pretty excited when they announced this addition to the festival.  It was an extremely heartfelt way for the band to show their appreciation to those who have made such a difference to them personally and professionally.  As Jeff, Ben, Dave, and Adam read through the names, and our Kinfolk Hall of Famers joined together on the stage, everyone became more and more emotional.  Finally, Jeff got to our newest inductee - Lilli Trippe.  I don't think there was a dry eye at Horning's as Jeff shared with all of us the impact this little girl has made in his life, just as she's made such an impact on so many of us.  It was a beautiful thing.

After the Hall of Fame Induction, it was time for the Kinfolk Street Team meet and greet, so we headed backstage for more Kinfolk introductions.  

There was no time to waste, and as the meet and greet ended I made my way back up front where I would stay for the remainder of the night.  I caught the very end of Todd Snider with Great American Taxi, and Railroad Earth was up next.  I think a huge number of people at Horning's this weekend were there for Railroad Earth.  The bowl was packed!

And then, after such a long day of music and fun, it was Yonder time.  Instead of the usual introductions, Pastor Tim had us introduce the band as he held up his fingers:





And... Liftoff!  

Yonder started the party right with "After Midnight"> "Casualty".  These two songs went great together, and the transition was seamless.  Next, they invited Todd Snider on stage for "East Nashville Easter", "Just Like Old Times", and "Suspicious Minds".  They also had Dave Hicks (Elvis) come up and sing "Suspicious Minds".  That was incredibly entertaining to watch.  He had some good moves.

After Todd and "Elvis" left the stage, our 5-member version of Yonder played two of my favorites, on either side of one of my not-so favorites; "Night Out", "Complicated", and "Night is Left Behind".  I love love LOVE "Night is Left Behind".  This was one of my first favorite Yonder songs when we started going to shows, and they hardly ever play it.  I especially like the line about corn, since I'm from Iowa.

"I like friends", Ben said as the band welcomed Ronnie McCoury, Jason Carter, Bridget Law, Gwen France, and Samson Grisman to the stage to close out the set with "Angel"> "Kentucky Mandolin".  This was fun, but once again, it could have been planned a little better because it didn't really flow with all of the guests on stage.  

Yonder took the shortest set break ever (around 15 minutes!), and came back out ready to kick some butt.  They opened with "Out of the Blue", then wasted no time and brought Danny Barnes out for some fun, starting with "One More", and then rolling into "Funtime".  These songs were great with Danny, especially "Funtime" (duh).  It was fun to see Ben and Danny trading off singing verses.  I don't know about any of you, but I think Danny Barnes is the bee's knees.  One of the coolest people ever.

After Danny left the stage, Ben said that he was going to sing a song with Adam, "If you like that sort of thing."  And they played "Rain Still Falls".  After the song, Dave gave us a glimpse into his and Adam's song writing process, before Jeff's distortion brought us into "Sidewalk Stars".  "Cuckoo's Nest" was dedicated to the two boys that were on the rail in front of us all night, having a great time, and fist pumping to the music.  They were so stoked to get a shout out, and Jeff was so stoked watching them rock out all night.  "2 Hits and the Joint Turned Brown" was next... and really weird.  Something about silver people...?  I don't know.  This show was full of so many "greatest hits", that we were all pleasantly surprised when "Althea" came next.  That was nice.  But then, sadly, it was already time for the last chunk of music.  But they did it up right with "Piece of Mind"> "Boatman"> "Looking Back Over My Shoulder"> "Piece of Mind".  The jams in this sandwich were mighty fine.

This was a really fun show, but pretty standard for a two-set festival show.  I think this being the 10th anniversary of String Summit, maybe we expected more - more guests, more surprises, more theatrics (after the robots from last year, it's a reasonable expectation, right?).  They did have a really cool peacock thing come through the crowd, but being up front, we didn't get a good view.  It was a great show, but I think Yonder plays so many incredible shows that it's hard to keep topping themselves all the time.  Fortunately, we always know we are going to have a great time at a Yonder show - no matter what they play.  And we had a really really great time.


Sunday already?!  How is that even possible?!  This year's festival went by so incredibly fast, I couldn't even comprehend that it was almost over.  I just wish that String Summit was a week long.  Then there would be enough time for all of the friends and music - you just can't stuff all of that into four days.  Even though we couldn't believe it was Sunday, we were all pretty worn out and slept later than usual, giving us just enough time to get pink and frilly for Lilli and head down to the bowl for the last day of music.

We got down there in time for Elephant Revival, but so did everyone else.  I couldn't believe how full the bowl was at 1p.m. on Sunday!  It was just incredible. We made our way up front one more time for the last couple acts of the festival. The first one being Danny Barnes with Drew Emmitt and Larry Keel (with Darol sitting in for the entire set).  Whatever.  No big deal.  Just some of the most talented musicians ever!  It was pretty freaking awesome.

At one point, Danny had to flip the tape.  I love his obsession with cassette tapes.

After Danny's set, we said our goodbyes to Scotty's lovely locks as he headed backstage to get it all chopped off for charity.  It was a big day.  Everyone was wearing pink, and we knew it was going to be something special.  

The Yonder boys came out... and they were indeed wearing pink.  Lilli would have loved it.  I know we all did.

They opened with "Ramblin in the Rambler", and when it was time for the shots, our wonderful Scotty had the honor of bringing them out to the band.  He made sure to take his own shot before taking his place at a seat designated for him.  The anticipation built as Scotty sat down, Todd wrapped the bib around his neck, and Devlyn picked up her scissors.  It happened so fast!  The braid was gone.  And as the band started playing "Come Together", the tiny bit of hair Scotty had left fell to the floor as his head and most of his beard was completely shaved.  It was a pretty amazing thing to see.  There was so much love coming from Yonder, Scotty, and the rest of us out there - wearing pink, beaming with love for one little girl and everything she did for our community.

Scotty's sisters really enjoyed it.

Yonder continued on and Scotty boogied and hugged his way off of the stage and into the crowd.

Stella came out during the set break and said some words about Sandy.  Scotty came around and we got to rub his bald head, give him hugs, and put money in his jug.  

The second set started out with one of the best sandwiches: "Troubled Mind"> "20 Eyes"> "Troubled Mind".  You can't go wrong with that!  This set had some goodies, such as "Ripcord Blues", but the best part was the reprise of "Ten" to sandwich the whole weekend together.  Brilliant. 

It's amazing how fast people clear out once the music is over.  Lucky, we managed to get a big Kinfolk group photo before we all had to say goodbye.  Dale and Chris were late.

This was a great day.  I really don't know what else to say.  You really just had to be there.  Luckily, a lot of people took photographs, and there are great recordings of all the shows.  But it's just not the same.   I can't thank everyone enough for being the wonderful people that you all are.  I know that I am a better person for knowing all of you and sharing all of these unbelievable experiences together.  Let's do it again next year, what do you say? 

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

Yonder Mountain String Band
7/22/11 Northwest String Summit, North Plains, OR

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Yonder Mountain String Band
7/23/11 Northwest String Summit, North Plains, OR

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Yonder Mountain String Band
7/24/11 Northwest String Summit, North Plains, OR

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