Down the valley less than 20 miles west, just past Oso, is where Meltdown founder Josh Clauson grew up and still considers home.
The tragic landslide in March that killed 43 people and destroyed a neighborhood hit Clauson hard. Now in his mid-30s, the Arlington High School graduate said that the Meltdown this year is about community.
“The slide really affected our community and brought us together,” Clauson said. “A lot of our friends were involved in the rescue and recovery efforts, high school buddies in the fire departments.”
This year, the festival is issuing free passes to first-responders and survivors.
“We participated in fundraising concerts for Oso and we are continuing to honor the victims and thank the responders,” Clauson said. “There is a lot of pain and grieving still happening, and we want to make sure they know we are grateful for their service and sorry for their losses.”
At the festival, people can hang prayer messages on a living tree that will be decorated with origami cranes. The intention is to plant the tree at the site of the slide.
The mudslide showed Meltdown organizers how vital the festival is to the recovery of the community, he said.
“Darrington is a critical economic place, and the slide made it so even further,” Clauson said. “We draw a huge crowd of people. I believe the locals see more than ever what we have been doing up here. And we realize how much we are relying on the community as well. The tragedy brought the relationship to the forefront.”
In earlier meetings with state, Snohomish County officials and Darrington people from local businesses, the bluegrass festival, the archery contests, the rodeo and the Forest Service, Clauson said the common interest has been to work together to draw tourists to the Stilly Valley for recreation.
“And we want to make sure that people from Darrington, Oso, Trafton and Arlington and throughout Snohomish County feel welcome at our festival,” he said. “It's right in their back yard.”
The Meltown this year includes its usual eclectic mix of musical genres, a huge kids play area, workshops, food and beer garden.
“The Meltdown is about the melting pot. What we have that a lot of other festivals don't is variety,” Clauson said. “We have a wide range of music to enjoy.”
Clauson recommends Br'er Rabbit from Mount Vernon/Bellingham on Friday, Kris Orlowski, Seattle Rock Orchestra, Lord Huron and Allen Stone on Saturday and Everett-based band Preacher's Wife and Sir Mix-A-Lot on Sunday.
“Allen Stone recently opened for Stevie Wonder in Greece,” Clauson said. “We're really excited to unveil this soul magician because, despite his following internationally, he is generally unknown in the local area. I really hope people also enjoy Lord Huron, a great outdoor band, with gentle vocals that sound good in wide open spaces. And you cannot miss Mix-A-Lot. He is making a big splash with everything he does, like he did with his concert earlier this year with the Seattle Symphony.” And what about Clauson's band Flowmotion, the original Meltdown house band?
“The Flowmotion catalog has been pretty idle for a few years,” Clauson said. “We're ready to play on Sunday and there's not one mellow tune in our set. It's all dance-able jammin' and it should resonate with a lot of people.
“And as True Spokes on Saturday, we're delivering a set of vintage rock vibe. Full frontal double drums.”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @galefiege.
The 14th Summer Meltdown continues through Aug. 10 at the Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater, otherwise known as the bluegrass festival park, a few miles west of Darrington on Highway 530. Gates open at noon. A two-day pass is $130. Single-day passes are $75. Youth passes, for ages 9 through 15, are $25 for a single day, $40 for two days. Children 8 and younger are free. Parking is $5, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Oso community. More information is available at summermeltdownfest.com.
On Aug. 8: VioPan Duo, Kenzie Rose and the Juicy Jets, Beyond the Woods, Broken Femurs, Funky2Death, Br'er Rabbit, Motopony, Polyrhythmics, Black Joe Lewis, Publish the Quest, STRFKR, Medium Troy, The Grizzled Mighty, Neon Indian, Moon Sirens belly dancing, Seraphina Fiero and Mother of Pearl.
On Aug. 9: Thione Diop and Yeke Yeke, Purr Gato, Alyse Black, Each & All, House of Tarab and Moon Sirens, Manatee Commune, Kris Orlowski, McTuff, Seattle Rock Orchestra, Natural Vibrations, Lord Huron, The True Spokes, Allen Stone, MTBTZ, Cuff Lynx, Pimps of Joytime, Love and Light, Moon Sirens, Seraphina Fiero and Sea Stars.
On Aug. 10: Bakra Bata Music and Dance, Planes on Paper, Preacher's Wife, Scarlet Parke, Strumbellas, Ivan and Alyosha, Flavr Blue, Acorn Project, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Flowmotion and Five Alarm Funk.
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