On social media, Summer Meltdown fans talk about the “family reunion” that’s coming around again this weekend.
On Instagram, young people post photos of themselves as children playing at the Darrington music festival. On Facebook, their parents make contact with longtime friends to set up their annual meeting.
The Meltdown, Aug. 10-13, has a multi-generational fan base, and producers Josh and Genevieve Clauson couldn’t be more pleased.
Josh Clauson, who grew up near Arlington and started the festival in 2000 with his band Flowmotion, has always felt a familial connection with the fans.
“Our longtime fans are peaceable and loving. Considering the divisiveness in our country right now, it’s a good time for us to cut loose together,” Clauson said. “Many people take their vacations this week in order to be at the festival. For many it’s medicinal.”
This year, the four-day festival — which features 40 bands on four stages — has more camping space, more activities for children and more music late into the night.
“Our goal with the festival is to refine the experience, make it easier, more comfortable, more enjoyable,” Clauson said.
The Clausons are already thinking about next year’s festival, though they admit it’s going to be difficult to top the events planned for this week.
For example, the headliner for this year’s festival is the String Cheese Incident, which plays a lively mix of bluegrass, Americana, rock, electronica, calypso, country, folk, jazz, salsa, reggae and psychedelia. Whew.
The Colorado-based band has a huge national following, much like the Grateful Dead did, with fans who travel from around the country to attend as many shows as they can on the band’s summer tour.
If you aren’t familiar with SCI, note that the band was the main headliner at the very first Sasquatch! Music Festival in 2002 at the Gorge. The band will play a set Saturday night and a full three-hour show on Sunday night.
Each night will be a good night, however, the Clausons said.
The Infamous Stringdusters from Virginia and Nahko &Medicine for the People from Los Angeles are the main stage acts tonight. Longtime Flowmotion fans can see the band perform its classic tunes at midnight on the garden stage.
“But I really hope the local bluegrass community comes out tonight to hear the Infamous Stringdusters,” Clauson said. As the band’s website notes, they are “the very model of a major modern bluegrass band.”
The high-energy band Polecat from Bellingham will make its seventh appearance at the festival on Friday, followed by The Floozies duo from Kansas and The Polish Ambassador from San Francisco. On Saturday, the Shook Twins from Portland and Opuio from Australia perform before the String Cheese set. On Sunday evening, fans can hear The Commonheart from Pennsylvania and Colorado’s Elephant Revival (whose member Bonnie Paine sang on the most recent SCI album) before the big Cheese concert.
“Until now, we were too small of a festival to invite a band like String Cheese Incident,” Clauson said. “They were the top choice in a poll of fans, and having them here is a huge step for us. We are a festival unlike any other from Vancouver (British Columbia) to Eugene (Oregon), and so many people don’t yet know about us.”
Though Summer Meltdown has a jam band reputation, said Genevieve Clauson, it features its share of electronic dance music, blues and rock as well.
The Darrington community sets the stage for the good vibes at Meltdown, she said.
“The Darrington Bluegrass Association provides such a welcoming facility and intimate amphitheater,” Genevieve Clauson said. “With its view of Whitehorse Mountain, it’s truly one of the cherished treasures of our beautiful region.”
The festival is Aug. 10-13 at the Darrington Bluegrass Music Park, 42501 Highway 530, just west of Darrington. A full festival pass is $235. Friday through Sunday is $200, Saturday and Sunday tickets are $170 and the Sunday pass is $100. Children age 8 and younger enter free and youth to age 15 pay about a third of regular prices. All the information you need regarding camping, tickets, outdoors activities and more is at summermeltdownfest.com.