The newest member of the Grand Ole Opry is performing in Darrington this summer.
Rhonda Vincent and her band, The Rage, will headline the 44th annual Darrington Bluegrass Festival, set for July 17-19 at Darrington Bluegrass Music Park. Other top-billed acts on the lineup, announced March 11, are The Gibson Brothers, The Chapmans and Zach Top & Modern Tradition. Five regional acts also will perform during the three-day festival, including Seattle’s North Country and Spokane’s Kevin Pace.
Vincent’s induction into the Grand Ole Opry — considered one of the top honors in country music — is the latest of many accomplishments in her career. She won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2017 with “All the Rage: In Concert Volume One (Live),” on top of seven other Grammy nominations.
“She’s the queen of bluegrass,” said Diana Morgan, a festival organizer. “Everybody who’s into bluegrass knows who Rhonda is.”
Vincent has performed at the Darrington festival, known for its picturesque view of White Horse Mountain from the amphitheater, a handful of times. She enjoys interacting with fans, Morgan says.
“When she gets done playing, she’ll go change clothes, put her hair in a sideways pony tale and jam with everybody,” Morgan said. “She’s very personable like that. These are her fans and she gets out there and embraces them.”
Despite numerous concert and festival cancellations across the state because of the coronavirus, the longtime bluegrass festival is still a go — but that could change.
Morgan, 74, of Darrington, said the festival’s board of directors would decide in June whether to go forward with the event. It all depends on how well the state’s social distancing method works out.
“It’s a little scary,” Morgan said. “We don’t know how it’s going to last. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The uncertainty is scary for all of us, not just our festival, but other festivals, too. That’d be heartbreaking for all of us.”
The festival attracts about 4,000 attendees each year, and is important to the isolated town’s economy.
Morgan said this year’s lineup would be a shame to miss.
The Gibson Brothers are award-winning bluegrass duo Leigh and Eric Gibson, who won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainers of the Year award in 2012 and 2013. Their music blurs the lines of genres, ranging from country-soul to 1970s-style rock.
“They’re well-liked by bluegrass people,” Morgan said. “It’s their brotherly harmonies. They do bluegrass, but they’re branching out and doing some country stuff, too.”
The Chapmans are another family band. Patriarch Bill, who plays five-string banjo and sings, and brothers John (guitar, vocals), Jeremy (mandolin, vocals) and Jason (upright bass, vocals), are known for a “distinctive, dynamic sound” that pays homage to traditional bluegrass with some modern innovation. They’ve toured the country ever since their first album in 1999, “Notes From home,” nominated for Society of Bluegrass Music Association’s Album of the Year Award.
Zach Top and Modern Tradition is fronted by Top, a Pasco native who now lives in Denver, Colorado. The band — Maddie Denton (fiddle), Calib Smith (banjo), Wyatt Harmon (bass, vocals) and Zion Napier (mandolin, vocals) — was signed by Nashville-based bluegrass label RBR Entertainment in 2019.
The band’s debut single, “In A World Gone Wrong,” peaked at No. 7 on Bluegrass Today’s charts.
“We definitely hold true to the roots that we got in old traditional bluegrass, but we definitely put our own spin on it,” Top said. “I’m really into old classic country, so those influences get in there.”
The festival will be a homecoming for Top, 22, who played in Darrington in 2016 as a member of his family band, Top String.
“It’s a beautiful venue,” Top said. “I don’t think I’ve played a prettier one. Overall, it’s just a really fun atmosphere. People have a really good time.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
The Darrington Bluegrass Festival is July 17-19 at Darrington Bluegrass Music Park, 42501 Highway 530. Before June 30, three-day tickets are $65 for adults and $30 for ages 13-16. After June 30, weekend tickets are $75 and $45 for youth. Single-day tickets are $30 for Friday, $40 for Saturday and $30 for Sunday. Children 12 and younger get in free. Call 360-436-1179 or go to www.darringtonbluegrass.com.
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