A member of one of rock’s most important bands will help the Summer Meltdown festival celebrate its 20th anniversary this summer.
Ed O’Brien, a founding member of Radiohead who now performs under the name EOB, will headline. He will be joined by bill-toppers GRiZ and Greensky Bluegrass, along with more than 40 other acts that include jam bands, producers, indie rockers, funk masters and multi-instrumentalists.
The festival will take place Aug. 6-9 at Darrington Bluegrass Music Park. Tickets are $260 for four days of live music; a youth weekend pass (for ages 9 to 15) is $120, while entry is free for kids 8 and younger. They can be purchased online at summermeltdownfest.com.
Summer Meltdown began in 2000 as a backyard party on San Juan Island. The festival has grown by leaps and bounds since then, expanding its lineup and drawing thousands of fans every year.
Founder Josh Clauson, who now organizes the festival with his wife, Genevieve Hayton, said reaching 20 years is a milestone achievement.
“There does seem to be a deep sense of accomplishment and relaxation,” he said. “Every year, it’s just crazy. There’s always new challenges, whether it’s forest fire smoke or the mudslide in 2014. I look forward to hosting this one with Genevieve and feeling really proud we’ve made it this far.”
O’Brien, who played guitar for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame band, will cap the festival’s first night. He and his band will perform ethereal, alt-pop songs from his debut solo album, “Earth,” set to release in April.
“This is his first branch out from Radiohead,” Clauson said. “A lot of people who have been coming for a long time know Radiohead well. So to get to bask in that moment with one of the core founders of Radiohead in Darrington is going to be something really special.”
The best part, Clauson said, is that O’Brien actually asked to play at Summer Meltdown.
“That literally came to us,” Clauson said. “His management said, ‘Hey, Ed wants to play cool and intimate festivals.’ We were like, ‘Are you kidding?’
“The word is getting around that this spot, the venue and the team are very legit. Now we’re getting hit up by artists, as opposed to the other way around.”
In addition to giving fans a special performance by O’Brien, Clauson and Hayton have brought back popular acts from past festivals. GRiZ, who last played at the Meltdown in 2016, will perform his unique mesh of electronic, electro-soul and funk with jaw-dropping riffs on the saxophone.
“He’s grown monumentally since (2016),” Hayton said. “People seem more excited now than when we first had him at the festival four years ago.”
Greensky Bluegrass was also sought-after by fans after a well-liked performance in 2018. The progressive bluegrass band is known for its long, genre-defying jams.
“They have all the elements and tools a bluegrass band would have, but then they will stretch out and go off the cuff,” Clauson said. “These guys will explore open territory. That’s what makes it exciting for their fans and anybody in general — you’re never going to get the same song or set twice.”
Here’s a look at other acts playing at this year’s festival:
Big Wild is the stage name for Jackson Stell, a producer, composer and vocalist who plays electronic dance music, indie and pop. He is known as one of EDM’s most progressive live acts, switching between multiple instruments on stage, including drum pads, synths and keyboards.
Jai Wolf, an indie-electronic music producer also known as Sajeeb Saha, rose to prominence after his 2015 single, “Indian Summer.” His music often includes chilling bass lines, dreamy chords and anthemic crescendos, which are accented by soulful vocal chops.
The Disco Biscuits are a jam band formed in 1995. The band’s cross-pollination rock, techno, jazz, soul, blues and electronic music is considered one of the greatest in the jam-roots groove scene.
Galactic, another longtime jam band formed in 1994, borrows different styles from its hometown in New Orleans: jazz-funk, acid jazz, jazz rap and New Orleans R&B. Anjelika Jelly Joseph, a vocalist featured on Galactic’s new single “Float Up,” will perform with the band.
Opiou, also known as Oscar Davey-Wraight, is an electronic artist who plays “funkadelic bass music.” His high-energy sets are characterized by precisely blended grooves, bouncy beats and luscious soundscapes.
In addition to touring acts, Summer Meltdown showcases local music. This year, it’s Cytrus, a Snohomish County power-funk band. Cytrus was added to the lineup in 2019 after winning The Meltdown Showdown competition; now the band is on the lineup for real, poised to play its style of funk, disco, neo-soul, rock and hip-hop.
“It feels like a milestone achievement in a lot of ways, but in some ways it also feels like a coming of age for us as a band,” Cytrus guitarist Jared Squires said. “Having spent years in and out of different variations of what is now Cytrus, Summer Meltdown was always a common goal among us. It just took some time before we could push for something like that.”
Other performers include Akylla, Balkan Bump, Brass Against, Brograss, Cedar Teeth, Chong the Nomad, Cory Wong (of Vulfpeck), Cosmic Serenity, Crooked Colours, Cycles, Cytrus, Della Mae, döp, Dr. Fresch, Five Letter Word, Flowmotion, High Pulp, Karl Blau, Lotus Drops, Manatee Commune, Sol, Swatkins & The Positive Agenda, The Comet is Coming, The Funk Hunters, The Ries Brothers, Thione Diop, True Loves, Truth, Wolfchild, Yak Attack, Zach Deputy, Field Trip, Milk + Honey, Sub 49 and The Inturnship.
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.