DARRINGTON — He’s 100 feet up in a black cottonwood tree he’s about to take down. A 60-ton crane is waiting to move away the top cut.
In one hand Marty House holds his loud chainsaw — the blade idled, of course — and he answers his cellphone with the other.
This time of year, House, a high-climber logger, doesn’t dare miss a call. He’s the founder and producer of the Spur Festival, which starts tonight and runs through Sunday at Darrington’s outdoor music park on Highway 530.
This third annual festival has attracted the likes of country star Keith Anderson, but it also includes many local bands.
New regional hot shot Miller Campbell asked House if she could participate this year.
“With the Watershed Festival (July 28-30 at the Gorge) inviting just national acts, the Spur Festival is the only big event for Washington state country artists,” Campbell said. “And who wouldn’t want to perform in Darrington with a view of Whitehorse Mountain?”
An exciting lineup awaits those who attend the festival, House said.
In addition to Anderson and Campbell, hear Marlin James, Whiskey Fever, Ryan Blair, Jessica Lynne, FrogHollow, Lowdown Drifters, Greenneck Daredevils, Steel Grit, Massy Ferguson, Ghost of the Outlaw, Kevin Kieneker, Norman Baker, Knut Bell, The Olson Bros Band, Tayla Lynn, Dakota Poorman, John Dough Boys, The Folsoms and Darci Carlson. And be entertained by the Boot Boogie Babes dance team.
House, now 33, launched Spur in 2015 and lived through his first year with some mild disorganization. The 2016 festival was better, and this year local band members are saying that House has hit his stride.
Ryan Klein of the Lowdown Drifters band from Stanwood appreciates that the Spur Festival provides a gathering place for local country musicians.
“We rarely get to go out and see other bands because we are playing at the same time,” Klein said. “It’s important that we support each other and the genre. Marty creates a real sense of community and has been a great advocate for local music. And he is a great fan.
“As more people find out about the authentic music being made here, and as a scene builds around that, the festival will continue to grow and succeed.”
Pop country is not the focus of the Spur Festival, Klein added.
“The Lowdown Drifters look to be more of a throwback, when country music had lyrics and stories that meant something,” he said. “We’re looking forward to sharing our music this week.”
Knut Bell &The Blue Collars from Skagit County describe their music as Americana, a broad term that includes bluegrass, old country, folk, rock, the blues and all sorts of traditional tunes.
“I think it is impressive that Marty has taken on this time-consuming venture, and it’s a good thing that he is trying to keep the style of music alive,” Bell said. “This year he has great support from all three of the regional country music radio stations. If he can hang in there, this will be his best year yet. Marty’s been learning as he goes, and it’s working. ”
House admitted he’s had doubts. It’s been a rough year — one that included the death of his dear friend Paden Newberry of Darrington.
“It’s been up and down,” House said. “I work 50 hours a week and then add the festival on top of that. Knut Bell told me that life will throw everything at you. Then just when it looks like it’s all gonna crumble, you gotta stand your ground because something great is about to happen.”
Singer Miller Campbell said the festival will be a nice lead up to the release of her first album in July.
Named Madison by her folks, she decided as a student at the University of Washington to instead use her mom’s maiden name of Miller. It’s a good way to honor both parents, she said.
An Anacortes native, she grew up performing in community musical theater productions.
“Musicals helped me learn how to sing harmonies and tell stories,” she said. “And I am a second cousin to Glen Campbell. So country music is in my blood. I sing traditional blues-based country, like Glen Campbell did.”
Glen Campbell, 81 — known for songs such as “Wichita Lineman” and “Gentle on My Mind” — is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease and lives in a memory care facility in Nashville. His last record, “Adios,” was released this month.
Miller Campbell sang in the band Twisted Dixie for awhile, but struck out on her own just this year.
House is excited for the new faces at the festival, such as Campbell’s.
“I also want people to hear the Oregon bands called the Greenneck Daredevils, which has a really cool original sound, and the John Doughboys, which plays rock bluegrass, as well as the returning band FrogHollow from Walla Walla.”
The Darrington Timberbowl Rodeo, which previously ran simultaneously with the Spur Festival, has been canceled this year. So House is encouraging Darrington High School students who did fundraisers at the rodeo to come to the music festival. He also plans to raise money for wounded veterans, something he’s done for the past two years.
“The festival is a good way to involve people and give back,” House said. “We couldn’t do it without the help of the people of Darrington.”
The Spur Festival
The third annual country music festival is 3 to 10 p.m. June 22, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 23-24, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 25 at the Darrington Bluegrass Music Park on Highway 530 just west of Darrington.
Ticket prices vary, but a full weekend pass for an adult is $105. For information, go to www.thespurfestival.com.
Food, beer garden, mechanical bull riding and vendors. Camping, white water rafting, helicopter rides available, too.
The FrogHollow Band
The Lowdown Drifters
Ghost of the Outlaw
Norman Baker &The Backroads
Knut Bell &The Blue Collars
The Olson Bros Band
Tayla Lynn (Loretta’s granddaughter)
The John Dough Boys