If you don’t already have your tickets to Summer Meltdown, now is the time.
With The String Cheese Incident as the headliner, one can expect a huge group of SCI fans traveling here from around the country. To be sure, Cheese will melt the Meltdown.
The annual music festival is Aug. 10-13 at the Darrington Bluegrass Association’s amphitheater, and producers Josh and Genevieve Clauson are getting ready for what they expect to be the biggest Summer Meltdown yet. The String Cheese Incident is scheduled to perform two shows during that weekend.
“When our regular crowd found out we were getting The String Cheese Incident, they were elated,” said Josh Clauson, who grew up in the Arlington area and, with his band Flowmotion, started the Meltdown in 2000. “It’s a huge step for us and really solidifies who we are as a festival.”
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 near George. Yes, SCI has been around for awhile, and, yes, it is considered a jam band that attracts fans much in the way the Grateful Dead did for decades.
Based in Colorado, the band is Michael Kang (mandolin, violin), Michael Travis (drums), Bill Nershi (guitars), Kyle Hollingsworth (keyboards), Keith Moseley (bass) and Jason Hann (percussion). They play an eclectic mix all their own of bluegrass, Americana, rock, electronica, calypso, country, folk, jazz, salsa, reggae and psychedelia. Is there anything they don’t play? Maybe classical music.
But classical violin is how Kang started his musical career. In a phone call with The Herald earlier this month, Kang explained that he studied violin as a child in England. (Born in South Korea in 1971, he has lived all over the world.)
“By high school, I was still playing in orchestra. But I was looking around for what else my instrument might do,” Kang said. “I started listening to bluegrass, newgrass, Stefane Grappelli and David Grisman. Improvised music. What really turned me on at first was how nice it was to play chords on a fiddle. In college, I sought out guys such as my friend Darol Anger, a master bluegrass fiddler, who was then living in the Bay Area.”
After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, Kang moved to Colorado to become a ski patrolman. On the side, he played music and became a well-regarded mandolinist.
“Eventually I met up with Nershi and Travis,” he said. “And we took it to the next level.”
During the past 24 years, SCI has released countless live recordings and videos from their relentless touring and 10 albums, the most recent being “Believe,” which was recorded in the band’s own studio and released in April.
“It’s harder to conjure the excitement of a live show recording, but it’s easier in the studio to craft the sound,” Kang said.
This year’s summer tour began earlier this month at the Mountain Jam Festival in New York and continues this week at the Electric Forest Festival in Michigan. Another scheduled stop is at Red Rocks, the “hometown amphitheater” in Colorado.
“Red Rocks is probably my favorite outdoor venue, but it’s not always relaxing because family and friends are always there,” Kang said with a laugh. “I am looking forward to being in Darrington. Travis and I have played there before with side projects. It’s like Horning’s Hideout in Oregon. Out in the middle of nowhere is more relaxing for me.”
Before heading up Highway 530 to Darrington, the band will perform at the Element Music Festival in British Columbia. After Meltdown, Cheese travels to the Oregon Eclipse Festival and then out to the East Coast.
“I tell people what we get paid for is to do all this crazy traveling,” Kang said. “And then we perform for free. Because we love it. And we love our community of positive, peaceful, loving fans.”
Kang couldn’t promise what Meltdown audiences will hear from SCI six weeks from now.
“A lot of people travel with us, and they do not want to hear the same tunes every night,” he said. “I’m sure we will play some songs from the new album.”
This reporter’s son, a longtime fan, called “Believe” a collection of love songs written for the women in the lives of the band members.
“Yeah, maybe it is, I can see that,” Kang said. “I wrote the title song and it’s more about love of a broader kind. I had my daughter in mind. And, OK, yes, her mother.”
One of Kang’s favorite tunes from the new album is “My One and Only.” Watch the music video on YouTube.
“Without our fans and the big family of musicians to which we belong, we wouldn’t be doing what we do,” Kang said. “We’re coming up on our 25th anniversary as a band, and we’ve got a of lot of gratitude for the opportunities and support we’ve had.”
If you plan to go
Tickets are still on sale for the Summer Meltdown, Aug. 10-13, at the Darrington Bluegrass Music Park, 42501 Highway 530, Darrington. But do not delay.
All the information you will need to buy a ticket to see 40 bands over four nights, with camping included, along with other activities, kid stuff and more is at summermeltdownfest.com.