Northwest String Summit, Horning’s Hideout, North Plains OR- 7/18-21
Photo by Chris Balboni
For 12 years now, “Strummit” has brought some of the best and boldest talent in roots music to ono f the most reputable outdoor venues in the Northwest or a full-blown hootenany of epic proportions. The small crowd size and intimate venue has maintained the convivial, pickin’-and-grinnin’ atmosphere, but the caliber of talent that performs is suitable for much larger festivals, and this year was no different.
Shook Twins attracted the first wave of wanderers to the Main Stage on Thursday, opening it up with a vivacious, genre-bending set. Greensky Bluegrass lived up to the campground buzz that preceded their improv-heavy headlining slot, and Poor Man’s Whiskey took over the Cascadia stage in full Wizard of Oz attire for their “Darkside of the Moonshine” set of Pink Floyd covers.
Portland songwriter Big-E kicked things off the next morning on the Cascadia stage, the first of no fewer than six sets he would play that weekend. Larry and Jenny Keel warmed up as a duo before their mainstage pairing with Keller Williams that was a festival favorite for many. Yonder Mountain String Band, Strummit’s yearly host, kicked off their three-night headlining run with a bang, with an expansive helping hand from fiddle legend Darol Anger and banjo master Danny Barnes throughout the weekend.
Barnes brought the largest morning crowd of the festival on Saturday with his oddball solo show, blending his quirky humor with astounding banjo chops. Leftover Salmon’s incendiary performance was bookended by equally rocking sets on the Further stage by Bellingham WA’s Polecat, and Pimps of Joytime delivered thick slabs of sexy funk following Yonder’s show. Over at Cascadia, rising Americana outfit Fruition’s performance was delayed following flight complications from their rained-out set at Ohio’s All-Good festival earlier that day, but quickly made up for last time with a tenacious fervor.
Band competition winners, Missoula, MT string band Lil’ Smokies, turned heads on the Main Stage Sunday, proving their salt with a passionate, innovative set with chops to spare. The superjam between Barnes, Anger, Leftover’s Drew Emmitt and the Keels showcased the caliber of each musician with an informal but flawless list of traditionals and originals. Yonder’s last set was cut short by generator failure, but they managed a few more songs through a smaller system, including a tasty take on the Talking Heads’ “Girlfriend Is Better.” Finally, Colorado outfit The Congress sent everybody to bed with a strong dose of swampy garage-soul, followed only by the last few pickin’ circles that held strong in the campground.