I was told that this year’s Chinook Fest Summit was set up a little differently than last year. The stages had been separated with one of them being in the parking lot in the past; this required a lot more walking. I heard from many people this year how much more they enjoyed having both stages (Claffey’s side stage and Rainier’s main stage) up top, facing each other with the food, beer garden and fire pits between the stages. Although it was chilly up there on Saturday, the fire pits emitted loads of heat and there was plenty of seating and standing space for everyone to stay warm.
The Kid’s Corner wasn’t overflowing or anything, but it was nice for the parents to have a place for the kids to go and it was cute to see wee ones walking around with painted faces and tie-dyed shirts.
I can’t speak to all of the food, but the BBQ brisket, French dip and pot roast soup were delicious. There were also plenty of beer cans going around and the garden stayed active all day.
With the majority of the day spent under cloudscapes, only a few shorts stints of sprinkles actually transpired, which was nice, especially for the moment when Magic Giant decided to go unplugged in the middle of their set. Everyone formed a circle around them for two songs before they jumped back up on stage and finished out an enlivened, crowd-engaging performance, but we will get to that in a moment.
Saturday started out with The Cloves, that I somehow manage to keep missing. I came in at the tail end of their set and while it sounded great, I wasn’t able to snap any shots. Next was singer-songwriter Mitchell Mirande who another musician said, “sounds a bit Ed Sheeran-esque.” Between his two short sets, Rabbit Wilde took the main stage and captivated many a festival-goer. The lead singer’s voice was beautifully smooth with a sexy rasp, and I was informed of a couple musical girl-crushes that began Saturday morning. They were one of my favorite finds of Saturday’s lineup.
After Mitchell Mirande’s second set, Portland-based Dirty Revival took the main stage and opened with incredibly attention-commanding vocals by the stunning lead singer. They were a fun band and looking around at the crowd, most people were trying to hang out with friends without dancing, but almost everyone ended up doing a sort of timid bob or toe-tap. At one point they drew in fans to dance the ‘electric slide’; when they covered Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” conversations stopped and on-lookers payed full attention. Ending their set with an amazing rendition of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” had me put the camera down, sit, and just take it in. It absolutely moved me.
Next, not a stranger to the Chinook Fest stage, Whitney Monge took the side stage while every one kicked back and hung out. She was easy to listen to and was obviously comfortable performing with her ‘no setlist’ style. “I thought I would just bring my guitar up here and see what happens.”
Between Whitney’s two sets, My Brothers and I, brought their soulful poppy vibe to the main stage. While lead singer was crooning and running up and down the vocal scales, paying homage to Allen Stone, a fellow photographer posted a tweet about their performance and before it was over there were already many young girls showing their love for the band. The critical version of me would judge them as a boy band and have no intention of listening, but I must say, young girl fan-base or not, these kids were pretty talented and I would definitely put their CD on repeat in my car. I do not consider myself a young girl, but I am a mother in need of soothing soulful music to chill me out in the midst of chaos, and I believe “Nowhere to Run” and their scattin’ rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine” would do that.
After Whitney’s second chill set, the Polyrhythmics took the Rainier Stage literally filled the entire space. With keys, drums, percussion, bass, guitar, vocals, brass, the stage was packed with seasoned artists and their instruments. I’ve seen these guys before at Summer Meltdown in 2012 and really enjoyed the musicianship that goes into their performances. When you have that many people playing together, it takes a certain level of maturity to get everyone in sync and collaborate well together. Their backstage banter was pretty entertaining as well, I caught a bit of this while writing our Feed Me A Line poem with a few of the band members. Make sure to check it out below!
Susan Galbrath brought her band with her to take on the next three Claffey’s stage sets before Magic Giant, Rust on the Rails and Current Swell. We saw the familiar faces of Skyler Mehal on guitar and Heather Thomas on drums. She performed a laid-back set with a couple of covers with Kara Hesse singing harmonies to the Dixie Chicks’, “Wide Open Spaces.”
Next up Magic Giant stepped onto stage and everyone was actively involved in the music. These colorful, poncho-wearing LA-based musicians woke up the grounds and got the photographers shuffling around in the photo pit. Not many people had heard of them before, but it didn’t take long for the crowd to jump in and start singing their songs and hollering for them like they had been fans for years. Like I mentioned, they told the crowd if they made a circle, they would come down and sing in the middle; it was their new show tradition, so people from up top by the fire pits and at their picnic tables came down to join in on the impromptu unplugged session. They stepped back up on stage, but there was no disconnect between them and the crowd anymore; Austin Bisnow (vocals) and Brian Zaghi (guitar/upright bass) were jumping down into the crowd and back again. At the end of one of the songs, Brian kept playing his guitar and needed help getting back up on stage to finish out the tune, so Austin grabbed him under the arms and dragged him up on stage where he did a backward summersault while strumming the last few notes! During their performance I saw many people walk past Cody Beebe, co-owner of Chinook Fest and lead singer of Rust on the Rails, offer many accolades and thanks for getting Magic Giant to grace the Chinook Fest stage.
Rust on the Rails, a Chinook Fest staple, took the main stage next and their closest family and friends (kids included) all came down to hang on the pit railing and enjoy. Even though Cody Beebe cut his trademarked long, sweeping red hair (every photographer’s favorite thing to shoot), it didn’t effect his 90’s rock star vocals nor their performance. They rocked out just as hard with some crazy good additional vocals by Kaylee Tilton, and killer violin from Andrew Joslyn stepping in for Tim Snyder (now touring with Nahko & Medicine for the People) added a little different flavor. With all of their closest friends and family around, why wouldn’t drummer Chris Lucier use the opportunity to propose to his adorable girlfriend (the aforementioned Kaylee) as she stood on stage at the end of “Can You Feel It?” Needless to say, it was quite a set.
Current Swell, normally a 4-piece band but having brought some horns with them, took the headlining spot Saturday night. Bringing along the trumpet and trombone for a few of their songs was a great addition. I have seen these sweet Canadians a few times now over the past 4 years and they get better every time I see them. Each time, singer Scott Scranton seems to become a little more outgoing on stage; this time beginning their encore with the story about how he first got into the blues; on a truck ride with his father. I never get sick of their rootsy rock and beach-vibe, bluesy tunes.
Finally, my night ended with Seattle band The Fame Riot kicking off the after party on the Claffey’s side stage by the fire pits. These crazy cats got everyone dancing and laughing as they bantered in random accents and dialects between each song while fidgeting with technical issues that didn’t seem to bother anyone. Their music is an electro-pop rock “you can’t help but want to jump around and dance” style of music that was very well received. I heard of few people comment on how they easily could’ve worked the main stage, but I actually liked the sweaty, intimate, in-your-face antics on the smaller platform. It kept us all warm on the cold, magical, mountain-scaped night.
The verdict? Add this one to your summer festival list, wear many layers, and join the Chinook family. On top of that, don’t miss out on Chinook Fest Central taking place from September 9th to 11th along the river in Naches, WA. See you there!
FEED ME A LINE with POLYRHYTHMICS
There once was a woman
with long hair and one arm.
Some say she was an excellent whistler.
SHE WOULD SIT ON HER PORCH ON SUMMER AFTERNOONS,
imagining melodies; the soundtrack of better times.
UNABLE TO PLAY GUITAR,
she tapped her toes and closed her eyes.
“Is this real?” she asked.