Chinook Fest: Three Days Relaxing in the Cascades

Refreshing at the river

Refreshing at the river

Chinook Fest, man… where do I even begin?  If you checked out my review from Summer Meltdown last year, you will remember me fondly referring to it as my “new favorite festival”; many refer to it as home, regardless of how spacious the grounds are.  It’s only to be expected then, that Chinook Fest, with such a similar vibe, would have me feeling the same way.  I just didn’t realize to what extent that would be.

Let’s just say, coming from a very large family, I felt like I drove into and crashed someone’s family reunion.  I was greeted by someone’s aunt, guided to a “special” parking spot by one of the band members, checked in as VIP by someone’s girlfriend, welcomed in by someone’s parents, and as soon as I walked in the festival grounds, there was Cody Beebe, Michelle Bounds and Blake Noble running around getting last minute things in order, yet still making time to stop what they were doing to welcome me and make sure I had everything I needed.  And this wasn’t because I was a friend, a reviewer or had a baby with me… I watched as they interacted with just about everyone who walked by.

Over the course of the three-day weekend, the weather was amazing, the music was incredible, the grounds were as luscious as ever (thanks to Larry Markwart) and the people involved, which the emcee Ty Paxton continuously reminded us, were “as genuine as they seemed” (including Ty).  I didn’t meet one person that I wouldn’t trust my baby with… which is wonderful, because I may have needed it once or twice over the weekend.

I’m torn between wanting to share Chinook Fest with the world and wanting to keep it to myself so it won’t grow any larger.  With only one performance at a time, the majority of the attendees were either in front of the closely placed Crooked Red or Ted Brown Music stages, one of the many food booths nearby, at the aisle of vendors, the river just behind the stages or in the campsite just outside of the festival grounds… close enough so you can still hear the music and the emcee clearly, but not so much as to raise your voice to speak to the person next to you.  The festival grounds remained comfortable (with the exception of a couple of hot mid-day hours). The sun dipped behind the mountains in the late afternoon covering the grounds in a soothing shade; the campgrounds were like spacious little villages all placed next to each other and close enough to access your vehicle without the accompaniment of an “ugh…I left it in my caaaaarrrr.”

Good morning, Saturday.

Good morning, Saturday.

If you are like me, the festivities were close enough to just put down the back seats, crack a couple of windows, and sleep on a pad in the back of the SUV, although I hear I missed out on an awesome late night sing-a-long train that marched through the campgrounds.  I guess that’s what happens when you bring an infant to a music festival; you miss things.  And sadly, I missed a few other things, like photographing a small handful of bands and a few sweet moves here and there.  With unlimited access to the photo pit, it was really hard for me not to hang out there for the entirety of the festival, but hey, a girl needs to put down the camera, nurse the baby, and get her own groove on every once and while.

Considering that I had hardly heard of any of the bands, I was amazed at how much I enjoyed every performance.  Michelle Bounds was right, there were no filler bands.  Honestly, I don’t know how they didn’t rip out their hair trying to figure out what bands got which time slots, because they are all prime-time worthy.  However, because I am writing a review, here are a few of my personal highlights of the weekend:

Ben Union: how had I never heard of them before?!  I definitely “joined the Union”. With a somewhat arrogant (in a good way) stage presence juxtaposing a humble demeanor off-stage, a bass player that, as Ben informed us, “Nordstrom modeled their mannequins’ torsos after,” and music that makes you wanna dance with reckless abandon, I found myself torn between having my camera shoved in their chiseled faces, standing in awe of their sheer awesomeness and wanting to throw down the camera, close my eyes and “shake that ass!”

Eternal Fair: Front man, Andrew Vait… how many instruments can one man play during a song?  Keys, flute, guitar, vocals… I think I’m missing one. “I would’ve pulled out the saxophone, but it’s kind of broken and I don’t know it well enough to navigate through a broken instrument.”  Okay, Andrew, I’ll let that one slide.  Not to mention, he wore the most amazing little rainbow shorts that made me nostalgic for my younger, cartoon-filled, gradeschool days.  Good new find for me.

Kris Orlowski: I FINALLY jumped on the Kris Orlowski bandwagon.  It’s been a long time coming, but I resisted for so long because I wanted to meet him in person before hearing his music (something I like to do when I can), and… wow.  He’s been playing on my Spotify station since I got home, and it’s been so delightful to have during this beautiful Seattle transition from Summer to Fall: dresses to sweaters and Frappes to Chai Tea Lattes. Not to mention, he had one of the best interactions with my baby girl.  Let’s just say he’s going to make an amazing daddy one day.

Lee Oskar sitting in with Cody Beebe & the Crooks

Lee Oskar sitting in with Cody Beebe & the Crooks

– Awesomely random harmonica sit-ins by emcee Ty Paxton and the legendary Lee Oskar.

– Buying a harmonica from said legendary harmonica player and having him choose the harmonica and engrave it to my son.

– Having Lee Oskar and his girlfriend, Sri, approach ME and ask where they knew me from… this is becoming an incredible trend for me.

– The announcement given by Larry Markwart and Sassy the Sasquatch, can you say amazingly awwwkwaaaarrrrd.

Blake Noble‘s prime time set: Again, Michelle Bounds was right, seeing Blake perform with such an energetic and attentive audience as the sun was setting behind the Cascades and the mountain breeze kicking up to the sound of his didgeridoo was purely fantastical; then it made you want to dance like an unencumbered aboriginal around a campfire.

Cody Beebe & the Crooks

Cody Beebe & the Crooks

– Finally getting to experience Cody Beebe & the Crooks after seeing Cody sing with Blake Noble many times before.  This man, or should I say these men, are incredible. I can’t say enough good things about them, and their girlfriends, and their families. They are straight up good and hard-working people.  If you ever get a chance to meet them, go out of your way to do so.  If you ever get a chance to see them tear up a stage, go out of your way to do so.  Every success that this festival and their band gets is WELL deserved.  Not to mention Cody is one of my favorite singers to photograph; his flailing hair is as lusciously red as the Chinook grass is lusciously green, maybe Larry Markwart can make a video about that next year.

Tim Snider: Aside from Tim and I going back to his ‘Sol Jibe’ days (Google it! I’m still a huge fan of his former band), you can actually take most of what I just said for Cody and apply it to Tim.  Ha.  Weird.

Robert Jon & the Wreck: Whaaaaaat?! Definitely a new favorite.  Great music, fun look, crazy stage antics (amazing live show), nice guys;  and as I found out Sunday morning, they are good buddies with my favorite San Diego brothers, my daughter’s first concert experience, and one of my two favorite finds of 2012 Summer Meltdown, The Silent Comedy. I had given my babysitter a break before they began their set, so I was sitting backstage in the dark with no one around that I knew, and I was DYING, because I wanted so badly to be photographing these wildly animated men.  I knew they earned the word ‘phenomenal’ when I found myself debating on whether to set the baby down or hand her off to a stranger so I could get a better view of the show.  Don’t worry though, no one needs to call social services, I would never do such a thing.  But it does carry some weight for these guys, yeah?

– Morning wake up call by Ty… or was that Larry? with a horn like an old-school camp counselor.  Thankfully not too early.

– Being seduced by a beautiful a capella voice calling all the wild men and women to the stage while eating breakfast, buried in trees of the campground with a slight chill in the air.

The Wicks & Bradford Loomis: Such a wonderful way to start the last day.  Aside from being incredibly photogenic, they sounded as wonderful as they looked, and Jedidiah made my day when he showed mad support and appreciation for me bringing my wee one to the festival.  Definitely won’t be missing any of their shows in Seattle if I can help it.

All in all, it way an amazing weekend that had me feeling like I had an awesome Goldilocks moment discovering the perfect music festival that was juuuuust right in every aspect.  Seriously, I have no ideas of how they could make it any better.  It’s obvious a lot of thought, hard work and heart went into this festival.  They’re even giving away free tickets for next year to whomever has the best photo of the Chinook Fest experience posted at #chinookfest.  Go check them out!









  1. Shaun Beebe says

    First off I want to thank you for the awesome article and incredible photos, they’re amazing. You
    couldn’t have said it better, Chinook Fest is like a family reunion. I was there last year and getting to see the friends I made then and the opportunity to make new ones this year was great, the music was to die for, and the people and atmosphere were fantastic. Cody and the rest of his crew work hard for this festival and I can’t imagine how it will get any better… but I’m sure it will knowing Cody, (and I know him pretty well because I’m his VERY PROUD UNCLE) because Cody and the rest of the bunch are, as you said, the real deal, as genuine as they come. Thanks again and I look forward to seeing you again at Chinook Fest 2014!


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