Musica Obscura

Lesser-known music festivals in the Pacific Northwest

Northwest String Summit
July 18-20
Horning’s Hideout, North Plains, Oregon

For eight years running, the Northwest String Summit has been the west coast’s premier showcase of contemporary acoustic music, with leanings toward the jamgrass sound purveyed by the likes of String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band and Leftover Salmon. YMSB has evolved in to the head chieftains of this laid-back gathering in the countryside west of Portland and the quartet out of will be headlining all three nights with their unique funky-folk-bluegrass music.

YMSB have brought along a whole mess of friends to play too, including Keller Williams and the WMDs, Bill Frisell & Danny Barnes, Leftover’s Drew Emmitt with String Cheese’s Bill Nershi, Greensky Bluegrass, Bryn Davies, Great American Taxi and Burle Galloway. Expect massive cross-pollination between this tribe of talented players: bluegrass music has always favored spontaneous acts of jamming on traditional songs that everybody is expected to know – the canon of Bill Monroe, the Carter Family and Earl & Scruggs.. Part of the magic of seeing this music live is witnessing unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime combinations of musicians on stage together. Danny Barnes is leading an organized “Super Jam” on Sunday, but expect the camaraderie to last all weekend long.

Camping at Horning’s Hideout is a big part of the festival’s draw, and from what I hear, the venue is unsurpassed in natural beauty, kind community and user-friendliness. In addition to walk-in camping and an RV lot, there is also a family-friendly camping zone with quiet hours, an option that sounds appealing since I'll be making the trip with my 7 ½ year-old friend.

Shambhala Music Festival
August 6 – 11
Salmo River Ranch, BC

Bassnectar and the Glitch Mob will be there. Ana Stia and Breakbeattbuddha too. Bonobo and Ed Rush & Optical are coming all the way over from the UK, Ursula 1000 from New York and DJ Cheb I Sabbah from the Bay Area. Vibesquad, Skool of Thought, Jamie Janover, Ganga Girl and several dozens more are coming too. If you know anything about the music these bass warriors and dancefloor terrorists play, then you know that there's a mighty freaky festival in the works.

This annual gathering of hippies, neopagans, Burners and klub kids brings a heavy, sexy throb of visionary electronica music deep in to the Kootenay mountains in British Columbia. Over 10,000 get together for four nights they shake their bones beneath the starts, revolving through themed-stages like the Village, the Pagoda, the Labyrinth and the Fractal Forest. Then, in less than a month's time, most of these party people will reconnect with each other, and many of the same musicians, in Black Rock City for Burning Man. That helps explain the cryptic website, which describes Shambhala as "Arcadian pastures evolve into a futuresque setting on an epic scale" and cosmically explains that "encircled by nature, a community rises, sharing a common goal, celebrating a collective love and respect for music, art and humanity." Wait! There's even more! "This is the crucible of artistry and musical mayhem," the devotees insist, "This is the zenith of modern underground entertainment."

Hmm, Burning Man without the heat and dust, surrounded by wilderness in the clean mountain air. Sounds great to me, though I may have to leave the 7 ½ year-old behind for this one.
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