Strummit 2018

Strummit – Northwest String Summit

Strummit Peacock

Peacocks adorn Horning’s Hideout – This is one of two tapestries created by Tika Bee that adorn the mainstage.

Here’s my review of Strummit 2018. This was my 3rd visit to the festival and I think I’m on board for more more more! Here are some of the highlights and some suggestions to make the festival even better.

Highlights!

Well before the festival began this year I joined the Strummit Family group on FB. This was a super helpful resource to connect with others and get some tips on how to enjoy the festival. I tried to find a camp that might like to have my jamming skills – but failed to make that happen – particularly because when I arrived and was parked (nice job volunteers) on Thursday – I took my tent and started to wander – and found Shakeytown right away and planted myself. I got there in the afternoon and didn’t realize that I planted myself in a spot that got early morning sun – note to self for next year – camp in forest like everyone else 🙂  I did end up amongst some folks who were up for jamming, though – and had a great opening time the first couple of days jamming with nearby neighbors.

Then, it was time to head out and hear some music – I was not disappointed! Here’s the 2018 lineup. The way the organizers spread out the sets/musicians it was not too hard to hear most of the bands play at least once.  Friend/Hero Chris Chandler recommended I hear The Deer – so I made a big move to do that – and am grateful I did. Another band that moved me is Dead Horses. One of the fun things about Strummit is that bands come from all over the country (and world!) to play. The festival-goers are also from all over the place – so you meet people who’ve dedicated themselves to this music and their enthusiasm and excitement is really palpable.  There’s hardly anyone there who is not extremely excited to be there. You can also see this in how people wear the t-shirts of their favorite bands – I could do a whole post just on all the fun t-shirts and slogans I saw all weekend.

And, that’s the real magic of this festival. It’s the people. It’s like a family – there is a lot of care between everyone – an encouragement to live big and really enjoy what’s happening. I saw this in so many expressions. It reminded me of Oregon Country Faire in some ways – the way that festival is also a giant family – but Strummit, being a smaller fest, takes the caring to a deeper level.

NWSS 2018 MapHere’s a map of the festival grounds. This is not a topographical map 🙂  By that I mean that there are hills to get between each area – you can’t avoid climbing and descending multiple times a day – and I found this + dancing my ass off led to a case of very tired legs by Saturday 🙂

There’s almost too much going on. I heard so many great sets on the main stage – and right after they finished there would be an awesome tweener set up above the bowl where the mainstage happens. There was hardly time to breathe for hours – switching between bands and stages 🙂  Possibly, this is a good problem to have 🙂  This was a hot year – 90-degree temps – so moving about from shady spot to shady spot was key – luckily, the bowl sits among a lot of tall trees (here’s for keeping big trees standing!!!!) – many hammocks are strung amongst the trees, too.

This year I discovered the Cascadia stage. It’s a smaller venue where the music starts up early every day. Lucky for me this stage was located very close to Shakeytown. It was a great place to spend the morning hearing some of the acts up close with less people. There was even lots of yoga this year – something I don’t remember from my previous visits in 2014-15 (I think).

Other highlights – Yonder’s Sat. night set – they always do a special artist – this year they did a bunch of Steve Miller songs – which they played beautifully, featuring my friend, Asher Fulero on keys – Fly Like and Eagle, The Joker, Take the Money and Run, etc. I kept waiting for Fly Like an Eagle – and they ended with it. I was wearing my Eagles Championship ski hat – and had the biggest grin on my face!!!  The light show that night was also spectacular as always during the Yonder night shows.  I’ve seen a lot of great lights shows (hello Beloved Festival!), but these folks have a lot of fun with the light tech.

Sideboob ft. Allie Kral, Mimi Naja, Shook Twins, etc – played a show late Sat. night. It was an invite to all the women playing in various bands to join together.  They did a great version of Put a Ring on It, and many other popular tunes – I’d love to see this act continue and be featured on the mainstage – for so many reasons (1. for young girls to see that they too could be on this stage one day 🙂  Fantastic costumes and playing!

Sideboob

Lots of magic; great food – it was fun to reconnect with my buddy Blissful Wunders and sample some of his truffles. I missed not having Get Fried Rice there – but Boke Bowl and funnel cake and tacos – all was well in food and drink land.  So, overall, there are many things that this festival gets right right right. Great location (so close to Portland – wow!); pretty easy in and out; nice camping spaces; great, enthusiastic people; lots of great volunteers helping things go smoothly; prominent medical team at the ready; encouragement and help for folks who are alter-abled (they had a shuttle to help people get where they needed to go if they were unable to climb to and fro.) – and, it’s time for some ideas for improvement – ready?  Here goes.  Luckily, it’s not that long a list.

Improvements

  1. Water: There is one place to fill up water containers (2, but they are right next to each other – thank you Klean Kanteen… Ideally, there would be more places for people to fill up on water. Speaking of water – Strummit might copy what OCF does and have some misters strung in various places – like across the bowl 🙂  If people are going to be dancing on a hot, sunny day, a mist would definitely help keep em cool.
  2. Washing – Beloved Festival has an awesome clean-up station – 4 sinks on each side – well-lighted. I’d get in touch with them and see about bringing this feature to Strummit.  Makes it easy to brush one’s teeth and wash faces.
  3. Gators. I get it – these are how musicians’ gear gets from stage to stage – but can anything be done to limit the # of trips?  I saw many gators out and about – often empty.  Also, I’d see one band’s stuff get dropped off at the Cascadia stage – then, the gator would leave – only to come back a half hour later to pick up the previous band’s instruments and take them away. How about leave the gators in place to wait for their next use – seems there are many of them. The less gator trips the better because – they compete with pedestrians on the pathways and they also kick up a lot of dust.
  4. Dust + Smoke. Here’s one I don’t know the answer to – but I still have a chest cough from this festival and I imagine it will go on for a while.  Part of this is the dust from the roads (see #3 issue/solution), but part of this is from people smoking and vaping everywhere. This leads to being in popular places like the bowl, surrounded by 1,000 people and never getting a fresh breath of air. I don’t know exactly what the solution is – but one thought would be for people who want to smoke to pull off to the side somewhere.  Cough cough.
  5. This is a weird one and I’m sure it wasn’t planned – the reefer trucks at the top of the hill back directly into the porta-potties. Perhaps spacially, this works, but the volume in the porta-potties can be intense! Same with the other porta-potties at the Cascadia stage (a generator backs into those…). This probably led to the lowlight of the festival for me – post Yonder on Sat. night – coming into a porta-potty and having the reefer truck engines kick in. Ouch, weird timing.
  6. The VIP Peacock Club. This didn’t exist the last time I attended and it’s kind of awful. It leads to losing access to part of the lake (the ability to walk around the whole thing, for instance) and it just feels elitist. I highly recommend doing away with this “feature”.
  7. Lighting – generally, pretty awesome. I don’t think shining bright lights into the audience is good for anyone. Sure, once a set or night, but there’s an overuse of blinking and shining lights into peoples’ eyes which is stunning (not in a good way). That’s a personal preference, but my guess is it’s stressful on the body.
  8. Sound. This one’s hard. The thing that draws everyone to this festival (musicians included, I’m sure) is the quality of the music. I tend to think that most festival play music too loud and I was pleased that Strummit seemed a little more chill than my previous visits. That said, the mixing of the music seemed off way too often. I tried to comment to the sound tech guy at the Cascadia stage morning sessions, but then got tired of giving him feedback. Really, I’d suggest this become more of a priority. For a band to come all the way from Wisconsin or Australia and then have the bass be so loud that it drowns out the other instruments or for something to be feeding back and no one doing anything immediately to fix it – that seems unprofessional. Perhaps having teams doing sound would help?  I know this is not an easy feat – mixing people band after band in odd configurations day after day – but I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed this. PLEASE STRUMMIT, LOOK INTO THIS ONE!
  9. Signage – Would be great to have a sign on the way out once you reach the main road – make a left to get to 26. Also, simple signs affirming you’re on the right path from 26 to festival on the way in would be great!

Whew, that was hard, and I’m sure it’s going to be hard for some to read. Know that this festival rates an 11 out of 10 in my festival rating system. I am still riding very high from my visit.

Sometimes a video can paint a thousand words – here’s the promo video for this year. But really, if you’re thinking of attending Strummit – search the youtubes for various bands that have played there. There’s nothing like experiencing the surprises the folks pull out of their hats.

Here’s a nice article about Strummit from 2016. Perhaps I’ll see you out there next year.  My wish would be to come back as a performer.  Feel free to leave comments below.  Also, I’ll probably add to this – see below the pic for more as I think of it.

Strummit

Not sure what category this fits into. But given this is a family – here’s a thought. Since the US healthcare system is failing many – I wonder if there could be something like this set up at Strummit.  I don’t know how it gets funded, but here’s the idea. Dental clinic and possibly a dermatologist, as well.  ie, you can walk into a trailer and be seen by someone who would clean your teeth and possibly give you feedback on your dental health. 2. Same thing with a dermatologist – at Burning Man one year there was one in a lab coat who just stood in front of a shady area – you stripped down and he’d inspect your body. I got a clean bill of health one year and that sure cheered me.

I put out a couple newsletters with my thinking about marketing and also about life in general. If you’d like to receive them, click here and you’ll get some choices. Have fun out there! Albert

Regarding #4 above, someone just shared this with me on FB. Seems relevant. quitting smoking

 

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