For some it’s an annual return to see family and friends and hear great music, and for others it’s a newly discovered playland to meet new friends and discover timeless and innovative music, but for all each year is a memorable and often transformative experience. The Northwest String Summit, now in it’s 14th year has grown into a nationally known boutique Festival that takes place near Portland, Oregon each year in July. We asked NWSS Promoter Skye McDonald about the past and future of the Festival and what keeps people coming back every year.
In its’ 14th year, NWSS has evolved into a solid, West Coast Festival with a loyal group of participants. What do you think keeps people returning every year?
I believe most people return for the consistency of quality, amazing positive voices, and by appealing to all age groups with activities for early risers and night owls alike. We really are a family reunion for friends from all over the country that only get to see each other once a year, down in the Hideout. The energy of the staff, volunteers, artists and patrons is electric and super positive…really, the collective consciousness of the event is vibrant and creates magic! We love children and they certainly add to that magic! As well as the venue its self, it’s pretty miraculous.
What was NWSS summit like in the early days compared to it’s current Festival?And how has it evolved?
NWSS was formerly Dexter Lake Music Festival for a year or two outside of Eugene and quickly outgrew that location. We’ve bounced around event dates for a number of years and then finally landed on the third weekend in July and added a 4th day/night to the event. The volume of programming, budget and amount of overall planning that goes into the event have certainly grown and evolved over the years, however, it is still the feel-good, down-home, family reunion, boutique music festival it’s always been. The overall artfulness of the event has definitely evolved as well; the entire production is an art form in-and-of-itself.
How does NWSS continue to draw new attendees of all ages and continue to stay current?
Mainly by word of mouth; it’s indescribable the energy and vibes that are created out at String Summit and Horning’s Hideout. People have to be present to witness it and feel if for themselves. In addition to becoming a staple event for regional folks and families, we are witnessing more people coming in from all over the country and world, slowly transforming this into a national event.
What is the future for NWSS?
To become more sustainable: Environmentally, socially and economically. We are striving for a NET positive impact; as much as we can we want to help bring about awareness through music, community and culture. We really love opening doors for musical awareness as well- people may come out to the event to see one band, but leave with a plethora of new found talent. Create forums for positive causes to voice a message to open ears and hearts.
“Undoubtedly, incredible unique musical moments have been made at NWSS”
While NWSS has many wonderful aspects from an amazing venue and location to workshops, healthy food, and mind blowing performances and productions, at the core is music and at the core of the music is The Yonder Mountain String Band. Often enlisting talent from the bands circle of friends and fanbase Yonder Mountain is joined by an outstanding diverse lineup of musicians but as always the Colorado born genre bending Bluegrass band plays as the headliner and host of the weekend.
What role does YMSB play in the Festival besides headlining music act?
Yonder has been the host band of the event since its inception. Their extended musical family and kinfolk fan base have helped mold this event in to what it is today. Also, the event is somewhat of an empty canvas for Yonder, where they can take more risks than they could in other venues to expand their musical horizons. At the String Summit, Yonder can take liberties and expand their reach to include other musicians and instrumentations and styles. Undoubtedly, incredibly unique musical moments have been made at NWSS by all bands, but none more so than YMSB.
How would you describe the Festivals’ Music lineup this year?
This year we’re getting at the heart of String Summit unlike ever before. In addition to the “core” Strummit talent we’ve invited many of our friends and extended musical family along with some new comers to experience the magic.
Describe the venue and why it is the Home for NWSS?
14 years strong at Horning’s Hideout. Horning’s Hideout is truly one of the most amazing outdoor venues in the country! It’s natural amphitheatre surrounded by old and second growth firs and spruces with enormous canopies for ideal camping shade in hundreds of nooks and crannies with rolling meadows and beautiful landscaped picnic areas and fishing ponds all tucked into the rolling Tualatin Hills of the northern Willamette Valley just west of Portland. It is literally a hideout and oasis. It is the perfect location to enjoy 4 days and nights of top notch bluegrass and Americana music, locally crafted food and beverages with extended family and friends.
NWSS continues to grow and attract new folks as well as stay in the hearts of many who
return every year.
What’s new that’s happening this year?
For one, we have added over 20hrs more stage time this year with the addition of the Kinfolk Revival Tent for more late night shows (in addition to the Cascadia Stage Late Night programming). We’ve added daytime workshop sets with amazing talent as well for casual Q&A, livingroom like sessions. We’re enhancing the ambience around the venue by adding more artistic installations culminating in a HUGE Saturday night spectacular theatrics by Tyler Fuqua Creations.
Tickets are still available. Some of the bands joining Yonder Mountain this year are Greensky Bluegrass, Keller Williams, Del Mcoury Band, Rising Appalachia, Nahko and Medicine for the People, The Infamous Stringdusters and many more! Make plans to head out to Hornings Hideout in Oregon July 16 – 19th and experience a weekend of revelry and down home cosmic fun!