One Seattle Summer Music Festival Worth the Drive

Summer music festivals can suck. Often hot, crowded, and overpriced, their side effects may include feeling confused, under-or-over-whelmed, and (sun) burnt out. On the flipside, a good outdoor concert can be pure bliss. So what's a Pacific Northwest festival-lover to do? Are there any good ones left in the Seattle area?

Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes. If you're willing to drive 1.5 hours northeast of Seattle (and you should be), you'll find a breath of fresh air "where the music meets the mountain". Summer Meltdown in Darrington, WA is well worth the drive.

The Festival
Every August, Summer Meltdown takes place at Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater. Ticket prices are comparable to Bumbershoot, but the similarities end there. Weekend passes include 4 days of festivities and on-site tent camping. Activities abound. Float the Stillaguamish River, take a hike, or sign up for adventure tours — ranging from rafting to horseback riding and rock climbing. With 40 acres amongst the trees, there's plenty of room to spread out.

The Music
The music's a little different, too. Think less household names; more fresh, up-and-coming, and indie acts. Headliners this year are heavy on the electronics, including electro-funk sax man Griz, instrumental electronic rock band STS9, genre-bender Gramatik, and world fusion performers Beats Antique.

Beyond the electronic headliners, there are dozens of touring musicians making a stop in Darrington for the weekend. Here are two indie-folk bands not to miss.

Rising Appalachia
Sisters Leah and Chloe Smith will bring their band and brand of "New Orleans-seasoned" folk to Summer Meltdown as part of Rising Appalachia's 2016 summer festival tour. More than musicians, Rising Appalachia are storytellers and activists, campaigning for justice with their songs. They've managed to remain entirely independent over the course of 11 years and 6 albums, an impressive feat in today's music industry. On stage, listen for a variety of instruments — from clawhammer banjo to djembe — among their soulful tunes. Catch Rising Appalachia Sunday, August 14 at 7pm on Main Stage.

Crow and the Canyon
A relatively young band, Crow and the Canyon have only been playing together for two years since their formation in Portland. But their newly released debut album and relaxed stage presence reveal them for what they truly are — experienced, passionate musicians with far more than two years in the business of making music. The group's diverse members hail from all over America. Together, they combine to create American roots music, from danceable drinking tunes to sad, slow songs. See Crow and the Canyon Sunday, August 14 at 3:35pm on the Garden Stage.

Summer Meltdown takes place August 11-14, 2016, and is 100% suck-free.

Brandon Fralic is a Bellingham-based freelance writer. With a focus on the outdoors, travel, and craft beer, he contributes to a handful of publications including Washington Trails, WhatcomTalk, and Outdoor Project.