Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chinook Fest 2017 - Festival Report

Taking a break from the Summer of MGB, Boo and I took Hapy the wonderbus to Central Washington for a small music festival. Today's post covers the festival part. I'll post another about the getting to / getting from, like I often do. I should begin with an expression of gratitude to Michelle who awarded us tickets perhaps in part because of our 2 attempts (and failures) to attend Chinook Fest and then Chinook Summit last year. Our only cost was $100 for Hapy to park with the RV's. Michelle and her fellow organizers were really special. Unlike so many festivals, they were very present, approachable and doing the grunt work alongside their volunteers. As Edd China would say, "top work!"

North West Know Where
ChinookFest started in 2012 as the brainchild of 3 people who wanted a party for their friends. 4Peaks started the very same way, so Boo and I were immediately onboard. This group of friends are from the Yakima, Washington area and the venue is a small community park north west of Yakima, outside a town called Naches (pronounced kinda like "nah-cheese"). The park, Jim Sprick Community Park, abuts the Naches River, at the edge of the Chinook Pass along state route 410. The Elk Ridge campground neighbors to the west and a large fire station neighbors to the east. Considering the wild fires this summer, the proximity of the fire station brought a level of comfort to the festival attendees.

Chinook Fest followed a familiar pattern of an opening night using a smaller stage, a full day of alternating from smaller to larger stage and a closing day leveraging just the smaller stage. The music started at 4 on Friday and ended after 1:PM Sunday with the final bands at night completing their sets well after midnight. There was yoga both mornings at 9, similar to 4Peaks, but the event was 21+ for Friday and Saturday. This meant there was virtually no alcohol monitoring in the camping areas, but it also meant there were very few attendees in their early 20's as well, so it wasn't as needed. Frankly, we didn't see anyone over-indulged at Chinook Fest, so our 4-year run of successfully finding Waldo (our label for drunken idiot) at every festival is now over. An unfortunate side-effect of the 21+ rule was the lack of those with kids for whom finding a weekend-long sitter is simply impossible. This created an age gap in the attendees: those without kids and those with grown kids.

festival entrance
Trees, Grass, Gravel and Dirt
The central venue is under a canopy of trees with a tree-lined river bed serving as the rear edge to the festival grounds. The park is set up for events, with permanent structures for vending surrounding a grassy lawn near the entrance. The concert area is served with water-supplied bathrooms, and further supported with port-a-potties and hand-washing stations. The water, while potable, isn't terribly good, but I'm spoiled on the Bull Run watershed. In front of the two stages, the park has packed gravel underfoot. This works well for boots and chairs, but not so well for bare feet and blankets.

Outside the concert-controlled area, the parking / camping is split into 4 sections. Closest to the Elk Ridge campground is a dirt field where overflow parking and free car-camping was allowed. Adjacent to that is a grass and tree area where RV (read: paid extra) camping was set up. Closest to the fire station was day-use parking and additional parking for tent-campers. Last, the tents were located in the grassy areas closest to the entrance, among the play structures and trees. Since we had been given a break on RV parking, we were in the grass, shaded by trees.

We arrived 30 minutes after the gates opened at 8:AM, so we missed the initial rush, though many others had already started setting up. We were directed into the RV corral and after trying a couple of spots, we resolved on a place nearest the fire-lane exit between the RV section and the dirt overflow. By 10:30, we were mostly set up and had waved over the only other VW bus at the festival to park with us. They brought their minivan-driving friends, and the party was on.

The Festers
The other VW was a 1970 green and white high top driven by Zeb and Casey from Wenatchee, WA. They, with their longtime friends Oly and Katelyn, helped set the tone for our weekend, swapping stories, fruit and beverages all weekend. The 1970 high top had a 1.8L conversion done to it by the prior owner, so we had an immediate connection about overheating and managing air bubbles in cooling systems. They had a 1960's era "circus tent" (it attaches to the side of the bus but the bright red stripes have it labelled as the circus tent) so when combined with Hapy's Riviera top and the rest of our semi-custom stuff (camping table, lot couch), we had a way of attracting car people. Oly and Katelyn had 2 10x10's set up like a lounge with a bar and a comfy-couch for visitors (picture below). They were across the "street" from us, so our little corner was pretty popular.

Early on, we met Tom and Liz from Tri-Cities. They, like many other we met, have been coming to Chinook Fest since it's first year. It seemed like every time they passed, Tom had a different tie-dye. We hung out quite a bit, and gave tours of our respective camping rigs. I hadn't crawled around a pickup-bed camper before, and we were quite surprised how much room there was. Very cool.

Daniel and Dean were from Renton, and were big VW guys. We talked quite a bit about Gene Berg transmissions, his performance work and air-cooled VeeDubs. I couldn't tell how they felt about the TDI power plant I had in Hapy, but the love for Volksies was unmistakable.

Inside the music area, we met Steve and Sandy, proud parents of the lead singer of the Wicks. Lovely people. There's something about running into musicians or those directly associated to the musicians out among the "regular people". For example, the keyboardist for the Crooks helped us solve for water that first day. Where does that happen? So often, bands slip in through their designated access gate, hang out in their special section until their turn on stage and then disappear afterwards. That wasn't entirely true at 4Peaks, and it definitely wasn't the case at Chinook Fest.

We had managed to forget both coffee and our french press, so we befriended the proprietors of the coffee place. They run Highway Espresso in Naches, and were pretty amazing, handling the coffee needs of most of the attendees. Well, at least it seemed like most attendees. David, husband of the owner, is another VW guy, and he brought their '65 Beetle up to the festival after we talked about Hapy. Tina is shopping for a VW camperbus of her own so she can start ticking locations off her bucket-list. Driving the 101 is on my list too.

Oly / Katelyn camp
That is just a small sampling of the people we met, hung out with, had drinks with, etc. The people make Chinook Fest what it is. They're open, interested and engaging. Of course, we didn't meet everyone, but based on the sample, we're fans. Based on license plates, and that sample, Boo and I concluded that almost everyone there was from the greater Yakima area, with the rest from Seattle or Spokane. If true, central Washington really represented well. Very nice people.

Stretching the Definition of Country
As great as the people were, most folks go to music festivals for the music. Overall, there were more bands with a country feel than our typical music festival tastes would run. As a festival, it felt like the theme would have been "stretching the definition of country". We learned that the way the bands are selected is through a deep investigative process by the 3 friends. They look for artists who they believe are a couple of years away from discovery by the masses. So, if you don't recognize any of the names of the bands this year, we should look back on this list in 2020 to see if any of them made it into the mainstream. Before we left Oregon, the only band we had heard of (and heard before) was the closing act on Sunday: the William G. Hardings. There were so many good acts, it doesn't seem fair to call out too many above the others. Still, I will. haha.

our setup
On Friday, Shane Smith and the Saints were probably our favorite. After our trialed efforts to get to the festival, we fell asleep before Rust on the Rails got through more than one song, so I can't really comment on them.

On Saturday, there were a few that stood out. Cobrahawk sounded like a blend of Heart and Kim Carnes, but Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal took the day. They ended their tour with us, leaving for their home in Lincoln, NE after smokin' Chinook Fest. The energy of the band was contagious, pulling us out of our very comfy camp (picture right) to dance behind the stage. Once on our feet, we drifted into the concert zone for The Silent Comedy and watched them rock their set. Their "Dead Flowers" may have been our festival highlight.

festival farm truck
Sunday brought us The Wicks. Their harmonies were really good. Downright spooky-good. While nothing will ever compare to how Vivid Curve started day 2 at the HHH in 2014, the Wicks are in solid 2nd place for how to start a day at a festival. While we weren't drawn to the stage by a didgeridoo (Vivid Curve), we did stop in our camp-breakdown tracks, mid-step frozen to listen. Yeah, they're that good. We had seen the William G. Hardings before, their straight-up bluegrass sound had the dwindled-crowd's toes tapping.

As we slowly broke camp, neighbors shared farewells and pulled out. We left when Zeb and Casey did, hours after Oly and Katelyn had gone. The end of festival is a mixture of sadness and fatigue... and the knowing that there are hours of driving before bed. But that's another post. I'll get to that. Thanks, as always, for following along.


No comments: