Festival Review

Chinook Fest 2022 – “We’re Back!”

today06/28/2022 134

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FESTIVAL REVIEW by Todd Hobert
Seattle Wave Radio Guest – Photographer/Writer

Chinook Fest – "We're Back"

(2022)

Sunday, June 12th I was sitting in the courtyard at Jim Spark Community park just outside of Naches Washington. I was watching Sunday morning service with The Wicks. The difference between this servce and any other rural outdoor service is that this was part of the ChinookFest 2022 Music Festival.

Visit Todd’s Photo Gallery of Chinook Fest 2022

The Wicks from California bless us every year with this wind down from a very busy weekend and send us all home grounded. Pauline and Jedidiah drop by the last day of this yearly fest with words of encouragement that speaks to all sorts that gather on Sunday morning, sinner, saints, rockers and country folk.  I won’t say that being kept up all night before in the camp area that there wasn’t a few hangovers in the crowd.

After the service I said goodbye to many friends that I hadn’t seen in over 2 years and made my way back over Chinook Pass to my home in King County.  It gave me plenty of time to reminisce about the weekend I had just experienced.

The Festival

Lets talk about the Festival.  Not all Festivals are created equal and ChinookFest always delivers.  Let me tell you that ChinookFest has had it’s share of challenges. Historically it has been held in September which in that particular part of the state is continually under forest fire watch and up until recently it had not been a problem and as long as I have attended we have never had to evacuate but last year, after a missed year of pandemic, 2021 was canceled because the venue was needed as a staging area for Machinery, People etc. to fight nearby  forest fires.  The decision was made to relocate the Festival to June.

I arrived on Thursday with the Volunteers and any VIPS that could get a few extra days off work.  It rained my whole drive over but let off as I arrived at the park…. ‘God loves me,’ I said.  Little did I know.  Thursday night would bring the West side downpour I had left just hours before.  Friday had some squalls that would upset the Non-PNW attendees, but it was very tolerable and if you are used to it, did not even require an umbrella.

ChinookFest always has 2 stages, The main stage and the smaller stage.  Music on one while setting up the other keeps things moving quickly for almost continuous music once the day begins. Filling in the few gaps that existed was the awesome MC and Founder of Puyallup Pop group the BGP, Brandon Ghorley.  He fills the time with notices, announcing the coming groups and if you are lucky he may sing a few lines of a favorite song.  There was one hiccup, on Friday with the sound system but the artists were happy to shuffle their stage assignments until it was fixed.  We only lost about 40 minutes and everyone got their full set in

Cody Beebe, Michelle Bounds VandenBrink  and Dawn Gardner do an excellent  job with this festival.  Huge thanks to all the many volunteers who worked so hard all weekend.  I think that Cody started this whole thing because he wanted to have a backyard  party but the yard just wasn’t  big enough.  The festival is big enough to draw great acts but still small enough to keep that family reunion feel.  It shocks me how many people there that I already know and how many new people I meet every year.

It should be on your calendar next year.

The Music

So it is a music festival so I would be remiss to not mention all the artists.  How do I eat this elephant?  One genre at a time.   Chinook is known as a country fest but in reality, no matter your favorite genre of music you will likely be happy.

Classic Country:  These singers and groups are singing  old school country from Nashville, Bakersville to West Texas.

Think Fiddles and Steel Guitars.

Hannah Dasher with her deep southern drawl she sings music and tells stories that are best for an adult crowd, but her music is impeccable classic country. She is fun and flirty (Heavy on the Flirty) Chinook fell in love with her in 2019 and her return this year is a testament to that.

Jaime Wyatt from California (Born in the PNW) sang some of her Classics and graced us with songs from her new album Neon Cross.  Her songs are very personal and she does not hold back.  The album was produced by Shooter Jennings and who she toured with some years ago.  Again a returning artist and I would suspect to see her here again if the crowd has anything to say about it.  Note that Jamie will be touring back in the PNW July 14 – 16th(Seattle, Spokane and Canby OR)  Check her Site for specifics.

Jesse Daniel (jessedanielmusic.com) is a big hat Texan and his music screams West Texas with lots of Steel Guitar and low string guitar solos.  His music moved seamlessly and made you wanted to 2 step in the dirt.  He is finally getting to tour his 2020 album as he is releasing his new 2022 album ‘Beyond These Walls”

Robbie Walden Band…well it was really just Robbie but he didn’t need the band.  You can see the years of stage experience as he works his set, with song and story.  He is a traditional Idaho Cowboy with a sweet soul and huge voice.  He is currently not touring but has an Ep coming out so I suspect that to change.  Keep your eyes open for future dates.

Hunter Stiles is a local singer.  He’s a burly guy with a deep voice who sings classic country (Think Waylon Jennings) and tours on the east side of the state.

The Wicks are a folk group out of California,  They have roots in the PNW but I have never seen them tour here except for ChinookFest.  A perfect reason to get your tickets for next year.  They debuted their brand new album (Winds of Change) at the Fest.

Contemporary Country:  You know?  Country Radio music with some originals mixed in.

Band of Heathens needs little introduction. After 15 years and over a dozen albums, they don’t  need to do covers, other bands do covers of them.  They do have a cover of Hurricane that is continually a show stopper.  They fancy themselves a rock band but I can’t imagine them as anything but southern Country Rock.  More country then rock, IMHO.   Guitarists, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist, the only original members, trade duties on singing and guitar solos.  With the tight harmonies, the whole band has to hold their own, and they do.  Super tight and no autotune.  Not always perfect but pretty hypnotic.

Austin Jenkes is a Nashville artist from Duval Washington that competed on Season 5 of the voice.  That was when the world got to know him but he has been working locally far earlier than that.  He has been a presence at every Chinookfest  either performing or pulling up backstage on his motorcycle to encourage his fellow artist.  A truly great human being.  His set is primarily originals.  He weaves personal stories and lessons into his music.  As a singer songwriter there is nothing frivolous about his music.  With songs like Fat Kid and One he will reach out to a dead quiet crowd and touch your heart.   Friends Cody Beebe and Skyler Mehal (SuperMother) joined him for the second half of his set and ended with Simple Man.

American Honey fronted by Femail powerhouse, Audre Belt covers the genere of popular country radio emphising happy powerful music that makes you want to dance and have a good time.  Audre has put together a solid backing band.  Any band that has a Fiddle in it gets me excited.  If she adds a steel guitar she will have the perfect product.  They are popular and have a full schedule in the eastern Washington area and it is easy to see why.

Blake Noble  I always have a problem categorizing Blakes band because it really does defy obvious boundaries.  Typically BNB is instrumental and consists mostly of percussion guitar and didgeridoo from his native Australia.  This year he split the set with BNB and his other project, ‘Thunder Honey” with singer Kaylee Jorene.  I liked this because it let us see another part of Blakes personality.  It was a good mix and everyone was excited to see the new stuff.

Hillstomp  Imagine a guitar/Banjo player and a guy beating on a bassdrum, , cymbal and a 5 gallon bucket.  If that sounds odd you have never heard the hurricane that is Portland’s Hillstomp.  You know something big is going to happen when the front row of fans pushes the barrier forward just to get closer and drummer John Johnson was helping them.  A couple heavy thumps on the bucket and they are off.  A crazed busker show, or a front porch performance in the rural south fueled by moonshine.  Call it what you want but it is 45 minutes of fans jumping and screaming and John on his bucket with Henry Hill Kammerer on Guitars.  After having seen several shows, what I thought was crazed mayhem is actually either well coordinated or 2 guys who are pointed in the same direction and know where they want to go.  Gimmick or talent?  It’s a little bit gimmick and a lot of talent.  Both musicians work well and I would hate to underestimate the talent of Henry putting out such and incredible amount of sound.  45 mins later everyone is dripping in sweat and out of breath wanting to go another round.   Hillstomp tours pretty extensively in the PNW.  I’ve seen their show at most the typical Seattle and Spokane venues and of course you can usually find them playing in the Portand area.  They are an amazing fun time.

Contemporary Pop

The Shop Singers  By their own admission,  Walla Walla’s Shop Singers are a sub-genre of a sub-genre. They categorize themselves as Xennial Rock but that doesn’t exist on amazon music so PopRock it is for my purposes.  It was an engaging set. And their loyal fans showed up in force.  I liked Chris Jonlick.  He is engaging and works the crowd well though he seemed to already know most of them.  Also a shout out to Nate Carlile on guitar.

Kate Dinsmore  Kate will surprise you, at first glance she seems quiet a little shy maybe.  The second she straps on that guitar and starts to sing, you realize how wrong you are.  She has a strong soulful voice that will push you back if you aren’t ready for it.  Kate moves the music like a roller coaster.  Taking you to highs and lows, giving you a short rest before she takes you to the top again.  She has spend a few years out of state but she is back and working hard.  She has some shows in the Seattle area in July as well as a spot at this years Timber! Outdoor Music Festival.

Haley Johnsen  I fell in love with her at her at Chinookfest 2019.  When she hit the stage this year it was Haley on steroids.  Her presence, her band and gotten so much better in the last few years, she was barely recognizable.  It was an incredible set. As she pushed through a very upbeat Pop/Folk 45 minute set and captivated the audience as the festivals first evening set on the main stage.  Everything was sharp.   She is out of Portland and not currently touring until she returns from Nashville.  I know there is talk about getting her to Washington State more often.  That would be a good thing for everyone.

Chase Craig Band  Chase is a keyboard player and that gives his band a very distinct sound.  It separates him from al the other guitar heavy bands.  Don’t get me wrong.  He has the full band but when a song is written on piano for piano it just has a different feel.  I am talking about his live music here.  His recording have a different feel all together, which is not unusual for any artist.  Chase has a gritty, blusey voice and flowy songs.  I personally find that they lack a standard structure not unlike the grateful dead.  This is neither good nor bad, just a note that I made at the time.

Wolfchild is a project of brothers, Gabriel Wolfchild and Elion Truthheart.  Their music is folk and very melodic.  Gabriel’s voice is weeping and expressive (Think Damian Rice) which is a perfect match to the orchestration they provide in their show.  As mentioned, I’m a sucker for Violin but when you add a Cello I’m pulling up a chair and making popcorn.  I’m there for the full set.  Gabriel sings/plays guitar and his brother is the drummer.  Elion is creative and his drumming adds to the “Cinematic” feeling the band is looking for and it is fun to watch the band weave their parts and subtle harmonies to create such emotion.  They have a couple shows in the area and are playing Summer Meltdown at the end of July.  Check them out.

Rock.  What the rest off you are looking for

SuperMother  what happens to a guitar player that plays for so many other bands, as a working guitar player will do? you start a band and can play whatever you want.  Skyler Mehal created SuperMother Band.  If you like Rock or dare I say ProgRock, (I am walking on thin ice with that one) you would have been very happy with this set.  It gives Skyler a chance to do what everyone has always wanted;  just cut loose.  Not sure if it was a music set or a therapy session but I have never seen him so happy.   It’s not just a huge guitar solo.  Skyler love the art of song too much for that, but a confessed music nerd and loves to tweek and push boundaries. Here he can do all of that.  He’s the boss.

Kilo Bravo  Kristopher Butcher is no stranger to ChinookFest but Kilo Bravo is.   Kristopher was a former guitarist with Chinookfest iconic regulars Robert Jon and the Wreck.  Kilo Bravo reflects Kristopher’s in your face rock personality. He is an intense guitar player with a ton of talent.  It’s not a mess and has catchy licks that will haunt you as you leave the show.  It was no surprise that he guested on a few songs with SuperMother.   It was a great set and as a vote of confidence KB’s first Chinookfest show was on the big stage.   The band is out of Southern California and just finished 2 shows in Washington  Keep a lookout as Kristopher may want to come back up this way later this year.

Quaker City Night Hawks  The QCNH really has the full meal deal, great writing, great instrumental and great vocals.  They say they are a rock band, and that is true but they can’t hide their southern influence.  Rock and blues with a gritty instrumental backdrop.   When they aren’t channeling 70’s southern rock they are slapping distorted blues licks and screeching out their pain.   It was a fun and diverse set of songs. Their albums are great but well worth anything to see them live.

Brett Benton  Hidden Gem Award!! Your Bio says Hill Country Delta Blues and you don’t look old enough to have enough grief to even know what the blues are about.  On top of that, you got bumped to the big stage due to an audio snafu that scrambled the artist schedule, you got to bring it big.  Brett a skinny kid with a drummer and a harmonica player.  Ouch!!  You are playing to the large audience venue.  That is a tough pull.  Are we all sufficiently worried?  Not a problem.  Brett is a one man band with a rich gritty voice and some serious guitar skills.  The drummer and harmonica by Ty Paxton from (Cody Beebe & The Crooks) were just added flavor.  When he pulls out his metal resonator Guitar and throws a glass slide on his fret finger I knew it was only going to get better.  Brett crushed his set.  He is PNW based.  Check out his schedule.

Cody Beebe & The Crooks  Ramping up the Saturday main stage was always the most awaited act and one of the Cofounders of Chinookfest, Cody Beebe and his band the Crooks. Cody is a shaker and mover in the Yakima Valley area and is at home on this stage and with this particular venue.  He comes out with just a guitar in a soft song to calm everyone down and then the band joins him into an epic set of CBTC Best of with songs from their new album, ‘Home To Us’  Very much a crowd favorite, Cody lays out a heavy rock/country set.  He does a good job of mixing styles and tempo keeping the audience guessing what might be next.

Cody doesn’t quit smiling all weekend but never seems happier than when he is on stage playing with his long time band of brothers, The Crooks.   You are having fun because they are having so much fun.  Being in the photo pit I see a lot.  I  love the eye contact, head nods and facial expressions form a group that has played so long that they know each other’s thoughts. Such a great production.

Cody Gives so much back to the community and in the past he used this set to sing with other artists.  This years he kept it to a minimum, Pauline Wick and Auistin Jenckes.  Pauline as we discussed sings folk music at the Sunday morning service, but Cody knows what we all know now.  She is a closet rocker with a huge voice and she just lets it go and Cody is happy to keep up and maybe just turn it up a notch.  That was probably the crescendo of the rock music.  Austin was asked up on stage.  Cody and Austin are longtime friends and in fact they toured together.  A couple of songs later, I think Cody called an audible and asked if the crowd wouldn’t mind if Austin and he sing a few more songs.  No one was disappointed.

Conclusion

ChinookFest is a great opportunity to hear great music with a lot of great friends.  The venue is easily the most beautiful I’ve seen.  Keep and eye on the website for next year.  Get in early if you need RV camping as it sells out quick.  Times can be hard and some people can’t always afford to go….  Consider volunteering.  In exchange for some work you get access to the festival. The guy who helped me unload my camping gear stood next to me at several shows.  See music and help festivals survive.  Without volunteers, these festivals simply wouldn’t happen.

Visit Todd’s Photo Gallery of Chinook Fest 2022

TODD HOBERT

https://www.toddhobert.com/

Written by: Mark Gordon

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