Festival Review

Chinook Fest 2024: A True Mountain Music Experience

today07/09/2024 45

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

Chinook Fest -- 2024

"A True Mountain Music Experience"

Chinook Fest, nestled in the picturesque Cascade foothills of Central Washington, celebrated its 11th year with a three-day country music celebration. It is not often a regional 3-day festival that makes it to a decade.  It is a real testament to the Chinook Fest team that they are embarking on their 11th year with no signs of slowing down.

Chinook Fest 2024 Music Festival.

Visit Todd’s Photo Gallery of Chinook Fest 2024

Camping by the River

Alongside towering pines and the roaring of the Naches River, festival-goers reveled in nature and music. Friends gathered to pitch tents, creating a vibrant community of music enthusiasts. Whether you opted for a cozy tent or an RV, the Naches River provided a soothing soundtrack as you settled in for the night.  Just down the road at Whistlin’ Jacks’ you could rent a cabin and was the overflow for tents and RVs.  It also sits next to the river and was a great alternative.  A frequent shuttle passed between the 2 locations which also served as a way to pick up a great breakfast or dinner at the WJ restaurant.

The annual campsite competition added an element of fun, with a chance to win tickets for next year’s festival. This year’s theme was “Where the Wild Things Are.”  A few campers had fun with it and others took it on as a full-contact sport that must be won at all costs.

Early morning risers had the opportunity to have Christine Gamache share the art of Sound Healing. Laying in the meadow you will find yourself relaxed and restored.  Optionally you have the early morning Yoga session.  These have become camper’s favorites in the last few years.  Chinook Fest is always looking for ways to provide a unique experience.

Just off the large meeting area, strewn with Picnic tables and food vendors was a gaming area dominated by Saturday’s Corn Hole competition.  This year’s competition was heavily attended and drew quite a few spectators, cheering on their friends and fellow festers in heated competition.  I spent time just outside the activity zone, throwing axes.  I was surprisingly quite bad at this deceivingly simple task.

 

But there was music, Right?

Yes, we all had a fun time with all the friends that we had not seen since last year but we were here for the music.  At least I was.

Chinook Fest, again this year featured two alternating stages, attendees enjoyed performances from both festival veterans (Friends of the Festival) and exciting new and not-so-new artists.

Thursday night is a “PreFunk” and for many a must-attend. This year was kicked off by FrogHollow Band, a well-known Eastern Washington band playing alt-country/rock/blues, and was a great start for the campers who were there to party. To cap off the night is almost always the most anticipated band of the festival,  Hill Stomp.  I can never explain the madness that they bring to the stage so let me try for about the 10th time of hearing them. Henry Hill Kammerer plays guitar and banjo in a Mississippi front porch music style as if he were playing this music after 20 shots of espresso. It would not be the same if John Johnson was not laying down a trance-like beat of the Drum/Washboard/Tamborine and, believe it or not, a length of Chain. When I saw John pounding on a 5-gallon bucket instead of a snare drum I thought it might be for effect but after seeing him break several buckets I am not convinced it is for cost saving.  90 minutes of dancing, chanting and sing-alongs, it all comes to an end with everyone wanting more.

Every night ends the same way.  Everyone heading back to the campground where you will hear several acoustic guitars with a group of campers, singing along until it is lights out.

Friday

Friday got a later start than normal which gave time for the campers that could not get there on Thursday time to get to the Festival grounds and set up camp.  For those of us already there were given time to spend catching up with the Chinook family that we have not seen since this time last year.

Come mid-afternoon the stages lit up and the music roller coaster began.  The Single Hill Local Stage was just that a chance for 2 local artists to get the recognition they deserve.  First up was Payton Drury a singer-songwriter from the east side who treated us to a mix of original music with some familiar favorites.  James Beam graced the stage for a second year.  His baritone voice is a breath of fresh air, rumbling out songs from outlaw country favorites new and old.

On the Pingrey Ford Stage, it was a Western Washington afternoon. Tacoma’s own Cody Bartels opened the day with his mix of old-school country rock and blues.  Blake Noble Band showed up with his instrumental Percussive Fingerstyle guitar with the deep drone of the ancient Australian Didgeridoo of Blakes’s native Australia.  Blake is a festival favorite and I for one was happy to see him on the main stage. The Dusty 45s are fronted by ringmaster Billy Joe Huels, singer, guitarist, and trumpet player.  Billy Joe carries the energy for a very talented group of guys who drive fast-paced, beat-heavy, danceable honkytonk music.  Next was national recording star James Otto. Even though the, “Just Got Started Loving You” singer lives in Nashville, his early roots, as an army brat found him living at Airbase Lewis/McCord in Lakewood Wa when his career was just starting.   He played many of his hits but also hits that he helped write for other great country stars such as Zach Brown Band, Jamie Johnson, and Jimmy Buffet. Ashland Craft and White Buffalo ended the evening. Both were new to me, and I was excited to see what would unfold. Ashland is getting quite the buzz in the country music industry. Having opened for many artists she was chosen to open the whole tour for Ashley McBride in 2022.   Her sassy approach to her music is very apparent as she sang many songs from her new album, “TRAVELIN’ KIND” With influences from Def Leppard to Bonnie Raitt, you can only expect good things.

Wild Buffalo was an interesting set that was a musician’s dream.  From country to a melodic almost psychedelic jam band.  Imagine if Jerry Garcia got it into himself to start a country band.  I think that White Buffalo would be that band.  Jake Smith carries his band through Folk, Americana, and more ethereal music with ease.  The crowd was talking about the set even the next morning at breakfast.

The MC for as long as I can remember is Brandon Ghorley and this year his Band “Timeshare” ended the night with a dance party. Brandon and his bandmate Phinisey shared the singing duties and festers danced the night away to a harmony-rich, unapologetic pop dance music.  Timeshare is everything you want to hear when you want to just have a good time.

Saturday

Saturday is the longest day and gets about a 2 hour headstart of the Friday schedule allowing for 2 more bands. The Single Hill Stage featured 3 Northwest favorites; Ian Jones, Afton Prater, and Zach Hinson.  Ian Jones, a talented Seattle singer-songwriter with a style he calls Northwest Americana, weaves stories and imagery familiar to everyone who grew up among the evergreens of Washington.

The main stage had a packed lineup as well.  Maple Valley’s own Nashville recording artist, Dakota Poorman made his debut at Chinookfest fresh off tour from his album BlackSheep. Singing his hard country, pro-American rock with songs like American Made and Hippy at Heart.  Quattlebaum, came in with a tight and entertaining bluegrass set.  This band is incredibly talented from fiddle to mandolin. These guys had great musical chemistry as well as personal chemistry which is obvious in the jokes flying across the stage for the whole set.

If Dickey Betts and Ted Nugent had a baby, it would be Rob Leines.  Channeling southern rock with a bad boy’s chip on his shoulder Rob sings about America’s blue-collar class, the hard work and hard play with a guitar that will knock you into the back row if you’re not tied down.

Hannah ‘Damn’ Dasher brought her southern whiskey-drinking girlfriend that your mother would not approve of (but your dad would) act back to ChinookFest. She has quite the following and is incredibly entertaining with her R-rated show. Follow her on TicTok you can also catch her cooking show that might be more entertaining.

Hey You Missed Someone

For those of you paying attention, you may have noticed that someone is missing from the list.  That young lady is Abbigale. I like to pick a surprise for the festival. Someone I am either introduced to for the first time or someone who crushed my expectations. Abbigale is both of these wrapped up in one bundle. She dropped out of the 1950s with the sweetness of Patsy Cline and Alison Krauss with the subtle grit of Wanda Jackson and Kacey Musgraves. What put her in my spotlight was her original songs. 1950s female country is a very distinct sound led by Patsy but Abbigal’s songs fit in seamlessly as if channeling this era in her new compositions and to top it off, they were fantastic.  If nothing was said you would never know she wasn’t just singing a great country classic, you didn’t remember having ever heard.

Don’t Go Home Just Yet

The last day is always sad, Sunday has neighbors chatting and campsites are dismantled.  Many of the local festers and volunteers have gone home early and returned with their families and kids. (The only day that kids are allowed.)   They are readying themselves for Sunday Service.  Pauline Jordan currently leads services at OpenDoor Church in Burleson, TX but leads our simple service once a year. Pauline Jordan has been instrumental in forming a national music project for Her Voice Movement out of Portland, OR. Along with this rare treat to have Pauline lead a musical journey through her heart, and ours I suspect, it is a time for the work to stop, if only for an hour or so, friends and families can gather together in one voice to sing as toddlers scurry around playing with the other children in attendance.  It is all over too soon and everyone will part until next year. Pauline currently leads services at OpenDoor Church in Burleson, TX.

Visit Todd’s Photo Gallery of Chinook Fest 2024

TODD HOBERT

https://www.toddhobert.com/

Written by: Mark Gordon

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