Northwest String Summitt

Just two brief days before the upcoming Northwest String Summit Festival (July 17th and 18th at Horning’s Hideout) Glide Magazine got a unique opportunity to check in and chat with one of the two producers of the festival, Greg Friedman (with Skye McDonald being the other) about what the festival is all about, what exactly goes into making it all happen, and what are his favorite memories from the last eight years of working the magic behind the scenes.


This year the String Summit is bringing in a lineup stacked with highly esteemed bluegrass musicians. This year’s festival features annual hosts Yonder Mountain String Band, as well as The Bad Livers, Del McCoury and the Traveling McCourys, Darol Anger and Mike Marshall and Väsen, The Infamous Stringdusters, Strings for Industry, and Greensky Bluegrass.


Greg Friedman took some time away from the swarming office to give me some insight to all that goes into making the String Summit one of the most enjoyable and intimate festivals on the circuit today.


How would you describe the String Summit to someone who hasn’t heard of the festival?

It is the premiere boutique festival in the country today. The beauty of this festival has to be tied to both the amazing music that takes place over three days, as well as the incredible Horning’s Hideout. The combination of the music festival and the home that houses it make for an incredible experience. This year’s lineup has created a buzz from many as the best bluegrass lineup we have ever had.


How long have you been involved in this festival?


This will be my eighth year in this role as a promoter, but I’ve been involved in the other incarnations prior to that in my working with Yonder Mountain String Band.


When does the process for wrapping up a previous year’s festival end, and when does the research begin for the upcoming year start?


We are done with all the loose ends of the previous festival around September, and then I take a break until about January. Once January hits the first thing we look into is booking the musical acts for the upcoming festival.


Horning’s Hideout is such a perfect space, and the festival seems to have found its permanent home there. Is it booked into the foreseeable future, or on a year by year basis?


In the past we have had such ever-changing dates, that we would like to make this weekend a more permanent date to mark on the calendar. We have had a N.W.S.S. in June and another in August, and we are looking to be able to make it more predictable for music fans. Obviously there are multiple groups involved in this process, including Y.M.S.B. and Bob Horning, whose schedules would all have to match up year to year to make that work. We do want to have more consistency, and we feel like this weekend is the perfect time in the summer for this festival.


What is your personal favorite memory from past NWSS?


There are so many that that is a really tough question. I would have to say that last years impromptu Leftover Salmon reunion would have to be at or near the top of my list. We knew all the pieces were in place for it to happen, but there was no way we could specifically ask all the members for it to happen. If we did we would have just jinxed it. Jeff Austin kind of took the lead and helped schmooze it along, and when they all came out and the record sized crowd went wild, it was such a powerful and emotional moment for all of us. With Danny Barnes using the late Mark Vann’s banjo, it was absolutely incredible.


What is the process for choosing a lineup?


Mostly we are looking for people who fit YMSB’s extended musical family. In other words we are looking for bands who have played with Yonder or who they may know. We want musicians to cross pollinate, especially for the annual Superjam. We aren’t looking for folks who would play their set and jump on their tour bus to head out. This is a picker’s festival for sure, and we want musicians who appreciate the incredible spot that is Horning’s Hideout.


The band competition is always a fan favorite, and the winners win a coveted slot in the following year’s festival. What is the process for choosing bands to be in the competition?


For aspiring bands out there, all of the information is on the website. We don’t start taking submissions until after January. Four or five bands make it into the competition out of nearly forty submissions


What is the criterion for winning the competition? Is it based on applause?


Nope. Not applause. There are Judges who make their educated decisions. We often use other musicians, and members of Yonder Mountain String Band to make the call.


What was the biggest musical stretch as far as fitting a band into the String Summit concept?

Off the top of my head, Son Volt a few years ago was a bit of a stretch. We booked them as Son Volt acoustic, but when they got on stage they were closer to regular Sun Volt than that. They were awesome.  We also used to have a rule about no drums in the past, but not so much anymore.


The 8th Annual Northwest String Summit takes place July 17th and 18th at Horning’s Hideout in North Plains, Oregon. For more information, visit the festival’s website.



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