Northwest String Summit delivers diverse lineup, honors Jeff Austin in Oregon (FESTIVAL REVIEW/PHOTOS)

Between midday Thursday, July 18 and Sunday night, July 21, an epic musical gathering took place at Horning’s Hideout in North Plains, Oregon. The 18th annual Northwest String Summit featured an eclectic lineup that went well beyond string band music.

18 years of coming together makes for lots of close-knit friendships, both on and off the stage. That’s why Northwest String Summit is basically a family reunion disguised as a music festival. Nearly every set is an opportunity for musical collaboration.

Musical hosts Yonder Mountain String Band paid tribute to Jeff Austin in their first set, telling stories and playing their 1999 debut album, Elevation, in its entirety. On Saturday, Yonder created for fans a “mix tape,” playing cover songs and welcoming a steady stream of guests. The mix tape set also saw the emergence of some honey bee-inspired artwork courtesy of the good folks at Tyler Fuqua Creations.

There are too many highlights to cover them all. From the glowing folk-rock of the Shook Twins, to the psychedelic doom boogie of TK & The Holy Know-Nothings, to the unapologetically hard-driving pickin’ of Infamous Stringdusters, to the funk-jam juggernaut Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, to the unique storytelling of Steve Poltz, String Summit brought it big time. When Galactic ran into delays, Fruition was called on to close the main stage on Saturday night, and took full advantage of the opportunity. Speaking of closing the main stage, Sunday’s final set featured the beautifully besparkled celebration of women who rock — SidebOOb — that ended with 27 women on the stage at once. And who cloned Lindsay Lou? She seemed to show up everywhere.

In addition to music, there’s a fully-scheduled, dedicated kids’ area that’s like the best summer camp ever. There’s the always touching Lilli Trippe Memorial Head Shave to fight child cancer (ending with emcee Pastor Tim holding a mirror up to the crowd and exclaiming “Here’s what love looks like!”). Food and art vendors to fuel body and mind. And a few thousand like-minded Kinfolk to bear witness. It’s easy to see why so many people keep coming back year after year.

Photographer Greg Homolka was on hand to try and capture a sliver of the magic.

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