By Jake Nelko
Photo Credit: Beth Crook
Last weekend was the first Timber! Outdoor Music Festival in Carnation, WA. Approximately 2800 folks came out to Tolt-MacDonald Park and Campground east of Seattle to enjoy a variety of bands with ties to the Northwest and a deserved place in the wilderness. As festivals continue to get bigger and rowdier, Timber! did a great job of toning down the festival into a summer camp experience where we all felt connected to the beauty of the woods, music, and life around us.
Having to work on Friday, we arrived just in time to grab a drink in our commemorative reusable Sierra Nevada steel pint cups and pick a spot for a new folk favorite, Bryan John Appleby. The Campfire stage was set in an area tucked away with a small amphitheater designed for small acoustic productions like this one. Although Appleby and the performers before him all came through a PA system, the beer garden crowd was particularly chatty, making it difficult to enjoy the music experience from afar. In hindsight, arriving earlier might have been worth the hassle.
Appleby played several beautiful selections from his album, Fire on the Vine, by his lonesome, which I’m told is not his norm. I plan on seeing him again in a more intimate setting because his voice is calming and his smile genuine. He seems like the kind of pleasant bearded young gentleman who would give you a ride to your tent or lone you his hatchet any time you needed.
That evening was a small bar show at Pete’s in town featuring Baltic Cousins and Hobosexual. Baltic Cousins were energetic and dynamic. Hobosexual was loud and full of 70s riffs and attitude. They packed the bar and blew the lid off the joint.
Saturday was a long day of continuous music on single stages, which made it convenient to hang out in the same spot and never miss a performance. Staying hydrated with our reusable pint cups and water bottles (filled with H2O from complimentary filling stations!), festival-goers enjoyed some amazing performances in a clearing set for the main stage. Highlights of the afternoon included the beautiful and emotional two-piece Lemolo, a recently-announced never-been-tighter performance from Ivan & Alyosha, and the alt-country pleasantry of Fruit Bats.
I’d have to say I was most impressed with Ivan & Alyosha on this afternoon. They have been touring for four months, enduring a tragic robbery which left them empty of tour equipment a few months back. The result at this point was a band with plenty of practice and resolve under their belts to go with an uplifted attitude thanks to the support of their fans through adversity. This was the third time I’ve seen these guys and they now have a certain confidence and bounce that they did not have two years ago. They are playing with energy and positivity that could be felt throughout the forest. “Be Your Man” was a particularly rowdy number to close with, getting the crowd jumping and ignited for the remaining acts.
I do enjoy the Helio Sequence (who I’m told put on another great performance), but we left early to get the best spot possible for Noah Gundersen over at the Campfire stage only to encounter the biggest surprise of the festival. Vikesh Kapoor was sound-checking with the Passenger String Quartet when we arrived, preparing us for a Dylan-esque set complete with harmonica. Kapoor demanded attention with an endearing soft-spokenness, keeping the crowd quiet and attentive throughout. He played through a stunning set complete with his variation of the jazz classic “Mack the Knife”. Singing songs about subjects close to our hearts, like working hard to get by and leaving your hometown, Kapoor stole our hearts by the end of his first tune, earning a well-deserved standing ovation by set’s completion.
Noah Gundersen then took the stage with sister Abby, brother Jonny, and friends, to do what he always does; charm the pants off the crowd with his astute combination of depth and transparency. Noah, Abby, and Johnny led off with the a cappella opening of “Poor Man’s Son” before breaking into the full band. Working through favorites like “Fire”, “Garden”, and “Jesus, Jesus”, Gundersen worked off of the attentive groundwork Kapoor started at the Campfire stage. The almost-unanimous fan favorite of the night was Noah’s version of “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell.
From the affordable cost of attendance ($45) to the picturesque mountain setting to the fabulous collection of musicians, Timber! was a serious success. Consider it an easier-to-attend Doe Bay Fest moving forward for Artist Home, which has another pot of gold in their back pocket with this one. I’m already looking forward to the next Timber! in 2014.