Date: Friday & Saturday, July 24 & 25th, 2015
Line Up: Josh Heinrichs, SkillinJah, Ethan Tucker, The Steppas, The Approach, Stay Grounded, Inna Vision, Valley Green, Black Salt Tone and more…
Venue: Cooks Farm. Carnation, WA.
Live: 2015 Northwest Roots Festival
Friday, July 24th, 2015
Many of the organizers of last year’s Northwest Homegrown Reggae Festival joined forces with Da 808 Music Entertainment under the new banner of the Northwest Roots Festival. It was a different name but many of the same great artists who make up the thriving reggae and island music scene in the Pacific Northwest showed up to partake in the event of the weekend.
After a quick stop for camping provisions I rolled onto Cook’s Farm about 30 miles East of Seattle on Friday, July 24th. Although grey skies covered the area, there was sunshine in the smiles of all the organizers who frantically moved around the grounds to finalize details before the gates opened at noon.
Volunteer Kari Brown, who checked IDs and tickets as she waved each vehicle through, welcomed the first festival attendees. The rain began to fall on the grounds; just enough to pack some of the dust being kicked up. Organizer Mike Drumma and his partner in crime, Becky Madigan, assisted a few other volunteers in covering the main stage near the barn with a tarp to keep the electrical equipment dry. With the help of seasoned festival veteran Alec Strigen, the proverbial and literal stages were set for a beautiful weekend, rain or shine.
Cook’s farm is an ideal festival setting on a few acres and one dirt road onto the property. The unforgiving thorns of the blackberry bushes create a natural security fence and a delicious summer snack. Tents and RVs filled the surrounding area around a few food trucks and vendor booths. In true Washington fashion, the beer garden was placed next to the dab booth from Pacific NW Roots and Alchemy Labs. Not surprisingly, parked next to the dab booth were Josh Heinrichs and Skillinjah who were enjoying the scenery, visiting new friends, and killing time before their set later that night.
I was able to find a window of time with no rain to set up my tent and began to explore the property. I perused the set times and the reality of the talent that was scheduled set in. The NW Roots Festival kicked off with locals Mystic Arrows and our friends in Valley Green.
Southern California’s Black Salt Tone completely caught me off guard and I was transfixed on their unique reggae/rock/dub blend. As I was sitting to the side of the stage enjoying the music, a cymbal tipped over and I was given the opportunity to become a stagehand. If anyone from Black Salt Tone reads this, please hit me up if you need a long-term roadie.
One of my personal favorite Washington groups is Stay Grounded with their mix of R&B melodies, reggae beats, and soothing saxophone of Brett “Big Chill” Cummings.
At last year’s Homegrown Northwest Reggae Festival many of campers were blasting Los Angeles’ True Press who were invited to perform this year. Their dedication to reggae while supporting their fellow musicians in different corners of the country is particularly noticeable and commendable.
Next up was Seattle local band Kore Ionz who brought its own special blend of reggae and island music lead by Hawai’i-born Daniel Pak.
I cannot even begin to describe the energy the Ethan Tucker Band exudes. The pure and raw talent tells anyone that plays Ethan’s tracks that he is going to be around for an extremely long time. His music is the stuff legends are made.
The rain that fell did-not stop Josh Heinrichs and Skillinjah from closing out the first night of the NW Roots Festival. Heinrichs was rocking to a soaking wet crowd until at least 2:30am. Unfortunately, this writer’s age has begun to show and I was snug in my tent as I heard the DJ music blasting all night. It seemed like only an hour after they shut down before the sun came back up and we were ready to go again.
Saturday, July 25th, 2015
True Press and Valley Green were awake early packing their gear before heading to Freedom Festival a couple of hours away. Organizers were already running around preparing two stages for Saturday and plumes of smoke rose from the dab tent. Up and comers Perfect By Tomorrow were performing their sound check when gravity took over and dumped a couple of gallons of rainwater right on one of their pedal boards. I am not sure if they got them working again but it did not stop their spirits from playing their set to the early risers.
The mellowed out Juice Band played their blend of Pink Floyd meets Jack Johnson on the side stage. A quick look at some of the Washington music Facebook pages and you will most definitely notice Sick Donkey and The Lights. Two Story Zori has spent most of their year refining their craft while opening for acts like Fiji, House of Shem, and Jimmy Weeks Project.
We were treated to some of last year’s talent Big Blue Van and The Hooky’s while our friends in The Approach nearly rocked the main stage thirty miles away into the Puget Sound. Seeing a tight set from young kids is a refreshing realization that the future of music is in good hands.
By the time Seattle’s own Tribal Order took the stage the Kalua pig was cooking in the ground to celebrate the arrival of The Steppas and Inna Vision. There could not have been a friendlier group of musicians as the When We Forward Tour closed out the inaugural NW Roots Festival and continued on their way making the Hawaiian Islands proud.
Even though the bands were finished for the festival, a size-able group of party animals packed into the DJ tent to get out of the rain and dance the rest of the night away. Live art lined the side of the canopy and the dancehall crowd powered through the blisters and aching muscles doing their best to keep the event of ending.
But all great things must end. Clean up the next morning was full of nearly lost voices and bittersweet goodbyes. “See you next year” could be heard throughout the grounds and a successful festival was in the books. When all satisfied artists and attendees left the festival it was apparent the organizers have a “good vibe gold mine” on their hands.
The crew immediately began to fix the failures and streamline the successes for next year. Rest assured their loyalty to the cause of music while making everyone feel welcome will make this the party to be at each summer. Be sure to include the Pacific Northwest in your vacation plans for next summer because you will not see a closer or more capable group of artists in the country.
Northwest Roots Festival Website
Northwest Roots Festival Facebook
Article By: Blake Taylor
Photos By: Mike Deal
In Loving Memory of Erik Bassy Madsen