STRING CHEESE AND FRIENDS AT HORNING'S

Horning's Hideout :: 06.18 - 6.20 :: Portland, OR

During the weekend of June 18-20, String Cheese Incident and Peak Productions teamed up for "The Whole In One Festival," a weekend-long celebration at one of the most beautiful and intimate venues in the country--Portland, Oregon's own Horning's Hideout. As with the events from years past, the festivities included many brilliant musicians, a multitude of meticulously planned "playshops," and several coordinated sight-and-sound performances that really have to be seen to be believed.


Horning's Hideout :: 2004 :: By Adam Kaye
The majority of the land at the Hideout is a patchwork of wooded hills and open fields, divided and connected by paths you would expect to find at summer camp. A beautiful amphitheater, set between a lake and more woods, comfortably fits close to 4,000 people when they're not enjoying the swimming hole, the vendors' offerings, or their friends at the campsites. At dawn, festival guests fall asleep or wake up to the sound of birds chirping peacefully, and the greatest fears are the banana slugs and wild peacocks.

The gates of the Hideout opened Thursday morning, and early arrivals were greeted with their choice of lusciously wooded, shady campsites. Though reports varied depending upon arrival time, getting onto the festival grounds was actually quite easy and well organized. While it's true that the music was probably the primary drawing force that brought most people out for the weekend, it was only a small portion of all that was available. Each morning began with two different yoga classes conducted near a babbling brook a quarter of a mile from the amphitheater. Later in the afternoon, a playshop was held in which expert hula-hoopers shared tips and tricks they've learned through years of hooping. Saturday afternoon, on the shaded bank of the swimming hole, writers shared their work during a poetry open mic.

There are so many wonderful things about Horning's Hideout, but one of the greatest things about the Hideout is the energy that exists there and the silly interactions and synchronicities that seem to occur there more often than anywhere else. It's difficult to describe if you haven't experienced if for yourself, but there is just this steady stream of giggling that seems to permeate those woods.


Horning's Hideout :: 2004 :: By Adam Kaye
And when they're not laughing hysterically, Horning's guests are going out of their way to do nice things for each other. The Visitors, a friendly group from the Northwest, hosted a potluck cocktail party Saturday afternoon. The premise was that everybody brings the supplies for a particular drink, and for several hours Saturday afternoon, they shared the wealth with all who stumbled upon them. They even collected donations and divided them between two local charities. Another group, the Happy Brigade, served a free pancake breakfast Saturday morning to several hundred lucky people who just happened to be passing by at the right time. And in an ongoing project he called "Project Smile," one gentleman from Seattle distributed free bootleg CDs to anybody who was interested.

Really, the most beautiful quality of all is the sense of interconnectedness that one feels in those woods. From the moment you arrive at Horning's, you'll witness episode after episode of friends finding each other in a sea of friendly strangers--like the guy who gave up on finding his friend's campsite late Friday night and decided to just throw his stuff down and set up camp, only to wake up and find he was camped right next door to the friend whom he was looking for. Or the guy who hopped onto the side of an SUV entering the grounds for a quick ride discovering that the driver was a friend of his friends. Or the two guys who were talking about a mutual friend, and during a brief pause in the conversation, turned their attention toward the amphitheater crowd and simultaneously spotted the person about whom they were talking.


Michael Franti
Another important component of the festival was the thread of political activism and social responsibility that seemed to run throughout the weekend's events. Friday afternoon, Michael Franti performed what was billed as a "spoken word set" on the second stage, on the hill above the amphitheater. Many of the festival guests were eager to hear about his recent trip to Jordan, Baghdad, Israel, and Palestine, from which he had returned just hours earlier, so the small white tent was packed with standing room only. Franti explained that the two purposes of his trip were to listen to the opinions of the people who are directly involved in these conflicts and to share his music. He split his time evenly between sharing stories from his trip and performing renditions of the songs he had played over there just days ago. For the children of Baghdad, he wrote a new, one-word song named "Habibi," an Arabic term for a close friend. Though written on a whim at a tight security checkpoint and terrifically simple and straightforward, "Habibi" became a sort of golden key for Franti and his troupe, opening doors to people's hearts and homes throughout the region. When introduced to a stone-faced crew of Israeli soldiers, he found common ground through Bob Marley. For the U.S. soldiers, he sang "Bomb the World," an anti-war tune, to a mixed but mostly-positive response, while his song "It's Time to Go Home" was unanimously cheered.

Just before Franti's set, another interesting playshop took place in which various individuals shared their experiences and views as they related to social responsibility and political activism. When discussing the glaring differences in news coverage between Fox News and The New York Times, one panelist suggested that we "choose our news sources as carefully as you choose your food." During another discussion, the hierarchy of preferred communication methods for contacting public representatives was described (face to face meeting, handwritten or typewritten personal letter, a phone call). When the panel concluded, there were various opportunities to sign petitions or to talk with people to learn more about any of the subjects discussed within the playshop.


Michael Travis :: Zilla
And then of course there is the music, which began Thursday evening when Michael Travis' new band Zilla performed for those lucky enough to arrive early. Friday, Xavier Rudd had the first set on the main stage around 3:30, but a huge lightning storm hit during Rudd's set, cutting it short and pushing back Michael Franti and Spearhead while everybody waited out the storm. After half an hour most of the rain had passed, so people began returning to the amphitheater for Spearhead's set, which began around 6:00 p.m. Franti shared a couple more stories from his trip abroad and played a couple of the same songs he had performed earlier that afternoon. Also, the fact that everybody had just been soaked together worked wonders in uniting this group of random strangers. (If there's one thing that everybody can agree the jam band scene needs, it's an occasional shower.) Spearhead performed high-energy versions of "Sometimes," "Everybody Deserves Music," and "Bomb the World." They also did a new song titled "Fire" during which Franti occasionally thrust his arms into the air, sending lightning bolts toward the heavens.


Bill Nershi :: SCI
String Cheese played two sets Friday night, the highlight of which was definitely the "Land's End" into "San Jose" to close the second set. Also, toward the end of the first set, Michael Franti was invited onstage to share a rap, but there was something wrong with his microphone. Invoking the true spirit of PT Barnum and "The show must go on," Franti stepped around the microphone to the lip of the stage, and began a call and response. It was really something special to hear his voice cracking as he dug deep and successfully attempted to be heard over an amplified band and 4,000 people with nothing but his voice.

Instead of playing an encore, String Cheese created the soundtrack for a ritual ceremony during which the fears and concerns of the attendees' everyday lives were cast into a flaming cauldron, symbolically abolishing these negative thoughts from the weekend's festivities. One at a time, giant paper and wooden effigies representing some of our society's most pressing concerns, like War, Greed, and Hatred, were paraded around the stage of the amphitheater floor. When they reached the fire pit in the center of the stage, the participants burned the effigies, and the crowd trickled with delight.


Horning's Hideout :: 2004 :: By Adam Kaye
Apparently, the reveling was a little too loud too late Friday night because around 3:00 o'clock Saturday afternoon, the official word began to go out. "Sector 9 at 4:30!" shouted volunteers associated with the event. The same message was posted on bulletin boards and driven around the campgrounds on the front of a golf cart. In an effort to get as much music in as possible before too late, everything was being pushed forward. In the end, this decision proved brilliant, affording everybody more music and more time to wander playfully through the campgrounds, giggling contentedly before the sun came up.

Saturday, the first band on the main stage was Sound Tribe Sector 9, which included huge versions of the group's songs "Tokyo" and "Breathe In." After STS9's opening set, String Cheese played two full sets and took a short break before both bands combined forces for the main event of the weekend, "The Dance of the Universe." For this set, the audience members cleared the amphitheater floor and sat on the hill above watching a myriad of mind-scrambling, glowing eye candy while members of String Cheese and Sector 9 collaborated to provide the soundtrack. What began as a show slowly morphed into a party as the performers and the audience members gradually intertwined.


Horning's Hideout :: 2004 :: By Adam Kaye
After another short break, the musicians returned for a fourth set where anything went. Under the brilliantly skillful direction of Tye North, the musicians worked to create a groove to which multiple musicians took turns contributing. Because of the early start, the night was still young when the main stage action wound down around 12:30. Those with excess energy to burn off were treated to an impressive fire dancing display on the same site as some of the weekend's playshops. Deep into the night, the woods pulsed with the energy of countless drum circles as the stars danced in the sky.

For many, Sunday was a Bloody Mary morning. At times, it was difficult to tell those beginning a new day from those still enjoying last night. Keller Williams opened the main stage with a set, and then the Cheese played a set with some nice bluegrass and a pretty "Little Hands" > "Birdland" closer. During the set break, Hamsa Lila kept the crowd entertained with an extra long set at the top of the amphitheater. Then, toward the beginning of the second set, as if they hadn't already treated the crowd to enough surprises, the Cheese were joined by Keller and Scott Law for a blissful version of "Franklin's Tower." The "Could You Be Loved" encore was just icing on the cake to cap off a wonderful weekend in the woods.

Adam Kaye
JamBase | Oregon
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[Published on: 6/30/04]

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