SCI HORNING'S HIDEOUT: THE MAGIC REMAINS

Words: Adam Kaye | Photos: John Icabone

Horning's Hideout :: 08.04.05 - 08.07.05 :: North Plains, OR

For what might be the last time, the String Cheese Incident pulled their bus into and out of Horning's Hideout near Portland, Oregon last weekend. For four full days, this pristine wooded campground, which is equal parts Ewok Village and Animal House, was home to the laughter and revelry of 5,000 of the friendliest freaks on the scene today.


Horning's Hideout 2005
Due to a variety of factors, there was a lot more uncertainty preceding this year's festival. Since last summer, new land use rules in Washington County have brought into question whether Bob Horning will be allowed to continue to host these weekend-long family reunions. Already this summer, several events originally planned for the Hideout have had to be relocated due to the uncertainty surrounding the land, but String Cheese's weekend went off without a hitch.

The overriding themes for the weekend were creation, sharing, and spontaneity, visible in almost every interaction all weekend long. Musicians made music, dancers shared space, and people from all corners of the country met their friends for three more days of living together, this time on 160 acres of forested paths and creeks.

THURSDAY :: 08.04.05

The campgrounds were officially opened to the ticket-purchasing guests around four on Thursday afternoon, but for several days before that, the Hideout had been buzzing with the activity of hundreds of intricately coordinated volunteers and production crew members. The campsites in the shade went fast, though if you were lucky enough to have an early-arriving friend to throw down a tarp or a tent for you, you could count on squeezing in nearby whenever you arrived.


SCI :: Horning's Hideout 2005
Most campsites consisted of a handful of tents and a circle of camping chairs arranged within an arm's reach of a cooler and a couple bags of groceries. The message board rumors preceding the weekend led many guests to go to great lengths to stash their alcohol in the most creative of hiding places, but the popular sentiment on the inside was that they didn't need to go to that much trouble and that they should have brought far more than they did.

The first official music of the weekend began in the amphitheater around seven Thursday evening when Zilla took the stage, but not before the M.C. invited everyone in attendance to "stand up and hug somebody you've never met before." Next, longtime friend of the family Lester read a poem that ended with an invitation to come down to the floor and dance. Immediately, almost everybody jumped down off the hill and charged toward Zilla, which includes SCI's maniacal drummer Michael Travis, percussionist and hammered dulcimer aficionado Jamie Janover, and Aaron Holstein - a killer bass player with the bravado of a frontman rockstar. Their unique and fun blend of trance, improvisational jamming, and straight-ahead rocking gave those dying to dance every opportunity to do so, and the result was a cloud of dust that rose above the dance floor and hovered there, as if to protect the swarming masses from the heat. Before the sun set forty-five minutes into their set, the amphitheater appeared well more than half-full - far and away the most people ever in attendance this early in the weekend. Even those back at camp could hear the bass tones bouncing through the woods, and just like that, the weekend had a pulse.

FRIDAY :: 08.05.05

The Hideout was loosely divided into five separate camps, each with a unique theme and a gathering space that played host to various activities throughout the weekend. There was a huge yoga class every morning in Expression Camp and an improvisational open-mic at Inspiration Camp, located on the shore of the swimming hole. In addition to music and yoga, there were also a number of different panels that took place, including panels on activism, women's empowerment, alternative energy, the Mayan calendar, and the traditions and subcultures of the festival community. Various workshops took place affording people an opportunity to share their experiences with art, fire dancing, and hula hooping.


SCI with Arturo Sandoval :: Horning's Hideout 2005
Out of respect for the Hideout's neighbors, the entire schedule for each day was pushed forward by a couple hours. While some feared this might throw off their internal party clocks, most recognized that the result would be extra hours for late-night shenanigans and more time sitting in a circle of camping chairs with your friends and laughing until your sides hurt. Beginning around four p.m. Friday afternoon, San Francisco's New Monsoon treated the early-arrivers to a nice, long set of their rockin' world rhythms. Each of the seven members play an integral part in the Indian, Brazilian, and Latin-influenced music they create, but they seem at their best when everyone is focused on playing together. Highlights included Jeff Miller's mind-melting guitar solo toward the middle of the set, the dueling guitars segment, and a tabla solo from Rajiv Parikh.

And in the same spirit of improvisation and collaboration that accompanied them on the Big Summer Classic tour this summer, New Monsoon invited Michael Travis to join them on stage. Railroad Earth's violinist Tim Carbone sat in as well - three full days before his band was scheduled to perform - on a slow, groovin' tune that patiently grew faster before reaching a roaring climax. To return the favor, the New Monsoon boys stuck around all weekend long, leading a parade from the campgrounds to the amphitheater one day and contributing on stage throughout the weekend.

After New Monsoon, a jazz trumpet virtuoso was thrown into the mix when Dizzy Gillespie's Cuban protégé, multi-instrumentalist Arturo Sandoval played an opening set in the afternoon Oregon sun. There are some musicians who have such a strong command of their craft, it's obvious the instant they pick up their instrument, and Arturo Sandoval is one of those artists. Due to a logistical snafu, Arturo's backing band ended up including Kyle Hollingsworth, Jason Hann on bass, and Michael Travis on percussion, but nobody in the audience seemed to be complaining.

SAY CHEESE!


SCI :: Horning's Hideout 2005
Sometime before eight in the evening, String Cheese took the stage and delivered a show full of fan favorites, including the "Smile" opener and the Arturo Sandoval-infused "MLT" and "Impressions" before closing the first set on a very high note with "Water." Keeping all things water-based, the second set opened with "Rivertrance" and included an impressive glowstick melee during "Black Clouds." To end the second set, the Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place" hit perfectly before "Shine" led some of the freaks to throw caution to the wind and charge toward the stage, no matter what boundaries stood in their way.

SATURDAY :: 08.06.05

In my favorite example of the themes of sharing and creation, the pride of Portland - Scott Law, Tye North, and Matt Butler - hosted an "open mic exploration of aural creativity" each afternoon. Essentially, these brilliant musicians were giving away their services as a "backing band" for anybody who went to the trouble to sign up. The session began with the naming of the band ("Leftover Salmon Incident") and a sustained group "Ohhh" to help everybody get on the same page. The improvisational aspect never really went as far as it could have, but it was still a treat to see people singing their songs. The highlight was easily a heartfelt song titled "So Real," about the experience of transitioning back into "real life" after another of these magical weekends.


Kyle Hollingsworth :: Horning's Hideout 2005
The session ended with an extended performance by the Fungineers - a troupe of puppeteers who were hidden behind a plastic curtain placed at the front of the stage with a gorgeous scene of green hills, a big blue rainbow-filled sky, and a creek painted on it. Musicians played behind the curtain, and the puppeteers rapped their way through a cute story about a wizard's magic potion that caused them to feel funny and to see strange things - some of the same sensations that many members of the audience seemed to be experiencing. As wonderfully entertaining as the show was, the highlight was definitely the moment just after the show ended when the curtain was pulled down to reveal a scene even more idyllic than the one painted on the screen.

The first act on stage Saturday was Transglobal Underground - a collective born out of various influences, including DJ culture, Indian classical, reggae, bhangra, hip-hop, community politics, underground art, and eighties pop. The crowd was relatively small because this set sort of snuck up on everybody. By this point in the weekend, most had given up on watch-checking and on-time arrivals. From here on out, everybody was staying as long as they were having a good time and moving when the time felt right. Transglobal Underground included a great deal of percussion, a lone female performer playing the sitar, and what seemed like a wide variety of digital effects. Next, world-class African Rasta Alpha Blondy shared his multi-lingual reggae and scratched the reggae itch for many in attendance.

MORE CHEESE PLEASE


Peak Experience :: Horning's Hideout 2005
With their hours on stage Saturday night, the Cheese and their team of thousands produced the Peak Experience of the weekend. The first set included a nice taste of their brand new album One Step Closer, but it was what came next that had everybody wide-eyed and fancy-free for the rest of the evening. On the setlist, the second set is one song entitled "Third Eye Open Ceremonial Theatre," but in real life it was, as I overheard somebody enthusiastically telling his friend, "One of the coolest fucking things I've ever seen in my life!" There was fire covering the floor of the amphitheater and acrobats performing throughout. Soon, green lasers shot through green smoke and filled the bowl of the amphitheater with "Whoa!"s and "Cool!"s.

It was somewhere within this "Third Eye Open Ceremonial Theatre," conducted brilliantly by Jamie Janover, that the energy level reached maximum velocity. After politely restraining themselves for the performance, which lasted anywhere between fifteen minutes and four hours, depending upon your vantage point, the raging revelers finally hit their boiling point. It was almost as if somebody had flipped on a signal the way the hippies poured back onto the floor for "It Is What It Is." But there was no switch - it was just time.


Peak Experience :: Horning's Hideout 2005
Once again, Portland's favorite freakshow coordinators Peak Experience Productions played an essential role in the planning and execution of the weekend, especially the eye-candy that accompanied the "Third Eye Open Ceremonial Theatre." It's difficult to describe the immeasurable impact that Peak has on these String Cheese/Horning's weekends, but you know it when you feel it. And once you've felt it, there's no going back.

The Cheese followed the spectacle with another great set, the highlight of which was the communal "Will It Go Round In Circles" and "San Jose" encore that included Martin Fierro on saxophone, Scott Law on guitar, Jamie Janover, Marty Ylitalo, and Rajiv Parikh on percussion, Phil Ferlino on keyboards, and the drummer from Transglobal Underground.

SATURDAY LATE-NIGHT


Peak Experience :: Horning's Hideout 2005
When the show ended, everybody was left to create their own fun until they ran out of whatever they were using for fuel. The highlights that seemed to be coming up most often during the fuzzy Sunday morning recollections were the Volkswagen-sized bubbles being produced on the lake at sunrise and the glowing insect-humans beneath the glowing pentagram at Inspiration Camp. Also being mentioned repeatedly was the late-night jam session that featured Billy Nershi on lap-guitar, Scott Law, Matt Butler, Travis on both bass and percussion, and Tim Carbone on fiddle. All seemed in agreement that the musical highlight of the previous evening was the ritual set - especially that point at the end when without speaking, everybody agreed that the time had arrived to let it all hang out.

SUNDAY :: 08.07.05


After several days of festival-style living, everybody's pace seemed to slow a little on Sunday. A nice breeze swept through the campgrounds while some pampered themselves with professional massages, not-so-professional haircuts, and $5 showers. Railroad Earth was the only opening band, and they were fantastic, especially Tim Carbone on his violin. Martin Fierro sat in with his saxophone for a few tunes, and New Monsoon's Jeff Miller also played electric guitar for a song.

CHEESE IS A FINE DESSERT


SCI :: Horning's Hideout 2005
It was obvious when the Cheese began their first set of the evening that a lot of people had already departed, which just meant more room to dance and shorter lines for dinner and drinks. Kang broke out his violin for a couple tunes and blew everybody away once again, including an adorable little girl who was dancing on stage while the band performed. Highlights included Kang rippin' on "45th of November," an extra-funky "Freedom Jazz Dance," and a phenomenal "Little Hands" whose explosive conclusion had the crowd going bonkers and the band members grinning from ear to ear.

During their second set, the Cheese invited several members of Railroad Earth on stage for a few songs, and in one final gesture of sharing, played a great version of Railroad Earth's "Long Way to Go" with Billy on a lap-steel guitar. At some point, Nershi volunteered the fact that he was feeling something akin to how a piece of bread feels after being toasted for a second time - "double toasted." It was also Nershi who seemed to sum up the entire weekend with his sentiment that "it just doesn't get any better than this." Then he appeared to think twice and said, "Well, maybe it does, but this is the best it's been so far!"


SCI :: Horning's Hideout 2005
The last hour of music Sunday night was some of the best all weekend. First, Peter Gabriel's "Shakin' the Tree" had everybody reminiscing about shows from a few years ago. Next, Scott Law sat in on an epically funky "Shantytown" near the same grounds that inspired the song. "Jellyfish" featured a sweet tribute to a dear member of the band's family who is departing for greener pastures, and the "Rollover" to close the set felt like a nice fit. Finally, the band returned with a whole slew of guests for the "grand finale," which turned out to be an energetic sing-along version of Bob Dylan's "Quinn the Eskimo."

SUNDAY LATE-NIGHT
Just before ten p.m., an obviously emotional Bob Horning took the stage to let everybody know how much he appreciated having everybody over for the weekend. He appealed for consideration for the curfew and for the neighbors and received a warm response from the crowd. Soon after, on the same hillside where the yoga classes took place, a troupe of fire dancers put on their yearly display for the excitable masses. Some of the performers were more skilled than others, but the beautiful topless woman seemed to get the most attention. Even with so much stimulation, everybody was very respectful of the noise curfew, which was the reason the trippy musical soundtrack was being played at a barely audible level. At one point, Clueless McDrunkstein yelled from the top of the hill, "Turn up the music!," but before there was even time to react, several others loudly whispered, "Don't!"


Horning's Hideout 2005
On their last big night of work for a little while, members of the band and crew were spotted wandering and partying their way through the various cocktail parties taking place throughout the woods - the same space the crew had spent months preparing for everybody else. Throughout the night, people were leaving for a flight or for work the next morning, but not before making plans to see their friends the next time, be it moe. Down, Austin City Limits, Vegoose, or elsewhere.

Monday morning, there were individuals sitting on their bags at the bottom of the road leading up and out of the Hideout holding signs with their destinations scribbled upon them. Those lucky enough to have a late flight out on Monday enjoyed breakfast in Portland with their friends before taking off. On your way home, it didn't matter whether you were flying past Hood or Shasta or rolling past Rainier or through the Columbia River Gorge, you felt as if you had been a part of something special. And just like Lewis and Clark as they began their long journey home from the same region 200 years ago, you might have been thinking, "They're never going to believe this shit."

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