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With 'Hiding Out At Home,' there'll be scores of musicians putting a spin on the festival, including Yonder Mountain String Band

COURTESY PHOTO: JASON CHARME PHOTOGRAPHY - Yonder Mountain String Band, which includes bass player Ben Kaufmann (middle), will highlight the online Northwest String Summit, July 17-19.Festival season and summer concerts in the Portland area won't be the same in 2020, obviously, with restrictions on large gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Waterfront Blues Festival, the largest festival, shifted to its "Listening Together" series that featured the "Bandwagon" event July 3-4 — socially distanced live music at selected driveways, cul-de-sacs and front porches.

And, now comes the (virtual) Northwest String Summit, July 17-19. Normally held at secluded Horning's Hideout in North Plains, it'll be streaming online but will still feature stalwart Yonder Mountain String Band and the likes of Greensky Bluegrass and Del & Dawg.

Some performances will be recorded, others will be live, remote and archived sets, accompanied by interviews and more content. It's titled "Hiding Out at Home" and it's in partnership with Live From Out There online concert series.

"If we can't be together in person," the publicity states, "let's be together in spirit."

Musicians have taken to online platforms to keep their music and events relevant. The 19th annual Northwest String Summit hopes to entertain people with three days of online contemporary bluegrass, indie, funk, jam rock and more music.

It's a different world now for musicians. Yonder Mountain String Band has been touring for 22 years, and it's the primary source of money for the band.

"For us and and some of our contemporaries, we suddenly found ourselves out of work," said Ben Kaufmann, the band's bass player. "I feel lucky because we were all able to save (money) over the years; it's not typical that musicians are smart about their finances. It wasn't like I was going to lose my house right away. But, it's getting to the point where I'm thinking what's going to happen if this continues. Nobody knows how long it's going to go."

The funny thing is Kaufmann said he and band members have been wanting to take a year off and "now we're really taking a year off and now what do we do?" The silver lining is that Kaufmann gets to spend more time with family, including his 8-year-old son.

Yonder Mountain made a video of a performance in Colorado recently to be shown during the virtual Northwest String Summit. But, Kaufmann and others will miss the real thing.

"String Summit is special. There's an energy there," he said. "I did feel some of that same energy when we got together that day in Colorado. But, it'll be the first time we're not physically on site in Horning's Hideout in 19 years."

On a personal note, Kaufmann added, "my father's ashes are spread at String Summit, at a nestled spot on the hillside. It's a great opportunity to go and sit and try to share my year at the very least (with him), share my spirit with his spirit."

Yonder Mountain String Band has been a featured group at the Northwest String Summit from the start. The health and economic crisis has changed the event, and now what?

"Everybody's trying to figure out a way to weather this storm," Kaufmann said. "I do believe at some point we'll be together in each other's company again, and experience music and energy together without worry about this disease."

For more: www.stringsummit.com.


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