Indy Pick: 6th Annual Subdued Stringband Jamboree Rocks Demming
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This is probably the biggest Indy Pick you’ll see this year, due to the importance of the event, and I’m proud to be able to present it to you. Even after reading their promotional material, I approached the Subdued Stringband Jamboree at the Deming Log Show grounds with the impression it was an insider’s convention. Oh boy, was I proven delightfully wrong!

An ever-swelling audience that would eventually number a couple of hundred would soon collect before two hand-built stages. The sun would arrive just in time to shine down on three or four careening children with windmill arms and appreciative smiling people of all ages, from eight months to eighty years old, basking in music that would best be described as downright fun.

Like Bellingham itself, the Jamboree is a nexus of regional music. This year, for $25 you could have seen 28 acts, participated in a number of workshops, and jammed with some of your favorite regional musicians. There was even an incredible folksy blues guy from Arizona, by the name of Lonesome Shack. For $5 more, you could have set up camp so that driving home drunk on music would not be an issue.

But as far as I’m concerned, you can’t put a value on the crowd that was there. Gus Smith of the Mighty Ghosts of Heaven agrees.

“This thing is unique to the area,” Smith said, baritone ukulele in hand. “You probably couldn’t get this sort of collaboration, this collection of people, anywhere else.”

An example of this collaboration is “the Band Scramble” where names are drawn out of a hat to produce three bands, which each have 45 minutes to come up with a song to perform in front of the audience. Which they did admirably well. Also, after the main show, jam circles go as late as 4 a.m. with workshops following the next morning.

The “Subdued” part of the event definitely doesn’t refer to the music, or the enthusiasm of the audience, so much as it does the general attitude of the attendees. The easy-does-it atmosphere and congenial demeanor of everyone involved creates something special that cultivates creativity like nothing else, and out-of-towners can’t help but take that home with them. After six years, they keep coming back. I’ve seen it happen at other venues in Whatcom County, too, with Bob Log III at the 3B and Scott Biram at Boundary Bay, for instance.

“This place has the best audiences,” is a common phrase, repeated word for word by any number of musicians you’ll hear throughout the year, and the Jamboree exemplifies that statement. Which is why, when I approached Robert Blake, I gave him one tough question: What would you think if this thing got so big that it filled up the entire fair grounds to the point where you had security problems? He chuckled.

“Well, it would definitely change the feel of the event some,” he said. “But it would be pretty awesome, and we could use the support.” When I asked if what he needed were more group leaders to run the volunteers (something that his cohort Dean said they needed), Blake acknowledged that but said, “What I need is a publicist.” In fact, there’s a wish list on their website that includes “a barn or garage where we can store plywood, popup tents, …[etc.]” and “someone experienced doing security at festivals” among other essentials.

Despite only nearly breaking even every year for six years, it’s still a big event. And it’s growing. The response from the audience for each act was gratifying to hear. And with two stages, Blake and his crew were able to present non-stop music for five hours on Friday and 12 hours straight on Saturday.

As for the musicians and bands that played this year, they were all good. In fact, they were some of the best the region has to offer, and at their best performances. You can take this Indy Pick as a recommendation to hunt them down and listen to each one. It’d be a good start for anyone new to the music scene.

In the end, there was only one dissatisfied customer I could spot. Every party’s got one. A disgruntled neighbor threatened to call the sheriff if the amplified music continued past midnight.

My only critique of the show would be for the future publicist of the event. So far most of the advertising has been aimed back at the music community, which has created a great backbone for the Festival to build on. Now it’s time to let the rest of the county know about this amazing family-friendly event. This reporter will definitely do his part to chip in on that next year.