Cover photo by Skyeler Williams @sky_hawke | All photos used with permission of Summer Meltdown
After a three-year hiatus, Summer Meltdown returned with a stacked lineup and a new venue to call home. Headlining this year were GRiZ, STS9, Greensky Bluegrass, Lettuce, Jade Cicada, Cory Wong and Opiuo; each aforementioned artist delivered a fantastic set. 2022 was my third Meltdown and it was honestly one of my favorite events. This intimate festival always has a ridiculous lineup and the river is heaven during the hot days. Two alternating main stages give you the rare opportunity to see most of the artists you came to see; no one likes having schedule conflicts between your must-see artists. With a mixture of funk, soul, bluegrass, rap, bass, jamtronica, and dubstep, there’s something for everyone.
Summer Meltdown is a magical festival and holds a very special place in my heart. The music is always an absolute treat, but the secret ingredient is the people. I’ve met my best friends at Meltdown over the years and it was wonderful to come back with these friends this year. Everyone you meet is unbelievably kind, generous, and genuine. Meltdown’s intimate size allows you to find your friends easily, which was wonderful considering cell service was non-existent all weekend. I bumped into my best friend Chynna one night and we realized we were dressed nearly identically – black slit weave ensembles, identical jewel cat ears, and Doc Marten boots. I met Chynna and a bunch of other friends in 2019 after befriending their friend, Smat. We all became close friends which wouldn’t have been possible without Meltdown.
Festivals have a way of producing wild and unbelievable stories that you cannot make up. These serendipitous moments restore my faith in humanity and are favorites to recount. I was sitting at the river with a friend and was retelling a fun festival story about when I was dressed as a unicorn at Summer Camp Music Festival. A woman excitedly ran across a field and enthusiastically gifted me a unicorn figurine that matched my outfit perfectly – I still have the unicorn and cherish the memory. As my story ended, a man standing near me reached down next to me and held up a beautiful rock that had been split in half to reveal several sparkly mineral layers. I had a fleeting thought of “I wish I had seen that” and seconds later, he grabs the other half and hands it to me with a smile. One minute I had been recounting the generosity of a stranger at another festival and then the stranger next to me made my day.
The Sweetest Perk
Meltdown was my best friend Heather’s partner’s first festival in the US. Carson told Heather that he was excited to festival with me given my semi-professional festival experience. He had the time of his life with us this weekend and I was happy that I could share it with him at Meltdown. Carson is a talented potter and little did I know, he had made me a coffee cup. Friday morning as coffee was being made, I was searching for my cup. Silently Caron slipped off to Heather’s car and returned with a lovely coffee mug he had made for me. Another magical festival moment unfolded as I needed a coffee cup and Carson proffered one crafted especially for me. I was touched by Caron’s heartfelt gesture and knew I had made yet another lifelong friend at Meltdown.
Time After Time
Four years ago (in 2018), Greensky Bluegrass also headlined Meltdown. I was with a few friends who are huge Greensky fans and I shared with them that I was hoping they’d play their imaginative rendition of “Time” by Pink Floyd, which I’m obsessed with. They gently told me not to get my hopes up because they never played it–they themselves hadn’t seen it live and they’d seen them 20-something times. Optimistically, I kept my dream alive and was blown away when they casually dropped it! My friends were shocked and said Greensky played it for me.
Fast forward to this year and I said a prayer to the festi gods that they’d reward me with “Time” again – and sure enough, Greensky played it! I was holding a can when I heard the unmistakable opening notes and crushed said can while emitting a squeal of delight. I danced my heart out and thanked the Universe.
Melting, Melting, Melted
The river offered an oasis during the hot, dusty days. With music not starting until 7:00 pm each day, attendees flocked to the river in droves to recharge and cool down. The cold water hit harder than Griz’s bassline and provided a fun activity that other festivals lack. Floaties of all shapes and colors were on parade and people brought impressive sound systems to keep the dance parties grooving.
GRiZ is a supernova and shows absolutely no signs of slowing. He performed with the same gusto and enthusiasm that I’ve seen him play his self-curated shows and huge festivals with. His live shows have expanded into featuring a duo called The Late Night Horns, who bring the irreplaceable energy of live instruments. Combined with his saxophone and an absolute show-stopping vocalist, Chrishira, GRiZ’s shows are second to none. Probcause, a rapper on several GRiZ tracks, also performs and pumps the crowd up. Effortlessly swinging between funk, dubstep, bass, and soulful sounds, GRiZ never disappoints. His live shows are energetic and legendary; he was my favorite performance of the weekend, bar none.
The Funk Hunters
My other, (hands-down) favorite set of the weekend was the genre-bending duo, The Funk Hunters. Playing banger after banger of bass, dubstep, funk, trap and everything in between, The Funk Hunters slayed their set. The crowd (myself included) went wild and feral, dancing feverishly into the wee hours of the night. I could have raged for several more hours. Ending their set on a sweet note, they dropped a delightfully funky remix of “Bittersweet Symphony” by the Verve as well as “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles. I am 100% sure I owe my back pain to their set but honestly would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Funk meets electronica meets stupid fun in an act that is truly unique; Opiuo warmed the crowd up Thursday evening and was the perfect way to open the weekend. It has been a few years since I’ve seen him and he has grown tremendously as an artist. Hailing from New Zealand, Opiuo is touring the US festival circuit while also exploring the US with his wife and two kids. Both kids wanted to come on stage to say hello to us and were greeted with roaring applause. Opiuo graciously thanked his family for coming on tour with him and gave his wife a shout-out for allowing him to record her for his visuals. You could tell Opiuo was having the time of his life playing for us and that energy emanated into the crowd.
If incredible music, sun, river life, and world-class people interest you, I implore you to give Summer Meltdown a go next year–you won’t be disappointed!