Our Chinook Fest Alumni

Chinook Fest has always been driven to play a role (however small) in the career of the burgeoning musician. Co-Founder, Cody Beebe, who spent the better part of the last decade as a touring musician  understands all too well the plight of many a musician’s existence. You’ve likely heard some of his stories… traveling thousands of miles to play to three people in a Texas honky-tonk, surviving on a diet of Doritos, sunflower seeds and Red Bull, and not just because you’re broke, but because a convenience store was the only place to stop in the last 100 miles! Sometimes an entire bar is talking over your entire set and sometimes you actually end up paying to play. When after thousands of miles on the road and 150 shows you discover you only broke even, sometimes one has to ask, what’s it all for?

No one chooses to be a musician, and definitely no one chooses to do it for the money. It’s a calling, not a choice. They do it for you, the fan, the family, the one person who for a moment finally feels understood through the lyrics of their song. They do it for the three people in Texas who each tell two of their friends. Without you, there is no them, their calling brings no purpose.

You may not think it, but each of you have played a role in the growing career of one or more Chinook Fest bands or musicians. You told one friend, you bought one CD, you “Liked” them on Facebook. You became part of a movement that spurred the growth and success of one person’s dream. And here is a little proof of that action contributing to the success of some of our Chinook Fest Alums…

Austin Jenckes – To Austin’s credit, he had already experienced a small taste of stardom before joining the Chinook Fest Family, as a Top 10 Finalist on NBC’s The Voice in 2013. He headlined the Chinook Fest main stage in the summer of 2014 and has graced nearly every one of our stages since then. As a self-described country boy, Austin has had no trouble making Nashville home and for the last several years has been penning songs to be recorded by other artists. In December of 2016 This Is My World, co-penned by Austin, was featured in the Assassin’s Creed movie trailer. And, he currently has several songs being shopped by mainstream country artists. According to Austin, however, his biggest achievement to date is marriage to wife Brittany and the birth of their first child this last August, Ravenna.

The Lil Smokies – They debuted to the Chinook Fest Family in the spring of 2015 on the main stage of the inaugural Yakima Roots & Vines. They returned in September that year to share with us again their unique, Montana based progressive bluegrass sound. In the wee hours of Saturday night as musicians jammed together around the firelight backstage, The Smokies encountered multi-instrumentalist Matt Rieger, formerly of Blake Noble Band, and a bond was formed. In early 2016 Matt Rieger moved from Seattle to Missoula to officially join The Lil Smokies as their lead guitarist. Now whether or not it can be said that Matt had been the missing piece, The Smokies career took flight in 2016. Last year they returned to the Roots & Vines stage in Yakima, and when pouring down rain threatened electrocution, the band unplugged and continued to play acoustic to the dancing crowd. In addition they played nearly every major Bluegrass, Folk and Americana festival in the states, including DelFest, Telluride Bluegrass, NW String Summit, WinterWondergrass, and many more. They closed out the year on a very high note, being awarded the Momentum Band of the Year from the International Bluegrass Music Association.  2017 has started off well as they opened on tour for Yonder Mountain String Band. We can’t wait to have them back on the Chinook Fest stage this September and see what they have in store for the remainder of their year and career!

X Ambassadors – When we first stumbled upon these four hard-working boys from Ithaca, New York (two of which, brothers Casey & Sam Nelson, had briefly lived in the Seattle area), they had but a handful of singles. A couple of those singles, The Jungle and Renegades, were picked up by Dr. Dre’s Beats and Jeep, respectively, to run in their television ads. This was about the time in early 2015 that the band caught our attention and we secured them to headline the inaugural Chinook Fest Summit. If their engaging and electric performance for us was any indication of the direction their career would be going, then it should have come as no surprise that their first full length record, released just two weeks prior to the festival, eventually hit #7 on Billboard’s Top 200. Since then, the band which had only 20,000 Facebook followers now has over 200,000. The song Renegades, which had roughly 5 million streams on Spotify now has over 200 million. X Ambassadors who played to just under 1,000 people at Chinook Fest Summit in 2015 now tours the world, selling out stadiums and playing to 10s of thousands.

Tim Snider – Violin virtuoso, Tim Snider, has been a member of our Chinook Fest Family since day one. His strawberry blonde hair and bare feet, are unmistakable calling cards to the Chinook Fest crowd. His distinctive sound of a man well-traveled, well-learned and the sharing of his experiences with others has never failed to connect with our audiences. And if you’re  wondering why we don’t see so much of Tim these days…well, his world travels continue with a little band known as  Nahko & Medicine for the People. We couldn’t be more proud to see one of our family members have the opportunity to continue to spread his talents and insights to fans in far off places. Tim now lives in Southern California. On his downtime he still records his own material and plans for life ahead with wife Vivian.

Sturgill Simpson – You may not be aware that Sturgill Simpson was a last minute addition to the Chinook Fest line-up in 2014. We’d maxed out our entertainment budget, all the time slots were filled and then Sturgill fell in our lap. There was just something about him, something that reminded us of the music we’d heard our parents listen to in the early 80s. Waylon, Willie and Kris. Something unassuming and nostalgic about him. Something we knew the Chinook Fest Family would love and embrace. We didn’t want to say no, we couldn’t say no and so we took the risk. Boy was it worth it. Not only did Sturgill’s sophomore LP begin climbing the charts a few months before Chinook Fest, he was gaining attention industry wide. He was nominated and won the Americana Music Awards Emerging Artist of the Year the week following Chinook Fest 2014.  In 2015 he would receive three AMA nominations and take home two of them, Artist of the Year and Song of the Year!   Although Sturgill went relatively unacknowledged by the  other major music awards in 2015 and 2016 (due to the  success of newcomer Chris Stapleton,) this year Sturgill has finally received the credit he is due, getting his first Grammy Nomination for A Sailor’s Guide to Earth in the Album of the Year category.

Songwriters Past & Present

Somewhere in the din of my pre-teen years, I remember hearing Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah on the radio. It was a beautiful and haunting ballad that had found popularity during the angst ridden era of grunge rock. And I recall thinking what a tragedy it was to lose an artist like Buckley before he’d even earned his due acclaim.  It wasn’t until my early 20s, when as a developing music enthusiast, I discovered the song had actually been written and originally recorded by Leonard Cohen. And it was through that discovery that I would come to fall in love with the poetry of Leonard Cohen.

Baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor (you know)
I used to live alone before I knew you
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Cohen was never particularly mainstream. He was a writer’s writer and a musician’s musician. Revered by an entire industry, and I expect he will be until long after his death this past November. Bob Dylan sang Cohen’s praises throughout his entire career, saying at one point that Cohen wasn’t even writing songs anymore, he was writing prayers. Even industry press has speculated that the Nobel Prize received by Bob Dylan this last October could have just as easily been awarded to Leonard Cohen.

Chinook Fest has always been proud to focus on artists of unsung (no pun intended) quality, not necessarily the ones that will sell the most tickets. And so as we reflect upon the loss of one of the greatest songwriters of all time, (along with so many others lost in 2016 who left their indelible mark on music), we thought we’d share a few “under the radar” artists we feel represent the next generation of incomparable songwriters and quality musicians. You may not hear these artists on the radio, but you’ll see one on the Chinook Fest stage this September!

Did you hear the devil laughing
From the ambulance passing?
Or was that just my troubled mind?
Don’t you want to shake the ground
And tear heaven down?
Raise your fist to the guilty sky
I’ve been pouring whiskey in the wind
Burning pictures of my best friends
Until the ashes cover me like rain
And you meant something to me then
And you mean something to me now
But some things ain’t meant to stay the same

John Moreland, No Glory In Regret

Well the raven is a wicked bird
Its wings are black as sin
And he floats outside my prison window
Mocking’ those within
And he sinks to me real low
“It’s hell to where you go
For you did murder Kate McCannon.”
– Colter Wall, Kate McCannon

Is sponsored by the state
There’s no bravery in bayonets
In tearing down the gates
If you see me with a rifle
Don’t ask me what it’s for
I fight my father’s wars
– Joe Pug, I Do My Father’s Drugs

All those daydreaming mornings
All the wishful goodnight thinking
I have steered through every dark alley

In hopes of a light at the end I could see
Young with nowhere to be
But you can’t get far for free
This ain’t no rookie dreaming
– Courtney Marie Andrews, Rookie Dreaming