Festival at Sandpoint: World-class music, backyard vibe

Nathaniel Rateliff, Avett Brothers, Lake Street Dive and Kool and the Gang on this year’s roster

On Stage

The Festival at Sandpoint kicks off Aug. 1 with eight nights of music under the stars on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille.

Since 1983, the non-profit Festival at Sandpoint has hosted its internationally renowned summer concert series in a laid-back and intimate atmosphere at Memorial Field in Sandpoint. With a capacity of only 4,000 people, it feels as though the artists are playing in your backyard.

The festival books an upbeat array of music, and as organizers say, “people here love to dance!” But even non-dancers can find a spot on the grass or in the grandstands to enjoy the concert experience. Most shows begin at 7:30 p.m., but it’s wise to arrive early, since seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats kick off Sandpoint’s 37th annual summer concert series at Aug. 1 with their special brand of folk, Americana and vintage R&B. The dance party begins with Lucius, a four-piece indie pop band that got its start in Brooklyn ($59.95-$84.95). Dance concerts are arranged differently, with a large dance area (no chairs or coolers allowed) in front of the stage.

One part folk-pop, one part sketch group, and one part musical experimenters, Canadian band Walk Off The Earth takes the stage Aug. 2. Group members trade instruments with one another mid-song or deliver elaborate one-take performances where the song is built piece by piece by a single member playing every instrument. Hometown faves The Shook Twins open ($44.95-$69.95).

Rock and Roll and Songwriting Hall of Fame legend Jackson Browne performs Aug. 3 with his full band (sold out). Starting his career in 1966 as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Browne soon ventured out on his own becoming an iconic member of the prolific class of California singer-songwriters of the 1970s. He has sold over 18 million albums in the United States, writing and recording songs such as “These Days,” “The Pretender,” and “Running on Empty.”

The festival’s first week wraps up Sunday, Aug. 4, with the Family Concert, featuring the Festival Community Orchestra and Studio One Dancers perform at 5 p.m. Favorite pre-concert activities include the Instrument Petting Zoo, an animal petting zoo, clowns, face painting, games galore and the popular Parents’ Corner.

Concerts resume Aug. 8 when indie pop, jazz and soul sensation Lake Street Dive returns to the festival stage by popular demand. Influenced by classic pop and swing-era jazz, the group explains: “We want it to sound like the Beatles and Motown had a party together!” Darlingside, an indie folk band from Boston, opens with “exquisitely arranged, literary-minded, baroque folk-pop.” (NPR) Brew tasting starts when gates open at 6 p.m. ($10); concert tickets are $49.95-$74.95.

Alt-country superstars The Avett Brothers combine bluegrass, country, punk, pop, folk, rock, honky-tonk and ragtime Aug. 9. Che Apalache opens the dance show with their special brand of Latingrass, a mix of South American music and bluegrass ($74.95).

Kool and the Gang, the funk rock superstars founded in 1964 by brothers Robert “Kool” Bell and Ronald Bell, continue to explore jazz, soul, funk, rock and pop, earning two Grammys, seven American Music Awards and induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame enroute. Leroy Bell and His Only Friends open the Aug. 10 dance show ($64.95-$89.95).

As always the Festival at Sandpoint wraps up with the Spokane Symphony, with special guests Sybarite5 – one of classical music’s most dynamic new ensembles. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 11 for the wine tasting and a fireworks display follows the show ($10.95-$39.95).

Food and beverages (including alcohol) are welcome at all concerts, or festival-goers may sample the wares of 13 local food vendors and visit two full bars.

For information and tickets, visit www.festivalatsandpoint.com or call 208-265-4554.