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The Boathouse Blog

Music For Wild Places

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” ~John Muir


Our friend and fellow river guide Kai Welch, a grammy-nominated singer-songwriter from Nashville, TN, has come up with a brilliant idea. Campfire sing-alongs have always been a favorite past-time on a river trip. Kai wants to take it to the next level and bring along world-class musicians. Spend your days drifting through beautiful river canyons, then listen to live music echo from these canyon walls in the evenings.

Kai spent his younger years working as a river guide in Hells Canyon, developing a deep attachment to this wild place and others like it.  Music eventually led him to Nashville, TN where he is finding success with a touring/producing/songwriting career.  But while enjoying the music scene all over the world, it’s largely taken him away from these wild places.  Somewhere along the way he began to wonder, what if the concert hall and the river canyon or the alpine meadow didn’t have to be a world apart?  Last summer he took advantage of an opportunity to get back on the river when his tour-mate, Abigail Washburn, took a hiatus to have a baby with her husband, Bela Fleck. Kai called us up with the idea to start a Wilderness Concert Series, Music For Wild Places. We jumped at the opportunity.

Music For Wild Places’ mission is to allow people to enjoy the wilderness in a unique way, combining the transporting experience of hearing world-class live music, with the soul-stirring feeling of connecting with a truly wild place.  In the process it hopes to promote an awareness for the need to conserve these places, for our own sake and theirs. A portion of the proceeds from each trip will be given to the Western Rivers Conservancy in support of their work in places like the Snake River’s watershed.

In August, 2013, Kai and friends Ashley Campbell and Nat Smith joined our Plate & Pitchfork Raft Trip to provide music in Hells Canyon. So not only were our guests served amazing food from chefs Benjamin Bettinger and Doug Adams of the Imperial in Portland, but they were serenaded each evening by this “Hells Canyon Trio”. Check out some of their music. (And yes, Ashley is Glenn Campbell’s daughter and inherited much of his talent):

For the summer of 2014, we’re planning 2 river trips. One on the Salmon River with ChessBoxer (Ross Holmes (of Mumford & Sons) & Matt Menefee) and Kai as the guest musicians. And one August 3-6 in Hells Canyon with Phoebe Hunt, Dominick Leslie (of the Deadly Gentlemen), Heather Robb (of The Spring Standards), and Kai.

“We humans have accomplished a lot in the last few hundred years.  We have at least moved in the direction of equality and justice: mutual respect between men and women, between people of different races, religions, and sexual preferences.  Hey, compared to feudal times we’ve even broken a few barriers between rich and poor.  All these took generations — centuries of conflict, struggles, even wars to overcome.  And in each case, it’s human dignity and human rights we’ve been moving toward.  But what if our next great movement toward justice and equality isn’t strictly about us?  What if our next task is to apply those same ethics of human rights to the rest of the living world that keeps us all alive?  What if it could become our generation’s empowering cultural ethos to protect, revere, and attempt to learn something from the wildernesses we have left in this world?  And what if it even became hip in the mainstream?  What if this #ethos started trending on twitter, and went viral on Youtube?  Could loving the wilderness be a sexy pop sensation, the next big thing?  I think so.” – Kai Welch