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Dave B. Brings Plenty Of Heat to Summer Meltdown

The phrase “summer meltdown” might conjure up images of sweltering afternoons in Ga., or of sun-bathed beaches in Southern Cali. But Summer Meltdown, one of the nation’s most exciting festivals, takes place in one of its most beautiful, under-appreciated locales: the Pacific Northwest. And what better way to bring the sounds of that region to festivalgoers — and to the country at large — than by highlighting remarkable young upstarts like Seattle’s Dave B., the rapper and singer with eclectic tastes who’s making serious waves across hip-hop’s underground.

With work like last fall’s naked, expansive Pearl, Dave B. has established himself as one of rap’s most colorful burgeoning talents. In addition to his work as a vocalist, Dave is a skilled producer, especially when it comes to enjambing sounds with distinctly different textures against one another. His music carries with it the kind of tension that’s to be expected from an artist who grew up studying the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Erykah Badu in equal measure. His voice is unique and versatile, well-suited to cutting through dins, no matter which instruments are creating them.

Pearl is an engrossing record, the kind of thing that should be a snapshot of an artist in his formative years, but transcends that to stand on its own. Songs like “Peakin” and “Pink Fleece” reveal a silky writer and a confident performer, who blurs the lines of not only genre, but of mood and feel. There are obvious traces of Dave’s immediate predecessors, like Chance the Rapper, but his style is singular enough that it holds up as its own unique perspective.

Dave’s talent is so obvious that, in a short time in the spotlight, he’s already been singled out by some of the most successful artists from his region and from the country at large. Most notably, local heroes Macklemore and Ryan Lewis asked him to join them as a support act for their This Unruly Mess I’ve Made Tour. That journey was an avenue for Dave to win over rooms that might have been unfamiliar with him at the start of his sets, but must have seen the vision by the end.

His latest release, a single called “David,” is slight and summery, the kind of cut that might work best while you ride around with your friends on a cloudless day — or enjoy at a shimmering music festival with your friends. Summer Meltdown has existed, in various forms, in three different decades now, and now stands as a welcome refuge surrounded by nature. Situated between Seattle and Bellingham, Wash. in the Darrington Bluegrass Music Park, it straddles that line that only the Pacific Northwest has: the divide between coastal paradise and rugged wilderness. Summer Meltdown is a unique, harmonious camping experience that provides an instant sense of community. And that, in a way, is the appeal of Dave B.’s music: it’s art that feels like home from the moment you hit play, a respite from the brutal world outside.