Railroad Earth shows off their costumes before going on stage in 2019. (Photo: Susan J. Weiand)
The spirit of Halloween is in full force at Hangtown Music Festival. The event, Oct. 21-24, is based around the music, but the fun and atmosphere come from the people who go there.
Railroad Earth Drummer Carey Harmon said the magic of Hangtown comes from the crowd itself, who bring the creative spirit to the festival.
“No one needs to tell them to dress up,” he said.
He said they are creative people who take time to make elaborate costumes and they’ll decorate their campsites to match or host parades on the fairgrounds.
“That kind of energy and crowd came up and invested itself at Hangtown,” Harmon said.
Patrons are encouraged to dress up in costumes, and suggested themes go with corresponding days. Thursday is rainbow; Friday is Wizard of Oz; Saturday is royalty; and Sunday is a onesie party.
Railroad Earth sets the example by having costumes that fit the theme, and the entire band is decked out in similar outfits. HushHush Productions sets up the costumes for Railroad Earth. It’s their lighting designer Alex Anderson and partner Alyssa Trudel.
“They’re really important people,” Harmon said. “This is their moment to shine; They’re very creative.”
Harmon said they take care of costumes and gives the band options each night that go with the theme. When they agree on which one, they go forward and get out the makeup and get into character.
MUSIC FITS THE THEME
On top of the costumes, Railroad Earth said they try to find songs that fit the theme. They’ll add some theatrics into their music that creates a unique experience.
“Usually we try to connect a piece of music to what we are doing,” Carey Harmon said. “That was a big hit when the costumes matched the music.”
Emcee Joe Craven gets in on the fun with the theatrics.
“It’s super fun for a guy like me,” he said. “I’m a musician but I’m an actor too. I was in theatre for a long time when I was a younger man, so I love the whole theater aspect of the season.”
EMCEE JOE CRAVEN
Joe Craven has been the emcee of the event since the beginning and wouldn’t miss the 10th anniversary for anything.
“For me it’s the continuation of a tradition that I’ve enjoyed and Hangtown is also a celebration of really my favorite time of year,” Craven said.
He is known for his many outfits with wardrobe changes all day long between every set. He said sometimes he’ll bring two vans-worth of clothing.
“Hangtown is the one to push everything to the extreme, which is just great,” he said.
In all 10 years of hosting, his favorite moments include spontaneity and theatrics. He loves the intimacy of the festival and being able to perform with his band over the years – Joe Craven and the Sometimers, and he’s happy he’s been able to sit-in with many other artists.
“It’s the gig that was made for him,” Harmon said. “His personality with his costumes — It’s a very, very cool fit.
SPONTANEITY IS PART OF THE MAGIC
Hangtown Music Festival emcee Joe Craven said his favorite hallmark of the festival is when spontaneity occurs. Since the festival brings together many musicians who don’t normally see each other, many enjoy watching each other’s sets as a guest.
“That usually creates some unique moments,” Craven said. “I’ve had the opportunity to be part of those things as well as witnessed them with other people.”
One moment of spontaneity stuck out for Cravens from the 2018 festival while he was holding a workshop with Tim Carbone on fiddlers. It was an intimate setting where the two played music but also talked to the crowd about their passion for playing the fiddle.
There was a young boy, about 3 to 4 years old, and he had a fiddle and he was directly in front. Craven said the boy was enthralled watching Carbone and himself play, so they invited him on stage. The staff brought him through the gate and backstage and up on the stage.
“He couldn’t wait; he practically ran,” Craven said.
Craven lowered the mic for the boy and asked him if he’d like to play for everyone.
“But this little fellow played, and he did it,” Craven said. “Just the fact that he did it, it was such a magical, wonderful moment. And people knew that. They could sense that this was a really great moment.”
Craven since then kept in touch with the parents of the child and he’s given the boy fiddle lessons online. He thinks the boy is going to continue playing music and his mother says she feels it was a significant moment for him.
“I love it when we can give each other opportunities that come from the unexpected,” Craven said.