Review: Hangtown Music Festival shines in the dark
While Northern California was dealing with power outages due to the PG&E shutoffs, there was one place the music never stopped. Thousands of people gathered last weekend for Hangtown Music Festival in Placerville, Calif. Darkness covered the surrounding area, but there was an abundance of energy and life happening inside the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, where it stayed bright, vibrant and loud.
The festival transpired without any interruption. Attendees had much speculation on social media prior to the event, worried that they would be without power for live music. Hangtown stayed on the ball and brought in giant generators and everything went as scheduled. It seemed as though it was the place to be in the area. With plenty of top-notch entertainment, beautiful lights, vendors with hot food and great people, it surely was the place to be. Those who stayed at home definitely missed out. The weekend was full of wonderful music, great collaborations and colorful people.
If there’s one thing to set the tone for the weekend, it was the weather. It might have seemed a little hot in the sun with a high of 82 on Saturday, but it couldn’t have been any better for an outdoor festival in October. The nights were cool but comfortable. Sunday got a little windy but not enough to disrupt the fun.
With two stages of continuous music, it’s easy to catch almost all of the music. It’s just a short walk to grab food. The central location of everything makes it easy for people to get around and enjoy themselves without exhausting themselves. The fairgrounds was a very comfortable environment to enjoy a festival and camp. Clean tap water stations were readily available. Anywhere you needed to go was just a short walk away — even the Raley’s across the street.
Costumes are common at festivals, but at Hangtown, they are on another level. The costumes are clever, funny and stunning. The attendees go above and beyond and many will leave you in awe. The craftsmanship is incredible with lots of custom designs and LED lights attached. People really take the time and effort to go 110 percent here.
The performers get in the spirit with their costumes. Some bands went for comedy. Greensky Bluegrass dressed like they just recorded a home exercise video in 1986. Railroad Earth dazzled everyone with ghoulish characters on Saturday and then as royalty on Sunday. The artists and designers who put together their outfits should be really proud for helping the band look terrific.
This music was impeccable. Host band and headliner Railroad Earth performed three nights, and each one of their sets was stellar. They are professionals at creating an environment of lovely music, tons of energy and happy people. The band treated to the crowd to a new song to close their set Sunday night with “Great Divide.” The single was released the Monday after to preview their upcoming album, “All For The Song.”
There were some very fun sets of music with collaborations. The late-night music was raging to until the early morning. There were many moments that felt like there was a bond between the audiences. Steve Poltz knows how to bring everyone together. He is a joy for everyone and really gets the crowd into his music, and everyone leaves with a smile afterward.
There was new music to discover, and many Hangtown favorites returned. The Wood Brothers put on an amazing performance and Chris Wood’s smooth, sensuous dance moves set the stage on fire and had the crowd screaming. Fruition put on a couple of killer sets and Mimi Naja joined Railroad Earth for the song “Hard Livin.” Lindsay Lou is becoming a more familiar name, and she played all over the place and helped close Greensky’s set by singing Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”
The Lil Smokies keep growing as a band and left with many new fans. There were so many good bands to see. Hangtown did an excellent job booking some of the top talent in the business.
It was a triumph for Hangtown to pull off such a flawless event dealing with the blackouts. It would have been amazing to get a view from space and see the light show going on. The light show by Mad Alchemy had people talking the entire weekend about the crazy visuals that accompanied the music.
During Greensky Bluegrass’ song “Take Cover,” Anders Beck talked to the crowd, and said some of the best thoughts of the weekend:
“If you look around folks, it’s very dark — dark. That’s because PG&E has shut off the power to everywhere around here, except our festival. Now that, it’s interesting for a couple of reasons. No. 1 of which, everyone should be here anyway to start with. Everyone right here wants to be here. But also, there’s no power anywhere, and everybody’s looking at these … lights that are shining around here and hearing the music and they’re like what the F—, what the heck. What is going on over there and how are they so lucky, to be having a festival, when there’s no power anywhere? And the question is: How? And the answer is: Amazing people that throw this festival. And don’t forget it! Because we have power, and nobody else does!”
Here’s to many more Hangtown festivals, and looking forward to the 10th anniversary next year.