Friday, May 30, 2014

HHH Day 1 band review

Boo and I camped the 9th annual Horning's Hideout Hootenanny over Memorial Day weekend.  We had a blast (see So Starts Camping Season 2014).  Here's our review of the 6 bands who played on Saturday.

Left Coast Country
As their name implies, these guys have some country flair, but it felt more folk/bluegrass than country.  The 4 main guys (dobro, bass, mandolin and violin) were well connected musically, standing in a tight circle just wailing away.  On the outside, both musically and physically, stood their departing guitarist.  He had a rockabilly thing happening that ran counter to the rest of their work.  The bass-man was described as the "knife and fork", probably because he was the time-keeper, the one who counted everyone in, and sang a bunch.  He even took a solo.  The mandolin player (Boo and I named "Red" for his big red beard) sang high, and brought the emotion or passion for everyone.  We greatly enjoyed the dobro player's vocal tone (butter) and hope that in the vacuum of the departing guitarist, he'll sing more songs.  As they finished their set, Boo and I agreed that Left Coast Country will probably be better without the guitarist, but they were a very strong start to the day.

HCH @Hootenanny
Hot Club of Hawthorne
HCH is a kind of old timey big-band jazz sound.  They had many instruments and they played them very well, but they didn't have the passion for the material.  While the guitarist / centerman (Jeffree White) played well, I think his being seated constricted his vocal range because he fell flat on some of the higher notes.  Overall, they were enjoyable, but not a group I would seek out.  If they're playing somewhere I was already going, though, I'd still go.

Wood Knot
Wood Knot @Hootenanny
Wood Knot had passion where HCH had skills.  These guys came out with their pants on fire and ran around on stage for 2 hours.  Having played on a festival stage before, I know the adrenaline surge that hits when you start playing.  If you aren't careful, you can burn yourself out.  Wood Knot played up against (and sometimes over) that line throughout their set.  Their songs were interesting, well chosen and lively, though the execution was kind of sloppy.  We both noticed the guitarist on stage right (grey hat in left edge of the picture) probably shouldn't play solos, or maybe at all, but who are we to judge?  Also, some songs just petered out or just stopped as if they were trying to figure out how to end the song as they were going, lost interest before the end and then started something else.  No, they were not segues.  With some practice, Wood Knot could be a really fun band to see.

Yur Daddy
Yur Daddy @Hootenanny
I admit that I braced myself for these guys.  Their name is un-impressive, drawing a pronounced eye-roll.  They were all wearing bandannas on their heads, as were the fans they brought.  Running against that headwind, they converted me.  They were great.  The keyboardist played the best electric piano of the weekend by far, and he was a guest artist for the day.  Wow.  They self-identify as reggae, but its more like a blending of ska and dance.  Definitely fun.  My only criticism would be in their set construction.  They jumped styles and tempos from song to song so much, it was hard to get a good flow going.  Just by rearranging their material, they could create an energy that slowly builds and falls, pulling the crowd in.  I'll definitely see Yur Daddy again.  They stayed all weekend, and partied in the bowl, even sharing a bottle of whisky with us.

Blue Lotus
As much as I was not looking forward to Yur Daddy, I was anticipating Blue Lotus.  Voted "best new band" by the Wow Hall in Eugene, these guys were headlining the first night of the festival.  The lead singer had a vocal tone and manner like Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders).  They stayed all weekend too, and generated a great vibe both on and off stage. Blue Lotus was a jam band, but they were almost too clean.  If we could take the songs and passion from Wood Knot and apply Blue Lotus' skill and polish, you'd have the next great band out of the North West.  After 45 minutes, I was checking my watch, which was not at all what I expected.  I don't think I'll go see them again, but if they're playing another festival, I'll give them another shot.  Frankly, I was hoping for something a little more raw and unscripted from a jam band.  Maybe I went in with my expectations too high.

the Hillwilliams
After Blue Lotus, the main stage was shut down for the night and a 10' by 20' canopy hosted the Hillwilliams and about 30 people.  Boo and I were among the 30 who fit under the canopy, but there were another 30 or more crowded around the bonfire outside.  More wandered the Shakedown Street scene running along outside.  These guys were a ton of fun.  The lead mandolin player knew how to work the crowd and keep everyone engaged.  By the 4th song, everyone knew guitarist "Daniel" by name, and would hoop and holler when he stepped up to solo.  He brought a sweet vocal tone too, making a nice contrast to the more gruff-voiced mandolin-man.  We enjoyed some nice banjo and sweet violin throughout.  Midway, we were treated to some guest guitar work by the lead man from HCH (Jeffree White).  We'll definitely check these guys out again soon.  They were just too much fun, making the canopy crowd a very intimate scene.

That was it for day one.

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