Hangtown Halloween Ball 2019 Review
Hangtown Halloween Ball 2019
~Words by Kelly Cruce. Images by Kelly Cruce and Jessika Bartrom
The 9th Annual Hangtown Music Festival was held October 24 – 27, 2019 in Placerville, California. Featuring 3 nights of host band Railroad Earth, the festival headliners also included Greensky Bluegrass, Dark Star Orchestra, The Wood Brothers, The Motet, Fruition, Anders Osborne and many other amazing musical acts.
Hangtown 2019: A Spooky Twist
The frost is on the pumpkins in the Sierra. Crisp nights and crystalline morning dew settled in to the Halloween Ball this year, only to give way to sunshine so bright we melt ~ just like a summer fest ~ but without the heat that takes you off your feet.
Banjos and mandolins are twinkling across the fairgrounds alongside fall forest songbirds around the campground, even when your dawn is with the noonday sun. It’s hard to ask for a better climate for a festival than you can get in Placerville (aka Hangtown) in October, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas in Northern California!
Although this year, there was a spooky twist.
The seasonal winds were coming in so much stronger than ever before, and the wildfires continued to grip the region well into autumn. California is on the highest alert. The state’s primary utility company PG&E decided to take no chances this year with sparks flying from their lines to start more deadly fires – and cut the power. Total blackout.
But for the Hangtown Halloween Ball – magically, the music never stops. They were so prepared and dedicated to having this momentous event go down that enough generators were brought in to power the entire festival all weekend long! We truly did not even notice the power outage surrounding the fairgrounds. The love bubble was brighter than life. The place was alive with light shows and phenomenal music that must have amplified and lit up neighborhoods around us to the horizon.
The show must go on!
Hangtown Hosts: Railroad Earth
Railroad Earth’s dedication to their music and to this community – and really just to making magic for us all – was made somehow even more true when they did not blink an eye at the power outages. The festival was a huge success, masterful musicianship and a raging party every minute. At least from the eyes of a devotee who wasn’t behind the scenes – it was flawless.
We are so grateful to Railroad Earth for creating this bliss year after year. And it’s not just the fans. Every band can’t help but gush with gratitude. On top of it all, Railroad Earth performed with such rocking joy that it seemed as if they had their very own power source.
Saturday night’s escalated arrangements blew our minds! Even for those of us who have seen every Railroad Earth show at Hangtown – three a year – and more – we did not see it coming. It felt like we stepped over the line to a brand new face of rock and roll with no name. Exquisite musicianship, somehow a soothing string band, and a racing jam – we danced our asses off!
Hangtown Saturday Night Party
Saturday’s Railroad Earth rager was introduced by a fabulous set from Greensky Bluegrass, once again a satisfying sweet surrender to that rolling realm of jamgrass no one does better. And they had to hit the Halloween stage in ridiculous costumes, of course. I surmised it was an 80s jazzercise class meets 80s teen pajama party. A great look for sure.
Tim Carbone, Railroad Earth’s fiddle (or should I say violinist), joined Greensky Bluegrass for the party with seamless music as always, stepping right up in his PJs with perfect style and synchronicity. Greensky closed with Fleetwood Mac’s “Chain”, and it was solid. A psychedelic newgrass dream.
Everyone was ecstatic after the Saturday night main stage barn burners. Just the lift-off we needed to propel into into the late-night shows. And it’s not all strings at this 4-day ball. Saturday night late-night with The Motet and Dirty Revival was indeed some deep down dirty funk. I felt the soul revival singing on the sax blasts and organ jams. Dance party freak show on fire until 4am! Who would want to go to sleep with this kind of fantastic party going on, anyway?
The entire weekend was full of one of a kind highlights that seemingly only Hangtown can bring. The Wood Brothers surprised us a few times covering Lionel Richie’s “Hello” and TLC’s “Waterfalls” – for which the entire crowd just couldn’t help but sing along. Joe Craven and the Sometimers took us on a funky-bass-jam fluffy-clouds-mando-holiday Grateful Dead daydream of “I Know You Rider.” Fruition had everyone once again in a bluegrass boogie-down dance party straight into the sunset. New to most of us, Chris Jacobs Band was a raging good time, Southern-rock style and super psychedelic all at once.
Letting It All Hang Out: Hangtown Costumes
Through it all, the costumes still have the spotlight. There’s really no more fun to be had than at a music festival. The place where we all come to play and believe in the same things at once – that dancing and tunes and partying with your friends is living the dream. And then you add costumery?
We are taking fun to a whole new level at Hangtown.
That living dream of the music festival just became a fantasy. Step into another dimension of fun, creativity and magic like never before. There’s no such thing as a scene here. Look across any crowd at any hour of the day and it’s like a dancing zoo, and a circus, and circle of musicians at once.
Biodegradable glitter, fest bubbles, flying sequins, fur and rainbows everywhere!
A monster mash montage of unicorns, superheroes, werewolves, queens, pandas, aliens, dinosaurs and day glow.
There is more love and hilarity in each moment of Hangtown than I can add up in the rest of year, while waiting for it all over again.
November 1, 2019
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