The word conjures up visions of a homespun Southern hoedown. Though just outside of Los Angeles this vision is not far from the truth. Starting in 1994 the Hootenanny has become a Southern California tradition. This festival featuring various forms of rock and its bastard cousins -swing, country, bluegrass, punk, rockabilly and psychobilly music. For the past 18 years the planners of this event have done a great job at pulling in bands from these various genres to create an event that is surprisingly cohesive despite the musical diversity. The event pulls in fans of these genres and their cultural counter-points 1930-50’s vintage culture.
This show is a great place for people watching everybody comes decked out in their vintage finest. The festival attendees looking beyond cool under the hot sun come in droves each year to mingle, mosh, show off and rock out. Ladies are pin-up perfect, even braving sky-high-heels on the grass and dirt turf. Pin-curls, waves and bright red lips. Gentlemen show a wider range of looks from classic-punk and skinheads (both the good and evil variety), to pompadours, flat tops, slacked back brill-cream. This culture is a lifestyle of music, fashion and automotives.
This concert has been held at Oak Canyon Ranch for most of the 18 shows. The outdoor venue is large and has plenty of room for both the staging as well as other activities the festival offers. There is usually an entire section dedicated to vintage fashions and goods.This year they offered a Layrite barber booth so guys get their cuts done and pick up some of that world famous pomade.
Yes, lets not forget the cars! The main parking lot as well as the special on-site parking is filled with various classic vintage automobiles. Sweet 1950’s, and 1960’s rides hotter than the girls attending the show, and that’s saying a lot. You’ll see dozens of custom cars lovingly rebuilt and customized in dazzling color sporting bright pristine chrome details and supreme engines.
Being the only festival show of it’s ilk in the greater L.A. area (and probably the US), many of the acts have returned to the festival. Some of the past acts have included X, the Cramps, The Blasters, Social Distortion, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Hank Williams III, Joe Strummer (of the Clash), Tiger Army, Flogging Molly, Mike Ness (without his Social D bandmates), John Doe (sans X), and Dropkick Murphy’s.
One of the earlier acts of the day was country crooner Roger Alan Wade. He brought his blend of country-fried comical ballads such as; If You Gonna Be Dumb – You Gotta Be Tough, Frying Bacon Naked, I Want to Shoot You in the Ass with a BB Gun, and Sink Wash Yer Junk. Wade delivers his tongue-in-cheek tunes sitting atop a high barstool. Just a man, his sense of humor and his guitar. The singer’s easy-going personality comes through as he presents his hilarious tunes very matter-of-factly. The sides of his stage were crowded with his friends and onlookers including his cousin Jackass star Johnny Knoxville (whom he made mention of several times during the set).
Part Johnny Cash part the Clash Three Bad Jack’s has played Hootenanny eight of its 18 years.The Jack’s – Elvis Suissa (singer-guitarist), Ruben Ibarra (bassist) and Adam Jones (drummer) have become hootenanny’s three favorite sons. Singer Elvis started off to set dedicating the first song to this autistic son on his birthday. The band played their first song with Elvis sitting on a bar stool with his two children clinging tightly against him, such a tender moment for such a punk band. The remainder of the 30 minute set the band tore-it-up at usual. the Jack’s set included Crazy in the Head and Ace of Spades.
This concert is always held the first week of July usually around the weekend of the 4th. If there are two things you can count on at this show it’s great performances, and sweltering heat. While some of the crowd is content to view from the sidelines (playing it cool with a beer hand), there were those brave souls who couldn’t resist mixing it up in the mosh pit. High-cuffed jeans with motorcycle boots or high-top converse with their skinny jeans were seen kicking up a dust storm. This ‘Hoot’ mosher’s uniform was accompanied on top by either a white T-shirt or bare-skin pasted with mud based of sweat and dust. And as usual in any mosh pit there are those women with big enough (metaphorical) balls to get in and mix it up with the guys. These chicks left the pin-up looks and high heels at home in favor of a throwdown.
This crowd kept it going through sets by The Growlers, Bouncing Souls, country band Lucero, Goddamn Gallows, and Social Distortion’s Johnny Two Bags. Also among the bands on the side-stage was local radio celebrity from station KROQ’s Psycho Mike and his punk band, Murder on the 405.
Later in the day the Supersuckers took the stage. Though this band has a dash of Western flavor to them they’re all rock ‘n roll. Frontman and bassist Eddie Spaghetti tore it up during the first part of their set. Probably one of my favorite bands I’ve seen on the Hootenanny stage over the past 18 years. Unfortunately their 30 minute set got interrupted by sound issues. What remained of their set was great as usual though.
Always a show highlight, Rockabilly legend Jim Heath (better known as the Reverend Horton Heat) and his band ruled the stage. This was the bands 11th appearance at the annual festival. The Rev. played with his usual confident swagger and ear to ear grin. You can read behind the smile on the Rev’s face he’s “been there/done that” I can tell you stories set that will blow your mind. The man is one hell of a guitar player, and franky puts most of the players from the show to shame. The band performed songs from most of their albums and a few new tunes as well. They started out with his classic Psycho Billy Freaking Out. Rev also played one of my all-time favorites Martini Time some other memorable tunes from the Rev. were JIMBO (which is of course, about his bass player and partner in crime Jimbo Wallace), Galaxy 500, and Smoke Them if you Got Them.
Hell yeah Rancid! A great end to a great day Tim Armstrong, Lars Frederiksen, Matt Freeman, and Branden Steineckert put the show into overdrive. The Bay Area punk rock band headlined the festival. It was also their first time playing Hootenanny. On a sadder note, singer Tim Armstrong had just lost his father the week before the concert. He started out by saying to the crowd “My dad died last week … so there’s no other place I’d rather be than here with family,” adding “So let’s get down tonight, because my dad loved Rancid and punk rock.” True to his word the guys tore it up. There were several pits circling in the crowd, and one pretty bad fight. Armstrong looking a bit different than the last time I saw him appeared on stage in all black with a beanie and a scruffy face.He was on and off the stage wreaking havoc and getting the audience worked up. At one point drummer Steineckert climbed on top of his drum kit hop down and kept playing kit intact. The band played songs from over the 20 years like Ruby Soho, Fall Back Down, Tenderloin, Nihilism, Old Friend, Journey to the End, Last One to Die, Roots Radicals, Maxwell Murder,Time Bomb,and Adina (not in that order).
This was another great year melting in the sun with the sounds of great music in the air among dedicated fans who also appreciated the range of music, and the surroundings offered at Oak Canyon Ranch. I can hardly wait for the next show, always a high point in my summer.