Hoxeyville Music Festival: Friday
Words By Greg Molitor
Photos By Greg Molitor & Tim Ramierez
One doesn’t have to reside in Michigan to know the tough times the state is facing. Regardless of the attitude we Michiganders take towards our beloved home, there is an undeniable reality that must be faced. A lack of leadership from those who have promised to do so has left us with roads barely drivable, an economy in shambles, joblessness not seen in decades, and many questions that continue to go unanswered. The rough times facing Michigan and its people today are indeed real, yet many of us continue to dream. These dreams take many forms... as many as the amount of individuals who dare to believe in something better for us all.
Why do we do this? Numerous possible answers could be argued, but the truest answer also happens to be the most obvious: survival of the human spirit. Humanity is something that cannot be bought, sold, borrowed, or stolen…it simply is. When we dream, we plant our collective feet in the ground and proudly exclaim,” You cannot take this away from us!” in the most basic terms we know. We must never forget this proclamation. Life is a celebration of humanity. It is the unexplainable gift we have been given; happiness or sorrow, pain or pleasure, hope and despair...these are all extensions of who we really are as each pushes us to dream for the next moment we feel again.
If nothing more, Hoxeyville Music Festival 2010 was a destination for dreamers. Those who attend family-based festivals know how cleansing these experiences can be to the soul; Hoxeyville proved to be both a canvas for self-exploration and a launch pad to the limitless. Many soared to heights they previously thought were unreachable and rediscovered their own existence in the process, and while this sort of enlightenment isn’t necessarily a guarantee, it certainly is easier to find when surrounded by such supreme love and togetherness.
Thank you for choosing to read my review of Hoxeyville Music Festival 2010. I had such an amazing experience that I cannot possibly capture its entirety with my words. However, it is absolutely too important not to discuss as it fueled not only my dreams, but the dreams of us all. I am proud to say that Hoxeyville 2010 was by far the cleanest festival I’ve ever attended, (a write-up of Hoxeyville’s greening efforts to come shortly) not only with regards to waste but also in attitude felt by those who were there. For those who attended, I hope you enjoy this recap of my events, emotions, and ideas. And for those who weren’t fortunate enough to make it, here’s a small glimpse into the late-August weekend that will not soon be forgotten by us dreamers...
Friday, August 20th - "Paradise waits..."
When I arrive to a festival I have not previously attended, the sensation is fresh yet familiar. The new surroundings often force me to reevaluate what I know about the festival experience, but attached is a feeling of confidence as I know I will certainly conquer the unknown set before me. Hoxeyville 2010 brought this upon me once again, and as I pulled up to the festival gate, I felt destined to gain all the offerings Hoxeyville was prepared to bestow. With Tim, my best man, flanking me, I drew strength from the surrounding forest as he drove us to our camping destination. In our short time in line, I had already seen many familiar faces that are infamous for provoking Greg smiles. When I saw so many acquaintances within such a tiny timeframe, a feeling of culmination came over me. This truly was a weekend where my time invested in the past showed its value; everything I had built my life upon previously was not only worth my efforts, but was paying off more than I could have ever imagined.
After a quick setup of our gear near the 2nd stage, we set out to look for others looking to share in the experience. During our walks, the number of families camping immediately drew my eye. At first, I was unsure of my support for bringing such young children to a music festival. I have been around the block enough times to know that music festivals and children are not an appropriate mix, at least with regards to the festivals I’ve attended. By the end of the festival, however, I was in strong support of supervised children in attendance. For me to support such an idea shows how much the Hoxeyville 2010 crowd impressed me with its maturity and promotion of family values. It was still a party…believe me…but the balance shown by the community was quite impressive.
So what about the music? I’m going to start each rundown of performances with a show that I couldn’t see but would have liked to if I had another opportunity. Tough decisions must be made in life, and music festival coverage is no exception. To those performers who I didn’t get a chance to see: although I didn’t make it to your set, I was thinking about you. Here are the shows I covered Friday, beginning with the one I didn't see...
Funktion (the one I missed):
Unfortuntely, Funktion's set coincided with both The Macpodz set and a giant thunderstorm that brought an end to the night's planned festivities (more on the Hoxeystorm 2010 later). Funktion was highly recommended by friends, but when the storm hit, the dryness of my campground became first priority. By the time I secured my tent, campsite, and camera from the storm, the downpour reached a new intensity and the music had stopped. Sorry Funktion...I'll catch you next time.
The first band of the weekend I caught was Detour. A six-piece that mixed traditional bluegrass and country, Detour had a sweet, delicate sound that warmed the hearts of the early attendees...a perfect choice to lift the crowd into the festivities. Actually, all of the acts that performed throughout fit well with one another and helped bring the community together throughout the weekend. Although Detour played to a relatively small crowd, the band was well-received by the audience during its time onstage. It was obvious that Detour was in heaven playing to these people if one took to the time to see the band members' grins between songs.
Cornmeal Live at Hoxeyville Music Festival on August 20, 2010.
Cornmeal has earned quite of bit of notoriety on the national level in recent years through constant touring and impressive festival sets. In fact, the band has developed a reputation for playing additional, unannounced sets at many of the festivals at which it performs. Many influences are prevalent in its music, and although a fair amount of bluegrass is played during a typical Cornmeal show, the band lays down a rock and roll sound.
Cornmeal brought that rock and roll punch from the instant it began its Hoxeyville 2010 set. If one was looking for a relaxing string band set, he or she should probably have headed away from the main stage. Not me. Most impressive from its set were the sounds from bassist Chris Gangi. The tone Chris brought was deeper and hit harder than anything I had experienced from his playing, and it perfectly filled the spacious layers the band created when playing its more spacious segments. Cornmeal has certainly found its niche in the scene...this was obvious if one overheard its excited fans ready to get down prior to its set. The band will more than likely never be known for stunning displays of technical playing, but it has learned how to consistently recreate a sound that is diverse in nature. Cornmeal couples this sonic dexterity with an ability to cater to specific crowds, and by doing so, has created its own formula for success.
Breathe Owl Breathe
My time at the Breathe Owl Breathe set was short but interesting. The band's sound was eclectic but never harsh as the three-piece used multiple instruments to drive its message home. Unique to its set was the use of a live drum sampler, an element I did not notice at any other show on Friday. The lead singer also led the band through a classic version of 'the wave' which was fun. Encouraged audience participation during performances was a common theme throughout the weekend as many of the bands took the time to engage those in the crowd with what they were feeling. Such acts are commendable as they truly understand what links performance and entertainment. Even though I missed most of their set, I would recommend Breathe Owl Breathe merely because they 'get it'.
Graham Parsons and The Go Rounds
Graham Parsons and The Go Rounds introduced me to the 'Mitten' Stage, the third and smallest stage at Hoxeyville 2010. This stage was tented and had a considerably different feel than the other two. It was great to see music in multiple types of settings, especially at a festival of this size. Great work, Hoxeyville!
As for Graham Parson's and The Go Rounds, its music mixed the energy of punk with singer-songwriter sensibilities. Its songs were well-crafted and carried an enthusiasm sometimes lost in the current era of live music. Its sound was a bit rough around the edges at times, but that might have been the band's original intent. For a band filled with young members, Graham Parson's and The Go Rounds showed a great deal of promise. If it cleans up its sound and continues to grow musically, the band will continue to ascend. Expect to see this band on a larger stage sometime in the near future.
I'd be lying if I said I enjoy every set at music festivals. When someone loves music as much as I do, he or she tends to be more selective with regards to his or her listening choices. I didn't spend much time at the Frontier Ruckus performance because I wasn't feeling it. Sometimes, it's that simple. Both the sound and performance were a bit loose for my tastes, and I chose to move elsewhere. With that being said, a member of the band played both a trumpet and a saw during my time at the stage...definitely something I haven't seen anywhere else.
Steve Kimock Crazy Engine
Steve Kimock Crazy Engine Live at Hoxeyville Music Festival on August 20, 2010.
This was my most anticipated set of the weekend, and it was arguably the best. The phrasing and overall musicality in Steve Kimock's guitar playing was unmatched by any musician I saw all weekend, and he had a hell of a backing band to fill-in behind his monstrous chops. Joining Steve on stage was bassist Trevor Exter, keyboardist Melvin Seals (Jerry Garcia Band), and his son, John Kimock, on drums. Steve led the crowd through an extended set of mostly improvisational music, intensely playing off the other members while constantly being locked into his vibrant playing style. The band weaved through song structures with a brisk fluidity, constantly pushing itself to listen harder and play smarter.
During the set, one could feel the emotion felt between Steve and his son Johnny. Both are beasts with regards to playing their respective instruments, yet there was a give and take between the two that showed a deep respect both have for one another. After the set, I had a chance to sit down with Steve for a quick Q & A, and when asked about his son's involvement in Crazy Engine, he sported a smile not usually seen from his generally stoic face. Music is about sharing, and it was a joy to watch the Steve and John Kimock share something so sacred and heartfelt on stage.
After the Steve Kimock Crazy Engine set, the ominous clouds that had been hovering above for quite some time began to spew some intense lightning. Enter Hoxeystorm 2010...
After the Kimock interview ended around 9:00 P.M., it began to rain...hard. Then, it rained even harder. Eventually, it got to the point where it couldn't have possibly rained any harder. Dryness of my campsite and camera immediately became the number one priority. Tim and I returned to our site to find our tents dry, but our canopy was a different story. It was buckling from its collection of water as we were in danger of having our items underneath completely soaked. A few minutes passed and the storm died down, so we gathered ourselves to make a push towards The Macpodz and eventually Funktion. Right as we were about to head out, the storm began to rage as hard as it previously had, prompting me to a secure my hardware with garbage bags as fast I could. By 9:30, we could no longer hear music. Damn.
I have to give it up to The Macpodz. While Tim and I were scrambling back at our site, the band was absolutely tearing through a set of their funky 'disco-bebop'. Although I was disappointed I wasn't able to snap any shots from the show, I could hear it clearly through the rain...and it sounded amazing! For the band to play as long they did was as ballsy as it was dangerous. I was shocked The Macpodz kept performing during the intense rain and lightning, and through its courage and borderline insanity, the band's set was the talk of the festival the next morning.
After the set, the rain took control of the evening. At one point we found ourselves wading through nearly a foot of standing water that had collected on the pathways. Luckily, Tim and I found some friends with an RV and were able to dry ourselves from the soaked madness for the remainder of the evening. Big thanks to Ben and Steve for the invite. Running into you both was incredibly timely as you turned a questionable night into one that proved to be filled with laughter, smiles, and new friendships. After a night much longer than expected after the storm hit, it came time for me to return to my completely dry tent for some much needed rest. Remember...a dry tent is always a happy tent!
On a side note, Friday night headliners The New Deal didn't perform because of the rain. The band wanted to perform, but safety overrides enjoyment when lightning is involved. The correct decision was made to pull the plug on music Friday night.