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Tuesday, November 13

Festival Review: Railroad Earth's Hangtown Halloween Ball, October 26 – 28, 2012

Eldorado County Fairgrounds in Placerville, CA became home to the second annual Hangtown Halloween Ball. For the second year in a row, Railroad Earth headlined the festival bringing along many exciting acts from multiple genres of music. The three-day festival was filled with non stop music and other fun activities for families and fans. The festival grounds provided a kid zone for children to celebrate Halloween with face painting, hula-hooping lessons, and pumpkin carving. They weren't the only ones who were carving pumpkins. John Skehan, the mandolin player for Railroad Earth, held his second annual pumpkin carving with power tools festivity. Morning meditation and yoga classes gave attendees a chance to stretch out and wake up in the early hours of the morning. Also on-site was the Conscious Alliance Food Drive, which allowed people to donate food for the upcoming holiday season. One of the other exciting attractions at the fairgrounds over the weekend was the televised event of the championship games where The San Francisco Giants took home the World Series title. It was three days of nonstop entertainment and awesome music for all ages with a ghoulish Halloween spirit in the air.
As the attendees settled in sounds of acoustic music and picking circles started flowing. Many campgrounds began to take shape everywhere possible and the atmosphere started to get that festival feeling that we all know and enjoy so much. It quickly became clear that the first day of the Hangtown Halloween Ball had begun. With three stages spread throughout the El Dorado County Fairgrounds and a variety of musical genres to choose from, patrons were given plenty of options to move their dancing feet for the weekend. Kicking off the weekend, I started off at the Eldorado Stage (which would be home to the main stage of the weekend) with the always-exciting Dead Winter Carpenters. The vibe for the first act of the weekend was very well played and received, with the band mixing in mellow and relaxing songs, scattered with the fast paced foot stomping tunes. For the handful of fans that had managed to set up camp and found their way through the columns marking the stage grounds entrance reading “AFTER WORLD” on the way in and “LIVING WORLD” as you exited, it was an exiting start to the weekend. The sun began to set over our heads for the evening and our first night was filled with costumes and music. The shenanigans began to take shape and pick up momentum throughout the festival grounds with no signs of slowing down for the weekend and it became clear we were all in for a magical weekend of entertainment around every corner. By the time the hard picking, star studded Emmit-Nershi Band took the stage for their first set of the weekend Friday evening, the atmosphere was in full swing for a Halloween party. The band members wore different and random headgear and the crowd was in a wide array of funky outfits, some following the theme set for the night and others just using it as a excuse to have some good old dress up fun. The band didn’t want the crowd to take a second off from dancing and played music from lead men Billy Nershi’s String Cheese Incident and Drew Emmitt’s Leftover Salmon as well as original material from the band that they sprinkled in with a mix of perfect covers. By the time the set came to a close the fans were given a short break before making there way to the Hangin’ Hall, which had been transformed into a mini movie theater providing the stage for the silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where the headlining band, Railroad Earth, provided the spooky musical scores from start to finish on the horror classic. With a standing ovation bringing the beautiful performance to a close, fans made their way out to the grounds finding that music was still being played by, ALO. The California based band took the stage dressed from head to toe in brightly colored clothing and delivering the crowd an up tempo set that many didn't want to come to see come to an end. The late night acts brought out the funky music and dance party that we have come to expect from bands Orgone and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe keeping up everyone in attendance to the early hours of the morning. As the first day came to its end it was time for some much-needed rest before Hangtown Ball’s party packed Saturday.

The second day of the festival started off with Good Gravy, an up and coming Fort Collins, CO band, taking the main stage. Along with GG the morning also saw Twin Engine and Andrew McConathy and the Drunken Hearts take there acts to the other stages. The stage where Andrew McConathy and the Drunken Hearts played, doubled as a alarm clock for the majority of the festival patrons who were camped out right in front of the Gallows Stage. Tumbleweed Wanders who describe themselves as “street folk and indie soul” took the Gallows Stage a few hours later. The Oakland based band drew a good crowd and set the tone for one of the most highly anticipated sets of the festival weekend, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Karl D featured members of Slightly Stoopid where they performed a tribute to the Beastie Boys who recently lost founding member MCA. This set included all of the classic Beastie Boys hits along with some of their sleeper tracks. The atmosphere during the tribute was upbeat and had those in attendance singing along with the band. The energy continued as headlining band, Railroad Earth, took the main stage for the first time of the weekend. The band was dressed up for the theme of the night and opened with a beautiful version of, “The Forecast.” They transitioned into their well-known song, “Mighty River” which got the crowd singing in time with the band. Their first set was full of down tempo; deep jams, building up the excitement for the band’s second hour of music. The second set took off with “Head” setting the tempo for the rest of the night. Railroad Earth unveiled, “Boris the Spider” (by John Entwistle) and “Hangtown Ball” (written by guitarist, Todd Sheaffer), two new songs making their way into the band’s long catalogue of music. Railroad came to a close around midnight and shifted into the late night festivities. Saturday’s late night featured Emmitt-Nershi Band, getting rowdy at the Hangin’ Hall as multiple guests joined them on stage, before Infamous Stringdusters came on in their green spandex suits to close out the early morning.
RRE (2011)  Source: Tsunami Publicity
Bluegrass Sunday began with Greensky Bluegrass delivering a fast paced, dance your ass off set of string pickin’ music. Infamous Stringdusters followed suit getting the crowd to join in for a tear-jerking version of The Grateful Dead’s song, “He’s Gone” during their set. Bluegrass legend Del McCoury and his band were next on stage. They allowed the audience the opportunity to request their favorite tunes by shouting to the stage and Del did not disappoint by playing the majority of their requests. Keller Williams took Del’s place on stage and Keller Williams and The Traveling McCoury’s transitioned from traditional bluegrass to a more free form, boundless style of bluegrass that Keller is known for. The band played songs from their newly released, chart topping, bluegrass album, “Pick”, and covered pop songs ranging from Donna Summer’s hit “Hot Stuff” to, “Pumped of Kicks” by Foster the People. As the full moon hung above the fairground in the cool October sky Railroad Earth took the stage for their final performance of the festival. Hitting every note from start to finish, the band seemed unstoppable as they magically flowed from one song to another. Railroad finished out the festival with a rare cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”, ending the weekend on the perfect note as their hobo fans made their way back to camp.
Words by: John Bolin and Patrick Britten  

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