Hootenanny is a Scottish word meaning celebration and/or party. It’s an appropriate title for the annual event in Irvine, CA that has been going on since 1995. For those who have never been, it’s a celebration of music, with a distinct lean towards rockabilly. There’s plenty to see, and the event is extremely well-organized. (In fact, there’s so much to do that it’s a compromise—by strolling the grounds of the festival, you see something here by missing something there).
The main stage is split in two, so while one band is playing, the next is setting up. This makes for lightning-fast turnaround times, with barely a minute from the time one band ends until the next one starts. There are numerous concessionaires selling rock ‘n roll related clothing and jewelry; the usual county fair-type food vendors, (if you want to eat healthy, you’re at the wrong party) and of course, beer. Lots of it. In the event that one needs a break from the noise, there is a car show featuring pre-1965 hot rods.
A big part of the event is the opportunity for people-watching. There was a substantial contingent of women who were dressed in 50’s style clothing and hairstyles, which made for some great photo ops. The guys were more casual…jeans, band T-shirts and tattoos were the order of the day.
The weather gods were definitely smiling on the event this year. There have been past Hootenannies where the temperature has been brutally hot, but there was a nice breeze, plenty of shade, and water misters to keep the crowd comfortable.
Naturally, the main event is the music. Rockabilly is the presumptive order of the day, but there are exceptions—headliners Social Distortion, who have appeared so many times at the Hootenanny that they are almost synonymous with the event–are more punk than anything else. This year one of the surprise highlights was Lindi Ortega, who’s striking looks and resonant voice would be at home on a stage in Nashville. Speaking of Nashville…how about Nashville Pussy, who’s music is as raw and crude as their name. And of course there’s the side stage, where all bets are off. For example, Red Devil Squadron, a hardcore punk band who’s lead singer wears a Hawaiian shirt and a sailor hat. Or Vinnie & The Hooligans, a truly eclectic band that features an accordion player, a banjo player and a mandolin player—a combination that obviously defies conventional musical tradition.
With 12 bands scheduled on the main stage (the pairing of Phil Alvin & Exene Cervenka was a no-show) there was music from the time the gates open at noon to the final chord ringing out from Social D at dusk. As the day went on, the crowds in front of the main stage grew progressively larger, drawn by the more well-known bands such as Old 97’s, Murder By Death, Face to Face.
The phrase “something for everyone” is clichéd and overused, but for Hootenanny 2013, it really did apply.
Photos By: Ashley Brown