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Hinterland Music Festival 2018

-St. Charles, Iowa

Not only did Hinterland Music Festival deliver a stellar lineup, they produce a fantastic event that draws an even more fantastic crowd.

In it’s fourth year, the folks at Hinterland Music Festival have once again totally blown my mind! The lineup announcement every year is like Christmas Eve, getting to open one single present. Only the following wait is much longer and more torturous. I knew we were in for a helluva ride when the announcement was made for 2018, and every year really. I’ve been attending concerts/shows/festivals for a long time now and I really feel that Hinterland is the cream of the crop. Not only do they deliver a stellar lineup, they produce a fantastic event that draws an even more fantastic crowd.

The first year of Hinterland was to be held at Water Works Park in Des Moines, Iowa. This would actually have been fantastic for me because I was only a short bike ride away, and that ride is dotted with several beer stops and bridges under which to enjoy said beers. If you’ve never drank beer under a bridge or in an abandoned building, you’re missing out. The downside to holding an event at Water Works Park is that the park constantly floods. When it’s not flooded, it’s a great park. When it is flooded, well, it’s not great for a concert. So year one, a week out(maybe two) Water Works is completely flooded. Another festival scheduled for the park had to cancel completely. BUT the amazing people at Hinterland had a plan B from the start. They quickly mobilized their plan b and moved us to St. Charles, Iowa to the Avenue of Saints Amphitheater. Now this is a solid 45 min drive from home for me and that was a slight damper. But upon arrival I was completely sold on the venue.

If you’ve never drank beer under a bridge or in an abandoned building, you’re missing out!

Avenue of Saints has the stage situated at the bottom of a “bowl” which makes no seat in the house a bad one. You can see and hear the show from anywhere! There is plenty of parking, paid and free depending on how far you’re willing to walk. The camping looks like it’s not too bad but I haven’t had the chance to camp yet. When I’m that close to home I’d rather keep my time in a Kybo limited. Each year I say we’ll camp next year. “Maybe we’ll camp next year.”

This year I left work a bit early so that I could pick up our daughter, Cadence(10), and get ready to head to the show. We arrived while the opening act was still playing, Ancient Posse. I honestly didn’t get a very good listen so I can’t offer any opinion on how it went. The second act up is someone we were very excited to see. Tash Sultana completely blew our minds that evening! This was the second time we had the opportunity to see Tash perform, the first being at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. We sat row 5 for that show, she opened for John Butler Trio, and it was also amazing. But what she laid down in St. Charles was above and beyond her performance in Colorado. Maybe it was the home field advantage? Maybe it was being closer to the stage? I don’t know, but it was fucking great! This lady can make some amazing music and EXPLODES with energy and power. The crowd was feeling it for sure. At one point she “dropped the beat”, haha, and the crowd went nuts. My wife(Nicole), standing in front of me, did a quarter turn while her knees slightly buckled. Her hands brought to her chest like she was pleading with the gods and she let out a scream that was interrupted by laughter. She sounded like a complete lunatic but what she did was bring emotion into the physical world and shared it with us. Haha! It was literally the best expression of what the crowd was feeling at the moment.

Nicole, standing in front of me, did a quarter turn while her knees slightly buckled. Her hands brought to her chest like she was pleading with the gods and she let out a scream that was interrupted by laughter.

Chvrches played after Tash, unfortunately they’re just not my bag o’ beans. I enjoyed what they did, I thought Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches  did great. She was pretty hilarious in her commentary as well. She mentioned how she didn’t dress appropriately for the super hot and humid Iowa weather. But I just can’t get into their style of music. It’s good, just not my kind of good. I have nothing bad to say, just not my style. Sorry not sorry.

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To wrap up Friday night Band of Horses played a fantastic set. I’m a big fan of Band of Horses. I’ve been listening to their albums for a few years and I really enjoy their sound. Their performance at Hinterland did not disappoint! The were fantastic but our positioning for the show was not… We were directly against the barrier separating the crowd from the stage. Sounds great right? Wrong! Depending on how far to either side you are, you could be planted right in front of a big ass pile of speakers that seem to only deliver bass. It was like getting hammered in the face with wind and bass, “boom boom boom boom” over and over. Cadence was only able to withstand about 4 songs in that position until she said she was over it. We had to duck out before the end of their set but that’s how the cookie crumbles. 

Saturday has always been THE day to be at Hinterland. Twice as many bands as Friday and usually a couple notches up on the “kick ass” scale. We arrived, again, during the opening act. On this day the local favorites The Nadas were playing. Again, a band that’s talented at what they do. It’s just not my bag baby! There use to be a show on Fox that Michele Beschen hosted and their music was always played. For some reason, it rubbed me the wrong way. Haha! Can’t explain it but it always came with eye rolls from me. 

Saturday has always been THE day to be at Hinterland. Twice as many bands as Friday and usually a couple notches up on the “kick ass” scale.

Following the Nadas, Joshua Hedley was scheduled to perform. I was super stoked that Joshua was playing Hinterland and I was really excited to see him. Unfortunately, he ran into some travel issues that prevented him from making it to the show. So the Nadas played a little long and the band to follow Hedley also got an extended set time. So, after the Nadas wrapped up Tyler Childers played. Childers was another act I was pumped to see. And I was justified in those feelings! He was fantastic. Unfortunately for me, this is about the time Cadence started not feeling well. Pretty sure she was just bored and it was hot as shit out there with little shade. So Nicole and I debated and finally decided to run her to Grandma and Grandpas house and we’d come back. Tyler Childers’ set was cut short for us and it sounds like we really missed out. After we left, Sturgill Simpson and Ol’ Wheeler performed the classic tune by Wheeler “Sit on my face”. Ya win some, ya lose some I guess.

After we left, Sturgill Simpson and Ol’ Wheeler performed the classic tune by Wheeler “Sit on my face”. Ya win some, ya lose some I guess.

Once we finally made it back, about a two hour round trip, we missed a few shows I had wanted to see. We missed out on Margo Price and J Roddy Walston and the Business. Nothing to heart breaking but definitely disappointing. We met up with a few friends and lounged around on the blanket for a few shows. Anderson East was great and Blackberry Smoke was pretty good too! We participated in these shows from the blanket, guzzling beers. I’ve not had the severe laughter that was had during this time, for a long long time. The friends we met up with were a perfect compliment to the good times to be had.

After getting all fueled up on beer we headed down to the stage once Blackberry Smoke wrapped up. We were able to get a pretty decent spot near the front of the stage. Not the best, but the best we could get since the crowd was starting to get pretty thick. Next up was a band I was extremely excited to see, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. Things were getting a little fuzzy for me so recollecting my exact emotions and thoughts during this show isn’t going to happen. What I can tell you is that there was a lot of dancing, energy and the sound was awesome. Nathaniel moved all over the stage and played all the tunes I wanted to hear. At one point, one of our friends who shall remain nameless, kinda stood with a straddle stance. She looked up at us as she swayed her hips side to side and said, “Gotta’ air out the whisker biscuit!” And we laughed and laughed, haha! This started our new fake band name that we’re starting. Dick Whisper and the Whisker Biscuits, t-shirts coming soon! That shit was just funny! 

Things were getting a little fuzzy for me so recollecting my exact emotions and thoughts during this show isn’t going to happen.

While scooping our melted faces up from the total rock show that Nathaniel and the band put on, we sipped on more beers and awaited the pinnacle of the entire event. Now, I knew going into this concert that Sturgill Simpson is a freak of nature. I’ve been listening to his music for just a couple years now and I’ve enjoyed  it immensely. I really really fell in love with his stuff when I saw him perform on Saturday Night Live. It was the highest energy show I’d ever seen on SNL and he completely blew me away. I had no idea he could do that, explode with energy like if he doesn’t get it out he’ll die or something. I can’t even explain what this guy performs like. It’s like he’s on fire and the only way to put the fire out is to fucking ROCK!!! So anyways, I knew he was the shit. 

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The stage crew clears the entire stage after Nathaniel. It’s totally empty other than a drum set. In my head I’m like, “No way this can be it”. The headliner each year has had a cool light show, big band or some other kind of ace in the hole. I come to the conclusion that Sturgill will start out easy and grow as the show goes on. Well, I was completely wrong. Sturgill, his drummer and the bass player walk out and no one else. The lights are white and steady, that’s it. Just white light and three dudes. What’s happening in my head is “WTF, this can’t be it”. And then the show started… I couldn’t fucking believe it! I’ve never witnessed someone with more energy and power to share with a crowd than Sturgill and his band that night. He mentioned they were also down a pianist because he was sick. So not only did they strip down a “show” to it’s bare bones, they were short staffed by 25%. You wouldn’t be able to tell it though. I’m still in complete shock about what we witnessed that night. Sturgill exploded in all of our faces over and over and over and over again. He jammed long and hard, jumping up and off of the drum set’s platform. Shredding his guitar completely to pieces. As many beers as I had consumed, you’d think I’d be a little fuzzy about this performance. But not at all, he totally blew my mind and I will make it a point to be part of this again someday. Sturgill is something special and every person should bare witness to his raw talent, power, and energy. It’ll change your god damn life!!! Haha! Three dudes with their instruments and bright white lights. Sturgill interacted with the crowd only a little bit. Each tune was played long and hard. About 30 minutes into it, Nicole turns to me with a huge grin, “This is only the third song!!!!” It was unbelievable, I can’t really say much more than that. Sturgill is one of the coolest dudes I’ve never met. 

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