“Festivals take on a personality of their own,” commented Lech Wierzynski, band leader for The California Honeydrops. According to Pet Projekt and High Sierra Music, organizers of the event, Railroad Earth’s Third Annual Hangtown Halloween Ball will have no shortage of personality.
The ball is set to transform the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville, from Thursday, Oct. 24 through Sunday, Oct. 27. Railroad Earth will perform several times as a headlining act and be joined by a range of other artists such as Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang, Matisyahu, Galactic and The Pimps of Joytime.
The theme is the Roaring ’20s World’s Fair. Celebrate innovation, live music, cultural freedoms and progress at this event.
There will be a campsite contest for the site best decorated to the festival theme. Daily costume themes that all attendees are encouraged to participate in are: Trick or Treat! on Friday, Ghoulish Gatsby Get Down on Saturday, and Oceans of Invention: Sailing the High Seas on Sunday.
The lineup features 28 groups in total performing blues, jazz, rock, soul, reggae, hip hop and everything in between.
Wierzynski described the diverse musical range.
“It’s amazing. This festival finds a home for those that like all types of music. The festival world isn’t for big shots, media and personality. It’s not about your latest scandal or Miley Cyrus. It’s just about connecting with an audience and giving them some good music to hear.”
Wierzynski credits the band’s philosophy to the community-oriented music that helped model its growth.
“There is a lot of gospel music influence. Especially from the New Orleans street music, ‘second line,’ – the style of music and the group of people partying behind the music in a New Orleans street parade. We draw a lot from that music and mix it with the West Coast blues, like Sly and the Family Stone.”
True to form, the members of the Honeydrops started their careers by playing on the streets in Oakland and picking up gigs from there. Now, while still playing in public whenever they can, the band is rising in popularity, touring internationally and set to release its third studio album, “Like You Mean It.”
Wierzynski attributed much of the group’s success to its style of music and how the members like to play it. Performing soulful music in subway stations taught them to engage an audience.
“That’s something you learn on the street, you have to reach everybody walking by you and grab them and pull them in,” Wierzynski said.
The California Honeydrops regularly gravitate off-stage during performances to join the audience in the celebration. The band even took a quick dip into the river during a performance at the Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival.
Casey Lowdermilk of High Sierra Music shares the same view of performances for the Halloween Ball.
“We get the crowd involved in the show. For us, it’s not about our arrangements and the show running perfectly. It’s about getting people to get up out of their comfort zones and release inhibitions. It’s a more collective experience,” said Lowdermilk.
About the ball
This year’s family-friendly Halloween Ball features entertainment beyond the music. For those who will camp all three nights or want to show up early, you may enjoy a variety of “playshops” during the day such as pumpkin carving with power tools, breakaway boogie workshop and circus celebration, an exploration of clowning, juggling, face painting, etc.
“It’s a fun event, everyone really takes the Halloween thing to the next level and the nighttime makes it that much more entertaining. It’s really their home for those four days, with friendly neighbors,” Lowdermilk described the festival-goers.
Wierzynski added, “It’s a big three-day party. Everyone is in their costumes. It was the best time I had all year, last year. We’re just so happy to be part of it.” The Honeydrops’ frontman proudly noted that this year’s festival will be he and his girlfriend’s one-year anniversary, since they met at last year’s ball.
The founders’ goals
The festival’s co-founder, Ryan Kronenberg from Pet Projekt, described feeling fortunate about the growth of the event.
“It’s been a really fun process. I am a musician and an El Dorado county native. This for me was pursuing my passion for music and creating an event in my county … to bring together friends and family over music.”
Kronenberg described investing his life’s savings and teaming with Adam Northway to put on the event the first year. For Kronenberg, it was worth the gamble.
Lowdermilk, who is a seasoned hand at event producing, expressed how impressed he was with Pet Projekt’s execution of the first ball two years ago.
Citing the positive economic impact the show will have, Kronenberg described why Placerville makes for a great festival location when he mentioned the beautiful atmosphere.
He also noted, “It’s right off Highway 50. It’s close to Sacramento and Tahoe … the Mark D. Forni Building and other buildings on the grounds have a 3,000 capacity so we can move the show inside. So, if the show does grow to where we want, we can still accommodate that crowd.”
Lowdermilk offered that Placerville and Hangtown Halloween have a symbiotic relationship. In exchange for providing an excellent home for the ball, the festival will offer a hefty economic booster to local restaurants, hotels and businesses. The event even provides a shuttle from the fairgrounds to downtown Placerville.
Above all, the producers expressed their deep consideration for supporting the arts, local musicians and the local communities that they call home.
“I have put a good amount of effort into hiring and supporting a lot of local musicians like Achilles Wheel. Bands from the general area, Sacramento, Reno, etc. Sometimes when an event gets to a certain level, it seems like people lose sight of keeping that local love. A lot of what creates a buzz for a festival are those local musicians who get their friends and families to come out and support,” Kronenberg said.
Railroad Earth’s third annual Hangtown Halloween Ball lineup offers more than 40 sets of music by: Railroad Earth (performing Thursday, Saturday, Sunday), Galactic, Matisyahu, Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang, Lotus, Greensky Bluegrass, Elephant Revival, Super Trio Featuring Marco Benevento, Mike Dillon and Stanton Moore, Dead Winter Carpenters, BLVD, American Jubilee, The Nibblers, Achilles Wheel, Mamas Cookin,’ Tracorum, Naive Melodies, Peter Joseph Burt & The King Tide, The Sierra Drifters, The Pimps of Joytime, Anders Osborne, The California Honeydrops, Fruition, Arden Park Roots, Josh Clark as artist-at-large and more to be announced.
There is a locals only ticket discount available at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds office, 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville.
Advance tickets are cash only. In order to get the locals’ discount, people must present a valid ID to the fairgrounds office with one of these zip codes: 95613, 95619, 95623, 95633, 95651, 95667, 95709, 95614, 95634, 95635, 95636, 95672, 95682, 95684 and 95672. Tickets for Friday and Sunday are $30 each and Saturday tickets are $38 each with a limit of two tickets per ID. Sunday is family day and kids 12 and under are free.
For more information on single day tickets, multi-day passes, late night shows, camping, parking and SupernaturALL VIP passes and general information visit hangtownhalloween.com, facebook.com/HangtownHalloweenBall, @HangtownHB.