Railroad Earth’s Hangtown Halloween Ball

Summer has ended. No more wearing white, no more flip flops, no more long summer nights ending with dips at One Mile. It’s time to lament all the joy we’ve had this summer as we flip through our photos of summer revelry with the only celebration to look forward to being New Years Eve.

Well my fair weathered friends, I’m here to inform you that just because the autumnal equinox has passed, it doesn’t mean the good times are at an end.

Over the past few years a strong crew of revelers has persisted in believing that music festivals are not only for warm weather. Beginning with the now-defunct Tortuga Festival in Yosemite, the dream of costume wearing music freaks continues into the fall.

Maybe it’s because we live in Nor Cal where the weather is more forgiving, that such stubborn aspirations are viable. Or perhaps it’s because there are a disproportionate number of music fans here that are willing to go to extremes to catch incredible music, or maybe it’s simply unacceptable that six months is too damn long to wait for merriment.

Regardless of the reason, the Tahoe-based Pet Projekt has teamed up with American roots stalwarts Railroad Earth once again to keep the festival season alive, as the Hangtown Halloween Ball returns to the El Dorado County Fairgrounds in Placerville.

The success of last year’s event caught the attention of Roy Carter from High Sierra Music Festival, who brings some aspects of that great festival to Placerville. It’s good to see adventurous promoters taking risks and being noticed, but with growth comes change. Does this mean the end of the folksiness that smaller festivals provide? Let’s hope not.

I’m used to the scale and proportion of HSMF, so comparing the two reveals that Hangtown is a fledgling festival and with that brings the discomfort and charm of youth. But is having HSMF involved like the parent stepping in to correct the potential mistakes that any youth must go through? Or is it more like a Jedi master teaching his young Padawan? It’s a fine line between allowing the youngster to mature on its own versus keeping them on the right path and the end result remains to be seen.

Whereas last year HHB’s late night shows were included in the ticket price, this year they will cost you extra, but there are late night shows every night this year. Like HSMF, there will be a couple of playshops, but the one that kinda gives me the heebie jeebies is the pumpkin carving with power tools. I have always had a deep fascination for expert pumpkin carving, but the thought of a bunch of costumed freaks running around the festival with power tools is a little unsettling.

As this is a Halloween event, costumes are most definitely in order. Upon perusing some pics from last year’s festival, there is a ton of creativity and gusto involved. Costumes included everything from 49ers and Dia de la Muerte to little green men and futuristic stilt walkers. This custom adds to the frivolity that seems to permeate the fairgrounds. Adults parade around in their get ups with glee just like children getting ready to stuff their bags with candy.

This year’s HHB also offers some daily costume guidelines so look for Gold Rush Zombies roaming the grounds to fit in with Placerville’s history as well as a Slumber Party and clever Monster Mash-Up theme. I was particularly fond of a post I found on HHB’s Facebook page suggesting Dog the Bounty Hunter S. Thompson and Fat Albert Einstein.

While there won’t be any haunted houses, there will be scary movies. Railroad Earth will once again be improvising an original score as an old-timey horror flick plays on a large screen. This year the band will be accompanying the 1920 version of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

Overall, HHB is a conglomeration of wonderful mish mashes with combinations of funk and bluegrass, horror flicks and American roots music, power tools and playfulness, frontier spirit and amplified music.

So if you’re not ready to accept the end of summer fun just yet, then I will see you in Placerville this weekend. Even if you are not so daring but still ache for live music, you can tune into Fat Music Radio (http://fatmusicradio.com/wp/) to hear selections from the festival.

Sara makes the words happen.


  1. Spencer says:

    can we put the authors name in here??