For all the variety and energy most music festivals provide one element that’s often absent is the intimacy of a porch front picking session, folks gathered close and listening with care at the heel of a singer-songwriter or acoustic quartet. This is the kind of up close & personal experience Lost Sierra Hoedown strives to provide. Taking place September 22-25, 2016 in Plumas County in Northeastern California not far from Reno and Quincy, where the annual High Sierra Music Festival takes place.
“Our mission statement is to re-invent the music festival, inspire land stewardship through outdoor recreation and support the Johnsville Historic Ski Bow,” explains Hoedown organizer Drew Fisher. “Limiting the event to 500 people is sort of the cornerstone of that mission. We really care about the space. It’s not just a fairgrounds that can get trashed and cleaned up. The whole point is to protect, preserve and sustainably improve the Johnsville Ski Bowl. With just 500 people there, nature remains in the forefront. Our crowd is a great mix of outdoor professionals and people who might even be camping or hiking for the first time – a mix that creates a really great discussion on enjoying the outdoors responsibly, not just during the Hoedown, but long into the future.”
“There’s also several other bonuses to a limited crowd,” continues Fisher. “Without day tickets, we get a consistent, miniature community that learns how to function together throughout the event. It’s small enough that everyone gets on the same team, works together, and supports each other. Not to mention that there is an insane ratio of talented musicians. There’s music everywhere, throughout the camps, on the hikes and nearby Eureka Lake.”
Tickets for the 2016 Hoedown can be purchased HERE, and this year’s lineup includes San Francisco new classic rockers The Stone Foxes, Virginia troubadour deluxe Nathan Moore, cult faves The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit (as well as a solo performance from main songwriter Willy Tea Taylor) return to the stage (after too long a hiatus) from Oakdale, regional gems The Haunted Windchimes, Rabbit Wilde, Joe Craven, Tuolumne County genre benders The Little Fuller Band and Marty O’Reilly and The Old Soul Orchestra will bring their wild, unique brand of deep Americana.
“The ‘Hoedown Genre’ is definitely a niche. We’re always looking for bands that folks may have not heard or seen live before – stuff that just sounds right at the Ski Bowl. Choosing the lineup is a year-round, ever-evolving process that’s a lot of fun. There’s definitely some DNA in our lineup, and we try to stay true to our core while rotating artists in and out and keeping things fresh,” says Fisher. “The first artist I ever called to play the first Hoedown was Rob Armenti and his band at the time Theodore Lovely. Rob’s come back to play each year with different projects and his solo music. This year he’ll have a raging set in the lodge but he’s also performing with Abalone Grey on Thursday and Sunday. Along with Rob, Willy Tea and the Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit have been a backbone to the event. Their sound just matches that Ski Bowl so well. Ever since Willy Tea rolled on-site the first year he’s been a sort of de-facto Mayor of the Lost Sierra Hoedown. He’s been a huge supporter and has helped connect us with a lot of great friends and artists.”
With a credo of “simple livin’,” the Hoedown encourages a potluck mindset and deep respect for the land and the folks making music upon it during this thoughtfully arranged long weekend. One is encouraged to unplug from technology and get back to the land and a warmly neighborly attitude. Pickin’ sessions and daytime lake swims are marbled into a unique, very Northern California take on what a music festival can be. Plus, the Lost Sierra Hoedown is a benefit for the Ski Bowl, so one’s attendance reverberates past these September days.
“Johnsville was one of the pioneer ski areas in the western hemisphere. Gold miners would reach speeds of 80-plus mph in the 1850s during some of the first organized ski races. Since 1950s, the Plumas Ski Club kept skiing alive at Johnsville, operating a couple tow lifts and serving the community with affordable skiing,” explains Fisher. “The Ski Bowl closed down for good in the early 2000s, and since then, the sport of skiing has been severely corporatized and is out of reach for many. When we heard that the community was trying to reopen the ski hill as a non-profit community ski hill, it was an idea we felt compelled to support. [Fellow Hoedown organizer] Azariah [Reynolds] actually grew up skiing at Johnsville, and I grew up next door in Sierra County. I know what it’s like growing up in a rural area, and having outdoor recreation as a kid is crucial!”
“Since 2013, there have been challenges with snow and challenges with organization, and it turns out opening a ski hill is no quick task. However, with the help of donations from the Lost Sierra Hoedown, the Plumas Ski Club has made leaps and bounds at improving the ski hill and its infrastructure,” continues Fisher. “A groomer was donated and repaired, and the old maintenance shed was rebuilt to store the groomer. Last winter, the Plumas Ski Club kept skiing alive with the Historic Longboard Revival Series and also opened up groomed slopes for free community sledding days. Slowly, Johnsville is becoming a safe space for community events, recreation and outdoor education, and that’s the path we want to support with our donations.”