There’s not a lot of things that could get me to go camping in Iowa. Being from Wrigleyville in Chicago, the closest thing I’ve done to camp was when my Girl Scout troop spent the night in our elementary school gym and set up tents (inside of course). Nevertheless, Hinterland Music Festival was definitely worth the new experience. This past weekend, the Roots N Blues crew squeezed four tents, two coolers, a hammock, five people and a whole lot of excitement into a truck and made the trek to St. Charles, Iowa.
What makes Hinterland unlike other festivals is the layout. Most festivals I’ve been to were home to at least three stages and usually involved a lot of walking. At Hinterland, this was not the case: there’s only one stage set at the top of a natural bowl in the ground. This basically created a pit for those who wanted to be deep in the crowd, while the sides were set up like nature’s bleachers. You could jump and dance at your own discretion or layout on a blanket and simply listen. The campgrounds were adjacent to the festival area, so you could come and go to your tent as you pleased. We would hang out all morning, go see some shows, come back for a snack or drink, then head back for more music. It was incredibly free reign and overall stressful-free.
There’s no denying that camping can have some stressful moments — sometimes you accidentally set up your tent on a tree stump that inhibits your sleeping or bring a ton of peanut butter and jelly but forget bread. Yet, the overall atmosphere of Hinterland was incredibly relaxing. While other, more popular festivals may be littered with drunk high schoolers who probably couldn’t tell Bryan Adams from Ryan Adams, it was clear that everyone at Hinterland was there for the music.
And speaking of music: Man, did the acts this weekend deliver. I mean, I knew the Head and the Heart was going to be amazing, but I had no idea just how amazing. It was everything: the setlist, the energy of the crowd, the weather — the list goes on and on. I was lucky enough to be in the third row; so, as they paraded onto the stage and looked out at the audience, I saw the lead singer mouth to the guitarist, “Oh, wow!” The audience erupted as they began the opening notes of their hit, “All We Ever Knew.”
The Head and the Heart is a band that goes beyond a few head nods and foot taps: their songs truly reach people. This has been the case since their first album — I know multiple people with lyrics from “Rivers and Roads” tattooed on their bodies. Of course, their second and third albums have been great as well. But most fans are hooked on that first album. So I think the band face an interesting conundrum here: Do they play the songs everyone loves, or try and promote their new albums? These guys handled their repertoire perfectly, playing more or less the three biggest hits from each of their albums. They opened with a fun, crowd favorite and closed with the emotionally affecting “Rivers and Roads.” Needless to say, the audience was hooked throughout.
The following day, we got a little preview of Roots N Blues 2017. Nikki Lane and her badass crew killed it on stage. She sported all black and a cowboy hat, which more than solidified her incredibly fierce but talented persona. Her set was followed by Gary Clark Jr. who simply shredded, and the night concluded with a two-hour, dazzling set from Ryan Adams.
I don’t want to give away too much, because I know you’re all going to see them at Roots N Blues this year. But let me just tell you this, you don’t want to skip out on seeing any of these acts. And if you’re considering going to Hinterland next year, do it. But definitely save some energy for Roots N Blues a month and a half later.