It was about halfway through the opening-night set when Railroad Earth frontman Todd Scheaffer formally mentioned it. The topic had been discussed in the well-versed audience, and though they were there to party, those at the festival also wanted to acknowledge and honor.
Founding member and multi-instrumentalist Andy Goessling — whose description truthfully doesn’t do him justice enough — was not onstage with his Railroad Earth brothers, having passed away a mere 13 days prior.
Scheaffer spoke briefly, softly before dropping his gaze from the crowd and retreating from the microphone as the band began the next song. It’s a theme that will be repeated in celebration as Railroad Earth hosts the eighth-annual Hangtown Music Festival at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds through Sunday in Placerville, California..
The Jon Stickley Trio officially kicked things off about 7 p.m. Thursday in Hangin’ Hall amid the “Black Magic” costume-clad revelers. Stickley got things humming immediately with his trademark flat-pickin’ on guitar, featuring bluegrass roots with dashes of gyspy jazz and funk sprinkled in. The trio also will open the main El Dorado stage at high noon on Friday.
Railroad Earth then delivered two hours of Earth favs. Stickley’s right-hand gal, Lyndsay Pruett, lent her violin skills for several cuts and Hot Buttered Rum’s Eric Yates added his talents on banjo and flute for the entire set. Railroad Earth headlines both Saturday (10 p.m. to 12 a.m.) and Sunday (7 to 8:30 p.m.)
Pink Talking Fish closed out Day One with a jammed-out, late-night set with its unique hybrid fusion cover renditions of Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads and Phish. Witches and warlocks grooved to their favorites, leaving with smiles as they ambled back to their camping quarters. Pink Talking Fish also plays a daytime set on Friday from 2 to 3:15 p.m. on the main stage.
There’s a giant, full moon at night and the daytime weather looks to be perfect. Hangtown organizers have put together an outstanding lineup. Single-day tickets remain, so dress in your own unique interpretation of “Viva Las Vegas” on Friday, “Shake Yo Pirate Booty” on Saturday, and “1920s Bees Knees Speakeasy” on Sunday and come on out to the last big outdoor party before the big snows arrive.
— Michael Smyth