15th TDawg’s Back Porch Hootenanny – It’s a wrap!

20 Sep

Hoot_hilltop shot

The 15th edition of TDawg’s Back Porch Hootenanny brought together old friends, new friends, family, and the common bond of some amazing music to take us through two nights of notes ringing through the mountains both on stage and at the campfires.  I don’t believe that the Hoot could have unfolded any better musically.   A common trait from all the Hootenannies is all the artists brought their A++ games with them, and that energy was on display both on stage and in the connection with the audience – the audience reflected that energy right back onto the artists.

I know I say this after each Hootenanny, but this was REALLY the best Hootenanny yet!  That is saying a lot!  I’m finding it difficult to find words to describe what transpired over the course of last weekend, but the music, the jams, and the audience at Cherokee Farms was off the charts incredible!  As always, the Hootenanny attracts a truly passionate music loving audience that loves to have a great time – much of this same audience brings their kids along to enjoy the great outdoors in an intimate environment, which is one of the key attributes to a small festival.

Below are some testimonials from attendees (and even one who didn’t!):

“What a HOOT!!! Everytime I think it just cannot get any better….IT DOES!!! Thanks for all the hard work Thomas. Such a fabulous weekend!”


“I just wanna say what a deep, profound honor it was to be a part of this fall’s Hootenanny. Thomas, you must know, if anyone does, how special it was to be there at Cherokee Farms with you and our dearests again after so many years. Geez. I just can’t even put it into words…Truly a special phenomenon.”


“I got to spend some really awesome quality time with folks I’ve known for years, but never really knew. I formed some really comfy new connections with some incredible folks. This weekend was amazingly refreshing. Thanks guys 😉 ”


“Thomas this weekend was without a doubt the best TDAWG Hootenanny I have ever experienced and I have been to several. The weather was perfect, the music was incredible, great mix, great pairings and I got to spend a lot of time with some very special people. It is so cool to listen to the performance and then meet and talk with the musicians. I love that.”


“Other life circumstances prevented me from attending the Hoot this year, but I would like to take the time and say THANK YOU for all of the live music, small festival supporters that I call my friends. What T-Dawg does and is doing for our community is remarkable and admirable. So thank you to TDawg for his vision and unrelenting pursuit to create this space for us and others.”


“10+ hours straight of some of the best music I’ve seen all year for only $40… Thomas Helland you are a visionary, a music lover, a music maker, and a very dear friend. This Hootenanny was completely off the hook and into a whole other galaxy. I can’t wait til the next time!”


“hoot hoot – home feeling like I got a fresh tank of gas, good oil change, new battery & timing gaps checked – life is gooder because of Curtis Burch & Bill Fleming & the hills are alive with sooooooooooo many magic peoples – thanks TDawg for your dream & Smokey the door to a little piece of heaven !!!”


You have to love attending a festival and every single performance is a highlight of the weekend.  I can’t imagine that anyone who attended left without seeing something fresh and new this time around.  Vagabond Swing left a lasting impression on everyone who saw them I’m pretty certain, judging from the number of folks who were getting their faces painted after the set ;-).  Their official entrance to the Hootenanny family was a welcome explosion of klezmer, gypsy, bluegrass, and rock.  What they present is truly unique.  Strongly recommended!

Vagabond Swing_Hoot   Dave Jordan_Bill Fleming

                          (Vagabond Swing)                                  (Dave Jordan/Bill Fleming)

Vagabond Swing was sandwiched between the rockin’ soulful blues of the Lefty Williams Band and New Orleans’ own Dave Jordan & his Georgia edition of the Neighborhood Improvement Association.  Let’s just say that for about 3 1/2 hours, we had an insane happy hour! 😉  Between Lefty’s guitar and vocals, Dave’s “who dat” approach to the funk and Americana with help from the soaring sound of the pedal steel guitar by Bill Fleming, and the avant garde approach of Vagabond Swing, the middle of the day certainly didn’t disappoint!  Gibson Wilbanks kicked it all off with their own take on soulful and bluesy – Carly Gibson’s powerful voice and layered guitar work over BJ Wilbanks slide playing was a wonderful sight to behold to get the day going, and their set in the early evening hours on the Grateful Fred stage kept that spirit alive, joined by a few friends.


(Lefty Williams Band – photo by Vickie Otts)

Speaking of the Grateful Fred Stage, I want to send a special shout out to my friends the Bibb City Ramblers, who not only rocked it out hard Friday night as headliner on the Shed Stage but also jammed as hard as ever on the tent stage with a slew of friends that included at-large artists Bobby Miller, Scott Warren & drummer Richie Jones AND provided the PA for the Grateful Fred Stage!  These guys and gal are as true and pure as it gets.  Below is a clip from their set featuring Bobby Miller joining on mandolin and Randy Steele from Slim Pickins on “Port Columbus Blues”.

We can’t leave the Grateful Fred Stage without mentioning the minstrel of the group, Ralph Roddenbery, and his set with his friends.  Lemme tell ya, this set was one for the books, with sweat streaming from the top of his head as the music would climb and climb to that climactic point, and DAMN the jam was fine!  An incredible tweener set that was between David Via & Curtis Burch and Larry Keel & Natural Bridge.

LKNB&Friends   Ralph_Sept Hoot

                             (Larry Keel & Natural Bridge)                   (Ralph Roddenbery)           

These two sets on the Shed Stage were, for me, a pinnacle of the day.  I’ve worked for many years now with both the Keel clan and Via & Curtis, although not in a while save for last year’s Atlanta’s Holiday Hootenanny when Larry joined the madness.  Many great HarvestFest memories flooded my mind during these sets, and let’s just say these Bluegrass Buddies certainly didn’t disappoint.  Curtis Burch’s dobro rang so loud and clear, moving between notes seamlessly.  Via’s “Corn Liquor” and “Moonshine in the Moonlight”, with Larry & Jenny Keel on stage with them brought tears to the surface, emotions welling up in a big way thinking about all the times we’ve had and the part that those musicians in particular have played in my life.  To be able to witness this pure and sanctified yet progressive acoustic music was incredible, and by the time Larry Keel & Natural Bridge were wrapping up with at least 6 buddies joining them on stage, all I saw around me were big grins and boogien’ folks.  I have to say that Larry Keel & Natural Bridge is possibly one of the finest progressive acoustic/bluegrass/Americana acts you will see these days.  Absolutely inspiring.  The video below is of “Moonshine in the Moonlight” that closed out David Via & Curtis Burch’s set courtesy of Chuck Allen.

The night closed out on stage with Chattanooga’s Strung Like A Horse taking the TDawg’s Back Porch Hootenanny to the finish line, at least the one that is plugged in 😉  That band is one you need to pay attention to in the future.  Let’s just say they’re moving in the right direction.  You can catch them in the metro Atlanta area on Saturday, October 5 at Music On Main Street, a beautiful outdoor venue setting under the big oaks in the heart of downtown Lilburn.

I’m sending a big shout-out to all the staff and volunteers who help create the family vibe that is the Hootenanny family – namely Tamara, Linda, Cathy, Paul Diaz & the Tree Sound crew, Wildman Steve, and most of all Smokey & Debbie, who graciously open up Cherokee Farms for us to enjoy the peaceful environment for some of the best damn music you’ll hear all year long!

2014 dates are already in place, so mark your calendars NOW for April 4-5 and September 19-20!  And don’t forget about the 3rd Annual Atlanta’s Holiday Hootenanny that is happening December 22 at the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points Atlanta – well worth the journey!  HOOOOOOOOOTENANNY Y’ALL!!!

One Response to “15th TDawg’s Back Porch Hootenanny – It’s a wrap!”

  1. Tami Moore September 20, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    Well said, TDawg! I couldn’t agree more with this post. Best Hootenanny yet!!


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