Photos and Words by Randy Harris
Hidden on a little road, just off of Highway 27 in Clarksburg, MD, lies a small property that, more often than not, is simply passed by. One team of music lovers, however, has realized its potential, and for the last ten years, they have transformed the grounds into one of Maryland’s most epic parties. 2017 marked the 10th installment of the Hometown Get Down, and the organizers went all out this year to bring us their best lineup yet. With genres ranging from bluegrass to jazz to blues to reggae to electronica to rock & roll, the festival was a nonstop rager from start to finish.
As you pull down the driveway and are directed to park, it is hard to know what to expect. You see a line of trees with a small opening. As you pass through this arborous gateway, the land begins to slope downward, ever steeper, until you reach a small bridge. The bridge leads to a walkway which follows the edge of a small lake, and, before you know it, a stage appears out of nowhere on your left-hand side. The stage overlooks a quaint bar area, while the opposite side slopes back upward, forming a beautiful lawn area. Vendors line the tree line with tents, the spirit of the festival blossoming from inside these temples of treasure.
And then the music begins…
On Friday, from 4:00 pm onwards, the venue rang with pristine live sound. Dynamic Merger rocked the stage first, bringing the power trio format to life. Next came one of the biggest surprise sets for me. Ginada Pinata brought a wave of jazz fusion to the stage, leading us through standards and originals alike. The West Virginia based quartet blew me away, and I became an instant fan. It was great to have such a big surprise so early in the weekend as my anticipation bloomed. Drop Electric ramped up the energy, kicking things off with a powerful percussion jam winding us into a frenzy. Baltimore’s own Squaring The Circle rocked us into the sunset next, bringing their exploratory, progressive funk to a new level. All four of these guys hit it hard every single time, and their performance at the Get Down was no exception.
Of Tomorrow, from Washington, DC, continued to wet our beaks as we prepared for the night’s headliners. Of Tomorrow is a collective of musicians that defies the thought of genre. Just when you think you’ve pinned them down, they play something completely different. With three core members and a rotating cast of participating musicians, they brought the entire crew for this show, and the energy from the crowd was impeccable. With the sun fully set and the darkness complete, Ballyhoo! got the crowd moving and singing to their signature rock/reggae sound. Friday night closed out with a stellar tribute set from The Mantras. Hailing from Greensboro, NC, the five-piece veteran jamband decided to take on the Beastie Boys, and boy did they ever bring it! This set was a joy to witness as the crowd whooped and raged harder and harder with every song change. The party, however, did not end there. Although the stage was shut down for the night, the campfire roared on into the early morning, ringing with acoustic guitars and other assorted participants.
The sun arose Saturday morning for another beautiful day, and the grounds were already teeming with early risers (or all-night partiers perhaps?) well before the music started. Washington, DC’s up and coming jamband Surprise Attack put on a beautiful morning performance, warming our bones as well as our hearts and preparing us for a great day of live music. The Dirty Grass Players took over next as the first bluegrass act of the weekend. These guys have truly come into their own, and they brought a heck of a home following with them. Revelator Hill followed with an absolute heater of a blues-rock set. The quartet had the whole crowd talking about them the rest of the day, especially their tribute to the great rock band Traffic that ended their set. GOOSE, from Connecticut, was another big surprise set for me. This extremely talented five-piece brought a well-versed performance to our little Get Down, as they commanded the attention of everyone within earshot. Mindy Miller is a Hometown Get Down favorite, and she brought her new band, Mindy Miller & The Chrome Tears, to the mainstage this year, sliding in a little bit of country into their rock & roll set.
From there it was a nonstop onslaught all the way through to the end. Mountain Ride took over the bluegrass reigns and really got our feet stomping with some good ole Pennsylvania bluegrass. Nappy Riddem took on the reggae vibes, filling the dell with positivity. Moogatu, while not new to me, seemed to be a bit of a surprise set to most of those in attendance. The progressive rock quartet shredded their way through a mixture of rock & roll and groovy four-to-the-floor ragers, as people flooded down to the stage area for the night ahead. Moogatu commanded the stage, and they received a heartwarming applause as they made way for Ohio’s Broccoli Samurai. Broccoli Samurai seems to get better and better every time I see them. Combining jazz, funk, rock and electronica, these guys seem to have the ability to make any crowd dance. Baltimore’s Electric Love Machine followed with their signature progressive electronica sound. Another band that seems to get better every time they hit the stage, ELM brought a nice home crowd with them as well, as they lifted us off into the night. LITZ, for whom this literally was their hometown, kicked things up another notch (as impossible as it may have seemed at the time). The energy these guys bring to the stage is unmatchable, and they had every head on the grounds rockin’ to their hearts’ content. Finally, The Mantras closed out the festival with a barn burner of a late-night set.
While the mainstage was turned off at 2:00 am, the party continued on into the morning hours. Artists, organizers and attendees alike hung out together, sharing stories and creating new ones. The atmosphere rang of welcome, acceptance and a communal love for live music. The Hometown Get Down prides itself on its focus on production, as well as its sense of community. They have a top-notch sound and lighting team, and each year they add new elements into the works. The venue provides a safe and secure atmosphere that makes people of all ages feel welcome. With ten years now complete, the Hometown Get Down seeks to outdo itself once again next year, and I, for one, cannot wait to be a part of this special event once again.