Hoopla in the Hills

March 27-30, 2014 in Athens, OH

by Sean Heeter

photos by August J Photography and OwlEyesonYou



Hoopla in the Hills started out festival season much like the preceding winter; cold, wet, and unpredictable.  The weather however did not stop the music from playing continuously throughout the weekend, and the attendees from enjoying what was for most, the “festival season opener.”  Cold, rain and snow on Saturday didn’t affect the crowd one bit, and brought out the sense of weathering the storm together.  People frolicked in the puddles, slipped hand in hand in the mud, and brought the community together under the tents where the stages were located.  While the weather was erratic, the music and crowd were not.  Both came together full force and complimented each other perfectly, starting festival season with a bang!

Thursday started off the festival with clear skies and a stacked Main Stage from 3:00 Pm until 7:30 am the following morning.  KR-3, David Gans, Rumpke Mountain Boys, and Cornmeal held it down with the grass, while Phutureprimative spun his intelligent dance music that had the crowd entranced in dance.  Twiddle brought their unique jazz, funk, bluegrass jams to The Artist Village Stage and Broccoli Samurai served their signature jamtronica on a silver platter for their 4:15 am to 5:45am late night set.  Between both stages, there was no shortage of boogieing down on Thursday while the crowd trickled in over the course of the night.  With the music playing 24 hours a day throughout the weekend, there was always something to do and music to see.  Hoopla in the Hills is one of the few festivals where participants have this luxury, and they took full advantage.

Friday felt like a spring festival.  The skies were filled with white fluffy clouds, the sun was shining bright, and there was a crisp warmth throughout the air.  Music continued from the previous night, and began early on The Main Stage with Johnny O Does Dylan, followed by Bats Dynamic String Band.  The strings and Bluegrass during the day were relaxing at times, foot stomping during others, and thirsty anytime.  Rumpke Mountain Boys played their third of four sets, followed by Larry Keel & Natural Bridge.  As they usually do, the quartet had the crowd going swingin’ their hips and stompin’ their feet.  Keller Williams followed with his always funky, always fresh, and always loopy solo performance.   He played crowd favorites “No Rest for the Wicked”, “Best Feeling”, and “Freaker by the Speaker”.  The side stage made transitions so much more fun, and the boogieing never stopped.  Aliver Hall was sandwiched between Rumpke Mountain Boys and Larry Keel & Natural Bridge; while Jahman Brahman followed with their unique multi-genre compositions that provided a freshness before Keller.  As Friday turned into Saturday, Papadosio took the stage and gave the crowd what they were anticipating.  The tent was full throughout the day, but became packed as midnight struck.  Their jammy, electronic, psychedelic, folk had the tent hugging, laughing, dancing, and singing along.  Dosio’s two hour set was followed from the dosed face from across the pond, Ott – who rocked one of my favorite songs “Squirrel and Biscuits”.  His highly intelligent, extremely tribal and psychedelic music fell nothing short of how we closed out Friday night.  Many kept on raging, but after the mental stimulation and eargasms of Ott, on top a full day of dancing, it was time to call it a night.

Early Saturday morning, the rain commenced.  It started out slow, and showed the promise of breaking.  With the stages under tents, and the music never stopping, the light mist didn’t affect the morning at all.  The main stage started off light until the afternoon with the strings, and Chris Berry Trio with Michael Kang turned it up a notch, setting the tone for the rest of the evening.  The rain started to come down harder and had been steady all day.  There were puddles, rivers, and mud everywhere, but this didn’t stop Zoogma from bringing the heat and the crowd responded positively to some of their newly released tracks.  Once darkness was upon the hills, Eoto took the stage and improvised all over it.  And for the last half hour of their set, Michael Kang and Chris Berry sat in.  This was a special treat and the crowd knew it.  Soaking in the musicianship and basking in the ever changing sound, the entire tent forgot about the rain turning into snow.  Everyone was protected from the precipitation, but not from the mud or puddles.  It was a giant, sloppy, mess and everyone embraced it!  There was a giant cuddle puddle underneath the tents; everyone was bundled up, huddled together, and being warmed by the music.  Papadosio took the stage at midnight for their second show, and they really warmed up the main stage tent.  Ironically, they serenaded the crowd with “We are Water” which we coined as “We are Mud” and we all found our cloud by the time “Night Colors” concluded.  The real treat was Radiohead cover “Karma Police” which Dosians are still raving about.  It became packed, and the crowd ebbed and flowed with each note.  There was not a care in the world, everyone was in the moment, braving the elements together, smiling from ear to ear, and enjoying the sloppy mess.

When the weekend was over everything was soaking wet, stuck, or covered in mud, but there was a smile on every face.  If Hoopla in the Hills was any indication of the 2014 festival season, it’s going to be nothing short of spectacular.  There were fickle factors and moments with the weather, but the foreseeable factors – the music and the people, never stopped and never stopped smiling.  Not one show was canceled due to weather, and everyone banded together as a community to have fun and to help each other.  The weather got ugly, but everyone remained shining bright throughout it all.-\

Gallery by OwlEyesonYou


Gallery by August J Photography