Hats off to Hoopla: Devils Backbone Hoopla Review

Sept 29- Oct 2, 2016, Roseland, VA

Written by Diane Farineau

Photos by Jody Carbone

The 2016 outdoor music festival season is slowly winding down in Central Virginia, but that didn’t stop a pair of veterans from sneaking a brand new event into the lineup.  Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Nelson County, Devils Backbone Brewing Company’s Hoopla (http://dbbrewingcompany.com/events/event/devils-backbone-hoopla/)  rolled out its red carpet for the first (and likely not last) time.   While it is not unusual for a brewery to throw a festival, what was unique is how thoughtfully DBBC’s mission and values; adventure, beer positive, passion, integrity, family, humility and stewardship, were infused into all aspects of the weekend’s activities and how masterfully the logistics were managed.

At its core DBBC takes its name and inspiration from the history of early adventurers who settled the still wild and wonderful area at the foot of Wintergreen ski resort where the brewery is located.  The resulting physical installation, formalized as the Basecamp Brewpub and Meadows, offers amenities that are unusual at most events; paved walkways, plumbed bathrooms, a beautiful covered outdoor bar with 21 taps from which to sample DBBC’s award winning brews, and several buildings serving food, in addition to local food trucks, all of which surrounds the grassy field in front of the stage.  The physical layout resulted in revelers never being out of eyesight or earshot of what was an amazing line up.

Major & The Monbacks

Again, like everything about this festival, the lineup was unique, thanks in large part to the experience of event Producer Justin Billcheck.  With more than ten years’ experience in event operations and production (The Festy Experience, Virginia Craft Brewers Festival, Bonnaroo & Outside Lands), the musical lineup reflected some of both Justin’s and DBBC’s favorite musicians.  Billcheck explains: “I wanted to do something a little different in the region and that was to bring some new, up and coming bands that may not get the chance to play in an area dominated by bluegrass and jam band music.  It is music that I genuinely love … and I really enjoy the opportunity to present and book bands that I can help people discover.  I try to keep my ear to the ground with new bands at other events I work, and one of those was the Revivalists a couple of years ago.  I immediately became a fan.  I just love the band’s sound as well as their stage energy and the way they connect with their fans.  The Old 97s are Jason Oliver’s (DBBC’s Brewmaster) favorite band … he is known to rock some Old 97s when they are brewing beer so that is how those guys got on the list this year.  With the rest of the lineup I was looking for something specific as far as sound for that particular time of day.  Andy Frasco & The UN I booked because I thought that would be a hell of a way to start a late Friday afternoon set for a festival and help get the party going….“ and get going the party certainly did with non-stop music from the Trongone Band on Thursday afternoon to the gospel brunch on Sunday morning.

The Revivalists

The four day lineup included something for everyone.  For the adventurers there were guided hikes, a trail run, fishing, and a tour of Bold Rock Cidery, Silverback Distillery and the Virginia Distillery Company (MY kind of adventure!)  For beer aficionados there were demos, tastings, contests and a dinner hosted by Brewmaster Oliver.  The other mission critical elements of Hoopla; passion, integrity, family, humility and stewardship are, according to Billcheck, the result of “an event that embodies who they (DBBC and founders Steve and Heidi Crandall) are not just as a beer company but who they are as individuals and a collective.”  Team sports, family activities, environmental awareness, turkey drive for the local food pantry…..there were plenty of opportunities to feel good while having a great time.  Well done Hoopla!   While not yet ready to pull the trigger on Hoopla 2.0, hopefully that decision is imminent, because we’ll be there…..and you should too.