In April 1963, an exciting new music television show aired on ABC. Hosted by Art Linkletter's son Jack, Hootenanny featured the new folk sounds of the day—the Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, the Brothers Four, the New Christy Minstrels—and catapulted the folk music scene of Greenwich Village into a national craze. But by banning agit-leftie Pete Seeger for his allegedly communist beliefs and featuring acts largely booked by the ABC-affiliated Ashley-Steiner agency, it also mangled the true spirit of the night-owl hootenanny on a two-dimensional, one-way screen. In terms of pure folk tradition, Hootenanny was a scam.
That lost authenticity of the term is reclaimed this weekend at a local event known as "The Hootenanny," as over two dozen local folk, acoustic and bluegrass performers converge with members of the community at the North Bay Film and Art Collective for an epic day-long gathering of song, food and stories. Co-producer Joshua Stithem says he's seen the old episodes of ABC's Hootenanny, and "it takes away from the immediacy and the local factor," he says. "The songs stop being something that you can share, and start becoming more things you observe."
To that end, this weekend's festivities include a number of ways to foster the idea of sharing. There'll be a "jam room," complete with chalkboard, for performers and audience to sit side-by-side and swap chords, songs and technique. There'll be face-painting and a puppet show. And in addition to the 24 nonstop performers on two different stages, there'll be a barbecue, a bunch of chili and cornbread, local produce from CSA farms and more. Stithem has been sending out emails, asking people to bring home-baked pie. "Hopefully, we're going to have a mountain of pie," he says. "And a donation spittoon, if we can find one."
The core of any hootenanny, of course, are the songs, most of them old as the hills and sung with purpose. "These songs," Stithem says, "are like tools. They did things. They had a social function, and even a physical function, either with working, or lifecycle events like marriages. So to break it open and share it, you're letting a song do its thing."
Terming it less a concert and more a "decentralized performance experience," Stithem says, "I really want to provide a social experience that we don't usually necessarily see when it comes to music, when it comes to our food, and performance in general. Where there's an availability of the art and the skills."
"The Hootenanny," featuring the Easy Leaves, the Crux, the Brothers Comatose, Waters, Jeremy Lightell, Skiffle Symphony, Lonesome Holler String Band, Old Jawbone, the Mighty Chiplings, Brian Fitzpatrick, Andrew Maurer, Petticoat Discipline, the Plectrum Duo and many, many more, gets pickin' on Saturday, Feb. 27, at the North Bay Film and Art Collective, 99 Sixth St., Santa Rosa. 4pm&–midnight. $7; kids under 12, free. 707.360.7288.