Hickey Fest Painting by Emily Schumaker
Hickey Fest painting by Emily Schumaker

It was the summer solstice and the wind was blowing in our hair on the way up Highway 101 — mostly because Maddie’s car window had just been smashed out in a Walgreen’s parking lot in West Oakland. They had snatched Derek’s backpack, and guitar pedals too — pretty inconvenient considering his upcoming set with Bells Atlas was one of the main attractions of the weekend. There wasn’t much we could do though; I dug through the garage for an extra delay pedal and we were off to Hickey Fest, a literal wide spot in the road four hours north of SF. But despite showing up windswept and sunburnt, Hickey Fest — brainchild of fellow Oakland artist and itinerant miracle-worker Ash Reiter — was a so-good-it’s-almost-surreal success. Between plunges into the Eel River and late nights with a bottle of Bulleit getting lost in the woods, we kicked back for one of the more intimate and delightfully no-frills music fests I’ve ever been to, boasting some of the low-key coolest bands California has to offer. With big draws like Vetiver, Jolie Holland, and Dead Meadow, there was also the appeal of tons of bands I might not otherwise see around town, like Mild High Club, Pearl Charles, or Range of Light Wilderness. All housed in the same happy campground, it was a mix of old and new friends, people I never expected to see and others who I could always count on. My only worry is that next year it’ll be so popular Ash will have to rent out a Polo Field somewhere, heaven forbid. Long live the Hick.


Will Butler is a freelance writer who makes music as Social Work.