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.