This evening will see the opening of the Hogchute Opry, a weekend event of music and amusement four years in the running. Hogchute is a festival featuring the area’s best folk, country, rock and roll, and bluegrass musicians jamming together under the same (barn) roof. That’s right – this gig takes place in a barn in the woods. It’s that cool.

Penny Horses.
 
The Hogchute Opry is a self-sustained operation. First conceived and established by Brad Olson (member of the fest's Neoga Blacksmith and Waterfowl) in 2012, the idea was to showcase the best and brightest folk and country acts of Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding areas in a comfortable and cohesive venue. Says Brad,
 

“It's a very DIY kind of festival – we don't have any sponsors or anything and a number of people from the bands involved all pitch in to make it work. In that way, I've seen it become a pretty positive thing for everyone involved, and [it] has helped to build up a small sense of community around our music.”

The show is held just outside of Allerton Park in Monticello in an old barn called the Kalyx Center for Sustainability, and if there was ever a skilled way to stick to a theme, it would be like that. Hogchute proudly boasts backwoods shenanigans, such as bonfires, horseshoes, and fireworks. A key part of the do-it-yourself attitude is the camping – rather than leaving in the evening, guests are encouraged to bring along a tent, stay put, and camp out for no additional charge. Might as well make a time out of it – who doesn’t love a good fiddle by the fire?

The friendly, cooperative vibe of Hogchute and its participants has quickly established the event as its own entity, with its own strong reputation. This has led it to attract artists from genres that are more on the fringe of its original core – some Hogchute music may have an “alt-county” feeling, and some might be more “indie.” Since the festival has grown to feature a whopping sixteen acts playing over two nights, it’s a no-brainer to assume that there will be some color and eclecticism, and thus, something for everyone.

The Hogchute Opry will feature lots of local acts this year, as well as some welcome visitors who felt like bumming around the bonfire. Here’s the lineup:

Friday, June 3rd:
The Firetones
Teaspoon Hunter
Patriot Patrol
Tigerbeat
Sam Payne
Rebecca Rego & The Trainmen
Hot Hand Luke & The Sound
Waterfowl
 

Saturday, June 4th:
The Langaleers
Flamingo
Finer Feelings
The Maness Brothers
Porter & The Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes
Penny Horses
Neoga Blacksmith
The Fights

To throw even more variety into the mix, the fest will also include spoken word performances by house MC Sean Lamkin, DJ Horsecorn Cole & His Country '45s, and book readings by Schuy Weishaar.

Hogchute is special because of the spirit of togetherness among the acts and the crowd. The self-sustained, cooperative effort is something that C-U area residents strive for, and the Hogchute Opry is an exemplary case of this.

Nick Stine is a member of The Fights, one of C-U’s country music favorites. The Fights have played Hogchute before. This year, they are playing Saturday, and will be playing a set full of new unreleased songs among their old favorites.

 When asked about the Hogchute Opry, Stine shared a perfect anecdote:

“Last year, my dog had quite a time at the Opry! She got to sit in with a couple of really talented bands, all of whom happily welcomed her on (and off) stage. She stuck around for the fireworks, but for some reason decided to take a nervous run through the woods before the grand finale. In the woods, she received scraps of meat from some over-meated folk show goers, who later told me, ‘aw, that's your dog? I gave her some jerky earlier!’ Ha!

As for me, I got to play music to people who came out to hear music... and their dogs listened, too, come to think of it. At least, the ones that weren't exhausted from the long day of drinking/games/general clownin' around… the people, that is.”

Well put, fella.

The Fights. Pup not pictured.

The camaraderie will also culminate in grand fashion: Both evenings, following the scheduled music, will feature a jam session that is open to all in attendance. You just might find yourself in a banjo battle with a local band member.

Admission to the Hogchute Opry is $15 at the gate, which covers both days of the event, not including food and drink. Grounds open at 3 pm Friday, with music starting at 7 pm. Saturday's music starts at 5:30 pm. Camping is no additional charge. Fusilli Tony's food truck will be selling some victuals; otherwise, grilling is permitted, and Hogchute is happily a BYOB festival!

Be sure to check out the event page for specific driving directions – it wouldn’t be a backwoods event without a backroads trip. Feel free to bring your dog, your guitar, and your best buddy. Get ready to kick off summertime the country way with the coolest kind of barnyard hoedown.