Smile Politely

Hogchute Opry to celebrate the DIY spirit of our music scene

A four-piece band performs on a wooden stage inside a barn-like venue. The stage is decorated with string lights, and the musicians are playing electric guitars and a drum set. The setting is illuminated with blue and purple lighting, creating a vibrant, intimate atmosphere.
Derrick Philips

Hogchute Opry 2024 is set to deliver an unforgettable musical experience featuring many local artists at the Kalyx Center for Sustainability in Monticello on June 1st. This cherished event in the local music scene combines a plethora of genres such as Americana, rock, folk, and bluegrass, creating a vibrant and intimate atmosphere in a beautiful rural setting. The festival embodies a DIY spirit and strong community ethos, making it a standout event for those seeking authenticity and connection through music. With a lineup featuring very diverse acts from the area and slightly beyond, Hogchute Opry promises to be a highlight of the year for lovers of the local music scene and music in general. Here’s what to expect at this year’s Hogchute Opry.


Neoga (formerly Neoga Blacksmith) is a roots-rock and alt-country band that seamlessly blends genres like rockabilly, folk, grunge, and blues. Formed in 2007, the band’s lineup includes Matt Wade (guitar/vocals), Brad Olson (guitar/vocals), Tony Ewald (bass guitar), Tim McGee (guitar), Dave Pride (keys/vocals) and Theo Long (drums). The late Kyle Usher’s contributions on keys and harmonica left an indelible mark on their sound. Their 2017 album, Chronontonius, stands out for its reflective lyrics and somber tone, heavily influenced by Usher’s passing. Neoga Blacksmith’s storytelling draws from their small-town roots, often beginning with shared stories during practice sessions that evolve into full-fledged songs​. Their ethos blends seamlessly with the mission of Hogchute Opry.

This photo is a photo-realistic image of two people walking on a brick road in a park. The person on the left is wearing a black tank top and a purple skirt with a floral pattern. The person on the right is wearing a blue and green paisley shirt and a brown hat. The background consists of trees and grass. The mood of the image is peaceful and relaxed.
Merry Travelers on Facebook

Merry Travelers (Duo)

Merry Travelers, based in Urbana, Illinois, bring a groovy pop-rock vibe infused with bluesy, psychedelic elements. Bandleaders Holly Monet Curia (vocals) and Charlie Harris (bass) form the duo playing at Hogchute Opry this year. Their music draws inspiration from the likes of Amy Winehouse and Grace Slick, creating what they describe as “psychedelic soul.” Known for innovative projects like the stop-motion animated video for “Sun and Moon,” Merry Travelers have been active in the C-U music scene, performing at several local venues such as the Rose Bowl Tavern as well as touring venues and festivals in and around Illinois​​. They are staples of Hogchute Opry (especially Harris, who’s playing with multiple bands in the lineup), and their set is bound to be another favorite at the fest.


Sweetmelk is known for their emotionally charged performances and powerful vocal delivery, led by the indomitable Kenna Mae. The band’s sound is a compelling mix of dark, heartfelt vocals and vigorous percussion, creating a deeply immersive experience. Drummer James Mauck’s jazz background and bassist Stephen Emerson’s punk and electronic influences add a rich, eclectic texture to their music. Check out their latest single, “What Do I Do” to get a feel for the emotion their music unleashes. Known for their raw energy and poignant expressiveness, Sweetmelk’s performance at Hogchute Opry is sure to leave a mark, sonically and maybe even literally.

A trio of musicians performs on a stage adorned with string lights. One plays a guitar, another a dobro, and the third reads from a music stand while singing and playing a small guitar. The backdrop features large windows with the word "OPRY" in large purple letters, and the outdoor greenery is visible through the windows.
Derrick Philips

Clayton Burke Band

Clayton Burke Band is a must-see at this year’s Hogchute Opry. This group effortlessly blends Americana and classic country with a modern twist, making their performances both nostalgic and fresh. Frequenting local spots like Rose Bowl Tavern, their shows are a true testament to their heartfelt lyrics and infectious melodies. They have the ability to connect with the audience on a personal level, bringing stories to life with an authenticity that’s hard to find. Listen to their most recent album, No Immediate Plans, on Bandcamp. Whether you’re a fan of traditional country or just love great music, the Clayton Burke Band will no doubt deliver a captivating and memorable experience at this year’s Hogchute Opry.

Colonel James Presents

Colonel James Presents is an eclectic band from Central Illinois that mixes post-disco, P-Funk, and jazz trombone. Their energetic performances at events like Derailed Fest and Fringe Fest have earned them praise and adulation from local audiences. Known for their diverse musical influences, the band regularly plays at venues such as The Rose Bowl Tavern and The Space​. Check out Piggy and Stranger Things recorded at Hogchute Opry back in 2017.

A musician sits on a stool, playing a banjo and singing into a microphone. He wears a beanie, glasses, and a hoodie. Behind him, drums and other instruments are visible, and the setting appears to be a cozy indoor space with large windows showing greenery outside.
Derrick Philips

Husky Martinez

Urbana’s Husky Martinez stands out with their dynamic and eclectic musical style, blending punk, rock, and experimental sounds. Their 2023 album, titled Called Stag O Lee a Butthole, features tracks like “Transposed Heads” and “Liquor and Cheeseburger Party.” A frequent performer at local events, Husky Martinez is known for their engaging live shows and strong presence in the local music scene​. I had the pleasure of seeing them play last fall’s Hogchute Harvest, and it was a rousing set that etched in my consciousness. 

Chickadee Sermon

Formed in 2015 by Jennifer Hood-Sturm and Olivia Tasch, Chickadee Sermon delivers soulful acoustic folk music. Their sound, influenced by the Grateful Dead and Emmylou Harris, expanded with the addition of Mike Tasch on bass and Charlie Harris on banjo. Their debut album Town to Town features a mix of covers and original songs that explore themes of independence and personal growth​​. Listen to their live recording of “If You’re Traveling”, a part of a Hogchute Homestead recording back in 2020.


Chicago-based Lollygagger is a heavy speed-metal-stoner-punk trio known for their high-energy performances and intricate compositions. Formed in 2017, their music draws from influences like Primus and Metallica, creating a unique blend of post-punk and technical metal. Lollygagger’s live shows and innovative projects, such as the “Lollygagger Family Fun Variety Hour,” highlight their creative versatility​​. If Kenna Mae’s Sweetmelk doesn’t start a mosh pit, Lollygagger’s set just might. 

Two young children stand in the foreground watching a band perform on a wooden stage decorated with string lights. The musicians are playing guitars and a drum set. The setting has a warm, rustic feel, with fairy lights adding to the cozy ambiance.
Derrick Philips

Paul Kotheimer

Paul Kotheimer, a fixture in the C-U music scene, will bring his unique blend of folk and storytelling to Hogchute Opry. A seasoned singer-songwriter known for his poignant lyrics and acoustic prowess, Kotheimer’s music often explores themes of everyday life with a humorous twist. His performances are a delightful mix of sincerity and satire, making him a crowd favorite. Kotheimer’s commitment to the independent music scene and his DIY approach to music production align perfectly with the ethos of Hogchute Opry, making his set a highly anticipated one at the festival.

Also playing at Hogchute Opry this year will be festival organizer Brad Olson who will delight the Hogchute Opry audience with a performance as his musical alter ego, Brad Handsome. Known for his eclectic style and engaging stage presence, Olson’s set is always highly-anticipated by festival-goers. Additionally, Neoga’s guitarist, Tim McGee, will also take the stage for a solo performance, showcasing his versatile guitar skills and deep connection to the local music scene. These sets promise to add a personal and memorable touch to this year’s Hogchute Opry​

So, here’s to another fantastic Hogchute Opry, Central Illinois’ best barn-storming, independent music festival in the woods. This is area residents’ chance to enjoy music, camping, and more for just $20. The gates will open at 2 p.m., with music kicking off around 4 p.m. The Hogchute Opry takes place at the Kalyx Center for Sustainability near Monticello, IL. The venue, located just outside of Allerton Park, can be tricky to find, so follow the provided directions in the Facebook Event Page. Parking is limited, so carpooling is encouraged. Stay overnight and enjoy Bill’s towering bonfire after the music. It’s a spiritual moment after a day of heartfelt music that’s not to be missed.

For more details about the event and to stay updated, visit the Hogchute Opry’s Facebook page​​.

Hogchute Opry
Kalyx Center for Sustainability
436 E 1300 North Rd
Sa June 1st, 4 p.m.
$20 at the gate (includes music and optional camping)

Music Editor

More Articles