.Live Review: Huichica Music Festival (with Photos)

Kelley Stoltz at Huichica 2014

Nestled in the Sonoma Valley’s beautiful Gundlach Bundschu Winery, the 2014 Huichica Music Festival was highlighted by fine wine, warm weather and excellent music. Friday nights kick-off was a nice concert headlined by Vetiver, though Saturday was the real spectacle, with two stages hosting a dozen artists from the Bay Area and beyond. There were young up-and-comers, established favorites and even a few veteran folk artists for good measure. Click to read on and check out the photos below:

The day started mellow with festival founder and former Fruit Bats frontman Eric D Johnson sharing acoustic sets with Mount Eerie’s main man, Phil Elverum, on the smaller, Arbor stage. Their impassioned music led way for Portland’s Houndstooth to take the main stage and set the tone with their atmospheric mash up of brit rock and psyche pop. The gathering crowd on the grassy hill that faces the main stage all set their blankets down, lending to a relaxed setting that would last through the day. Across the grounds, acoustic acts like neo-folk songstress Meg Baird, and the Cairo Gang, represented by lead figure Emmett Kelly, performed in poignant and restrained sets of melodic songwriting.
Meg Baird

the Cairo Gang's Emmett Kelly goes solo

Back on the main stage, the Blank Tapes played a grooving set of their surf rock goes psychedelic, as guitarist Matt Adams delivered blistering solos amid his surprisingly introspective lyrics. Eric D Johnson got on stage to sing along with Adams on a new song, “Paradise,” off a yet-to-be-released album. San Francisco’s Light Fantastic delivered a fun batch of shimmering pop, while SF up-and-comers Magic Trick performed an eclectic selection of indie rock that saw influence from country, garage rock, new wave and even a little doo-wop. Magic Trick frontman Tim Cohen has been getting a lot of attention in the scene for his involvement in bands like the Fresh & Onlys, and this bedroom project turned full band is his most personal venture yet.

Eric D Johnson (far right) jams with the Blank Tapes

Light Fantastic shimmers in the sun at Huichica

Magic Trick's Tim Cohen sings his heart out

Magic Trick tries to play a game of "made you look"

Amid all these emerging acts, folk legend Michael Hurley delivered one of the best sets of the day, playing the smaller stage with a relaxed and flawless collection of classic songs about car, jars and guitars. The crowd swelled on the lawn near the beer garden to hear the songwriter, a contemporary of Dylan in 1960’s Greenwich Village. It was a privilege.
Michael Hurley performs at Huichica

Festival founder Eric D Johnson gives himself a "do-over" at Huichica before introducing Kelley Stoltz

So then, the craziest thing of the day came during Kelley Stoltz‘s rocking set. Throughout, a young tyke had been playing around on the hay bales lining the stage, drawing friendly banter from Stoltz. Then, quite simply, the kid jumped off the hay, pulled down his pants and…well…relieved himself freely in front of five hundred onlookers. Stoltz and rest of the crowd erupted with laughter, and the songwriter went on to lead a sing-along about it that united the whole festival for the first time. After that it was all smiles for Dirty Projectors frontman David Longstreth and showstoppers Extra Classic. Simply put, the Huichica Music Festival was a near flawless event, fun and family friendly, and one that introduced me to a lot of great new bands to love. That’s a win.
Kelley Stoltz at Huichica

A festive crowd enjoys Huichica


Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.


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