Review: Hard Working Americans at Hoxeyville Music Festival in 2015

hwa 3 hoxey 2015

Hard Working Americans
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Hoxeyville Music Festival, Wellston, MI

Hoxeyville Music Festival celebrated its 12th anniversary this year. A firmly Michigan focused festival, it takes place in a bucolic setting in Manistee National Forest, a bit west of Cadillac, MI. The line up this year included Greensky Bluegrass – who played two nights – the Jeff Austin Band, and Hard Working Americans. All of them played great sets, but I was most excited about Hard Working Americans, since I’d never seen them before, and they were the most rock and roll of the headliners. They delivered on my expectations, and then some.

As expected this year, the heat was brutal. 95 degrees at the hottest on Saturday – the day the Hard Working Americans played, around 4 in the afternoon. Fortunately, we brought a shade structure, a 10 by 10 number, and managed to dodge the sun for most of the afternoon. By the time Hard Working Americans took the stage, the sun was beginning to set, and the temperature had started to dip. But it was still hot as all get out, and the sun was still blinding. But not to worry – we had our sunglasses on.

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The band is a supergroup of sorts. Todd Snider is Hard Working Americans’ engaging front man. I heard a woman behind me describe him as a “modern day Jim Morrison” to a friend. Take that as you will. He has a successful solo career as a talented singer songwriter, but here he fronts a group culled from modern day jambands like Widespread Panic and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Dave Schools, Neal Casal, Chad Staehly, Duane Trucks, and Jesse Aycock are the other hard working Americans in this band. Together, they’re a swampy hard rock band with lots of psychedelic flourishes. Take a song like “Blackland Farmer“. What was originally a short cowboy lament is now an expansive hard rocking jam with a psychedelic edge. They even pull Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” into the middle of it.

The highlight of their set was when played their newly released single “Dope Is Dope”, only three songs into their set. I love that song. I hope we see more original work from this band – though I love their take on all the covers they do. The great thing was that they were able to sustain that level of energy for the rest of the set. In fact, the crowd just kept growing as they rocked harder and the sun set further. Will P. recorded the whole thing and posted it for your enjoyment over at the Live Music Archive. I encourage you to give it a listen.

My only complaint is that I wish these guys toured more. They’ve got what must be a grueling August run, with shows almost every day in the second half of the month. But the reality is they’ve all got day jobs, so who knows when they will be able to pull together another decent sized tour. Next summer? If you can catch them on one of their final August 2015 dates, you should. They’ll rock your socks off, for sure.

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The guy standing next to me  was recording the set, and he posted a few of the songs on YouTube. Here’s “Dope Is Dope”. You can hear me hooting and hollering every now and then in the video, for what that’s worth. What can I say. I was pretty excited when they played this one.