The Peace and Not-So-Quiet of Hickey Fest 2014

The campground for Hickey Fest will be located at a bend on the Eel River, offering festival-goers a swimming hole in which to cool off. Photo by Ginger Fierstein.

The campground for Hickey Fest will be located at a bend on the Eel River, offering festival-goers a swimming hole in which to cool off; Photo by Ginger Fierstein.

BottleRock, High Sierra, Outside Lands, First City and… Hickey? That’s right, there’s another Bay Area festival centered around music on the horizon, but that’s about where the similarities end.

You won’t find any corporate sponsorships or VIP sections at Hickey Fest 2014. Also, don’t count on perusing rows of familiar food trucks or catching a shuttle back to your plush hotel room. No sir, Hickey Fest is held in the Standish Hickey State Park, roughly 200 miles north of S.F. Referred to as the “gateway to the tall trees country,” Hickey Park surrounds the south fork of the Eel River.

At its core, Hickey Fest is about community. “I do a lot of bike riding, and I’ve done a couple bike tours down from Portland,” festival organizer Ash Reiter tells me. The Peg House, a local music venue, is a stopping point right before the largest hill on the route; Reiter knew it would be the perfect setting for a new kind of festival. “Everybody stops there and collects themselves,” she says. “You end up with this community of people that are all on the same pace.”

Reiter established Hickey Fest last year “as a way to solidify my music scene a little more and give all the musicians a chance to meet each other.” While most of the bands performing are already at least acquaintances, Reiter points out that “it’s hard to become tight friends when you’re in a rock club that’s blaring music all the time.”

JJAAXXNN at Hickey Fest 2013
Oakland’s JJAAXXNN performs at 2013’s Hickey Fest. Photo by Ginger Fierstein.

The bulk of this year’s lineup (with over 35 bands) is comprised of local favorites — Sonny & the Sunsets, Papercuts, Foxtails Brigade, DRMS, The Blank Tapes and Ash herself — but it also features out-of-towners Chris Cohen (Vermont) and Graves from Portland, not to mention the national touring act Allah-Las. It’s an enticing docket of performers, especially considering a three-day pass goes for only $75 (and includes camping). “I’ve had several bands be pretty gracious… knowing that this is going to be a cool event and making it happen for what we can do,” grants Reiter.

“I haven’t really looked at it as a money maker,” she says. “It’s more just — I think stuff like this should be going on and so I did it.” She concedes that she would like to eventually be compensated a little for her efforts, but she qualifies that with a statement most artists will find all too familiar: “I’m a musician; I can deal with not making money.”

The planning of Hickey Fest has been mostly a one-woman show up to this point. “Of course, the bands that are playing — and different friends — have been very helpful to make it all happen,” acknowledges Reiter. But she craves more help in an official role going forward. “I’m sure if more people were involved there would be more cool ideas and different aspects than just one person could pull off,” she says.

She’s done one hell of a job by herself during Hickey Fest’s infancy. On top of the music, this year will feature Showga, Katie Colver’s live music and yoga practice, each morning, the Mad Alchemy liquid light show by Lance Gordon and psychedelic forest projections by Luke Judd. It’s hard to imagine any other Bay Area festival offering the same combination of great local indie music, vibe-inspiring activities in such an intimate setting.

Author

T.J. Mimbs

T.J. Mimbs is a freelance writer, songwriter, musician and recording engineer based in San Francisco by way of Athens, GA. T.J. fronts Bay Area band, Surf Bored, works with other local bands as an audio engineer and has an addiction to live music. He is a disciple of the open-minded yet still a Southerner at heart.

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