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"It feels good to come full circle and bring it on back home," says Michael Ubaldini. The guitarist/vocalist participated in the first Hootenanny in 1995, and he has come back to play the 13th incarnation of the popular festival. "I was the very first person to play the first Hootenanny with my old band Mystery Train," he recalls. "The Cramps headlined along with the Blasters and the Rev [the Reverend Horton Heat]. Since then, the Hootenanny has become more established or kinda mainstream. Now people come from all over for a good time. The first one was kinda like, 'Let's put all these oddball roots rock, blues, country and rockabilly bands together in the middle of a field in the scorching heat and see what goes down!' And the fest was a success."
Hootenanny returns to Oak Canyon Ranch to entertain the country/punk/rockabilly crowd with its annual celebration of music, cars and girls, all gathered together in the roasting heat for the day-long shindig.
As with most outdoor summer events in Southern California, the heat is a major concern. Branch Benson, bassist/vocalist from the bluegrass-punk band Shitkickers, hopes for cooler weather. "We can only hope it's not scorching. All-day events are tough, particularly when we play at the end of the day, as we like to drink a great deal." Ubaldini won't mind the heat, however, because "the girls will be dressed to kill!" Those foxy rockabilly chicks are the whole reason Throw Rag vocalist Captain Sean Doe says he is playing this year.
For those of you who are also going for the ladies, you'll probably find them where the rockabilly guys will be: the car show. The Hootenanny car show is as much of an attraction as the band lineup. A huge section of Oak Canyon Ranch is turned into a vast field of glittering pre-1965 machinery. This year, the show is full to capacity—no stocks, only hot rods and customs. Be sure to check out Orange County's own Flamingo, a 1957 210 Wagon owned by Laguna Beach resident Kacey Danner. Painted a sweet candy pink, it might just be the prettiest car in the county.
Along with the car show, hordes of vendors will be slinging various types of swag and services, everything from barber shops where you can perfect your pompadour to purveyors of vinyl records and vintage clothes.
With so much action going down at Hootenanny, it will be impossible to see everything, especially when you take into account the 22 bands on three stages, ranging from classic country to crusty punk rock. Headliners include Hoot regulars Social Distortion, along with Shitkickers and swing revivalists Squirrel Nut Zippers. Be sure not to miss sets by Throw Rag and Michael Ubaldini, of course, but also expect fine performances from Nekromantix, Deke Dickerson and Custom Made Scare.
"I am looking forward to playin' my own storytellin' songs," Ubaldini says, obviously eager to get out onstage, "blasting 'em through a hollow-body guitar through my ol' Fender and Gibson amps."
So which acts do the bands themselves look forward to seeing? Ubaldini is a fan of blues crooner Dave Alvin, while Wayne Hancock and Tex and the Horseheads' names came up in conversation with both Benson and Doe. "Seeing Mojo Nixon is always a treat," Benson adds. "The Hootenanny has a really diverse lineup, considering it is perceived as a rockabilly event."
If you're a cowboy or a greaser, or if you just like classic cars and rock & roll, Hootenanny is a little slice of heaven. Between the shopping, the car show, the ogling and the impressive musical lineup, the festival has become a celebration of a classic era that still exerts a major influence on today's style. So break in your new cowboy boots, show off those beautiful Sailor Jerry tattoos, and be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen.
HOOTENANNY AT OAK CANYON RANCH, 5305 SANTIAGO CANYON RD., IRVINE; WWW.THEHOOTENANNY.COM . SAT., 11:30 A.M. $45-$100.