Noon At The Hoot
Rockabilly heaven hits paydirt in Orange County
By Joya Balfour
the first Saturday in July, a few thousand people descended
on Oak Canyon Ranch in hot, dusty Irvine, California. Just a
day after the punk-oriented Vans Warped Tour rolled into town,
the crowd here couldnt be more differentGreaser
boys, Bettie Page girlfriends and tattooed folk everywhere.
This was the Hootenanny.
heard of past Hoots from friends on both coasts, I ventured
down the I-5 past Disneyland with a couple of girlfriends in
tow. Wearing as little as possible (to beat the heat of course,
but looking cute and sexy is a priority not to be undermined),
with my requisite bobby-pinned curls, gingham top (which could
easily be called the Hoot girls uniform) and tortoise-shell
shades, I arrived at the ranch only to discover that the parking
lot was about a 20 minute walk in the dust to the festival site.
I immediately relished the fact I had on cheap Steve Madden
floppies, and not delicate vintage pumps as some girls were
wearing. The dusty walk downhill in the dirt was not pretty
for these lovelies.
gaining entry to the gates, I quickly realized why so many rockabilly
folk glorify the Hoots annual occurrence. It was carnivalesque
in atmosphere, with food concessions, retro-roots-vintage shopping
heaven and a people-watchers delight all rolled into one.
A sea of classic cars and hot rods populated the first grassy
field, with oglers wandering in between the Hudsons, Oldsmobiles,
Mercurys and Roadsters. Some of the low riders were so low that
any bumps in the road were sure to cause their owners hundreds
of dollars in grief. Others were so meticulously polished
that you dare not touch them, lest a burly cuff-jeaned man with
attitude to spare chase you away. The sheer dedication to preserving
these great old cars was impressive to say the least.
The vendors, who formed neat rows around the stage area, catered
to the attendees with scores of bowling shirts, creepers, halter
tops, pinup paraphernalia, rare CDs and cherry-motif items galore.
I bought a pair of high-waisted red pleated shorts and a wicker
purse with blackberry design (if only to get away from the red
cherries every girl had on her ears, in her hair or pinned to
her bosom), and would have spent more had not scores of other
girls in attendance bought the same thing. That, ultimately, is
the fashion risk you take in a small, style-conscious scene.
bands played short 30-minute sets with the exception of the headliners.
Stand-outs included the Knitters, made up of X members Xene and
John Doe; and Stray Cats alumni Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom,
whose onstage guests included the Reverend Horton Heat and the
legendary Scotty Moore. Hank Williams III lived up to his famous
pedigree with rollickin country twang, and Royal Crown Revue,
who always liven up the Hoot with their jazzy, hard-boiled edge,
had the audience clappin to the beat.
Photo ©Joe Wood
With the sun beating down and the crowd pretty dense, I admit
to spending a decent amount of time backstage at the artists
tent, which catered to very few artists and many friends/wives/family
members/hangers-on who appreciated the gentle mist that emanated
from the sprinklers. It was a nice respite, and also a prime viewing
area for the many rockabilly chicks who clamored around any band
member who looked unaccompanied, batting their fake eyelashes
and twirling their Chinese parasols.
was hard to tell whether these Hoot folk came for the music,
or the scene, or both. I dont think you can have one without
the other. What made the Hootenanny fun for me wasnt that
I felt the need to swoon at crushed-purple-pants-wearing Chris
Isaak, or buy the latest Sailor Jerry accessory, but that it
was a unique social event that conjures up a melding of American
Graffiti and Sid & Nancy. With an assortment of characters,
some who live the 50s life, real or imagined, 24/7, as
well as those who do merely as a form of escapism, there was
no lack of substance for sightseeing. And no girl could resist
the lure of the many vendors who catered explicitly to our shared
pinup doll fantasy. The music was a far cry from the bubble-gum
pop that is so emblematic of the last decade, but thats
the whole reason behind the Hootenanny: to celebrate the roots
of rockabilly and rocknroll music, and throw one
heck of a picnic while youre at it. Next year, Ill
remember to bring more sunscreen.
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