Boise old-time musician Ava Honey really wanted to see underground country legend Wayne "The Train" Hancock perform. And though he's gigged in Idaho in the past, Boise wasn't on Hancock's radar the way he was on Honey's.
After returning from the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest and Festival in Weiser last summer, Honey threw out an idea to her friend Travis Ward, whom she knew from calling square dances for one of Ward's bands, Hokum Hi-Flyers.
"Let's put together an old-time and acoustic festival," Honey suggested.
Ward thought it was a great idea, which the duo then promptly forgot about for several months.
"I didn't see Travis for a bit," Honey said. "When I did, I was like, 'What did you think, should we do a festival?' And we've met every week since then."
Those meetings led to the creation of the Hermit Music Festival, which will debut Friday, July 26, and Saturday, July 27, at the Indian Creek Winery in Kuna. Not only will The Train be honky-tonking up the joint, but he'll be joined by acts like the latin-tinged rockabilly of Petunia and the Vipers, the luscious harmonies of The Cactus Blossoms, and Idaho cowboy Pinto Bennett.
"Selfishly, we wanted to see some of these bands so we thought a festival would be the best way to make it happen," said Honey.
But personal motivations aside, Honey says roots and old-time music help to draw communities together.
"I think it's a really personal music," she said. "Traditionally, this music was passed down orally. So someone would learn it from their neighbors or their relatives. ... Portland, [Ore.] and Seattle have really big communities with thousands of people that come out and square dance. But our community hasn't been exposed to it very much. But the more we can expose people to it, the better off we'll all be."
The larger scenes in Portland and Seattle actually provided a great way for Hermit Fest to thrive, as many of the acts will be en route to Stumptown the following weekend for Pickathon, an annual three-day roots and folk music festival featuring major acts from around the country.
Scheduling the festival the week before to pick up on the traffic--a tactic employed by Treefort Music Fest in relation to SXSW--was something Honey described as "somewhat intentional."
"We thought that we might be able to get some great acts, but they hadn't released a full schedule yet, so we weren't sure," she said.
Headlining Hermit Fest is Hancock, a man who once described himself as "a stab wound in the fabric of country music in Nashville." Even he admits it was a bit grandiose.
"I thought it sounded cool at the time, so I said it," Hancock told Boise Weekly. "You get a lot of free time on your hands, you think of bold things to say."
And though Hancock says he intended the 20-year-old quote to mean he would be around for a while--clearly an accurate assessment--it also speaks to his old-school style. Hancock is as much the heir to Hank Williams as Hank III--the country legend's grandson--and refuses to spend more than two days recording an album.
"No frills; no slick," Hancock said of his stripped-down, jump-country style, which is essentially the opposite of the rhinestone-studded Nashville machine.
"One of the problems I have with the modern country or hip-hop or rap is I can't understand what they're talking about," Hancock said. "And if I can't understand what they're talking about, the songs don't make sense to me."
And songwriting matters. While Hancock is emphatic he's just a working stiff, not a music scholar--and that he couldn't tell you a 12-bar from a 2-bar--the reason he's successful is that he has always been able to write a good song, even back when he started playing guitar at age 12.
Songs like "Moving On #3" and others he wrote in his teen years are still in his repertoire. Though Hancock has grown and changed over the decades, the country tunes he loves and his simple songwriting style have endured.
"I'll always like Western twang, and anybody that doesn't draw from their roots is either a cheese or a full-blown idiot," he said.
"I just came up with that one," he added.
Honey, for her part, says that the teen years are actually a major factor in the resurgence of old-time music.
"You know a lot of kids start out playing the fiddle or the violin and I think there's a lot resurgence to violin or banjo," Honey said. "A lot of punk bands are now bringing banjo into their bands."
But that doesn't mean Honey expects the kids to flock out in droves to Hermit Music Festival.
"Teenagers are... I don't know. They're a tougher crowd," Honey said, particularly since the Boise Music Festival falls on the same weekend.
But Honey is hoping people will bring their kids to Indian Creek Winery, as the festival is an all-ages event.
"This kind of music is all about moving and dancing," she said.
Honey added that she and other organizers would like to see the festival become an annual event, and they have already scheduled a postmortem meeting to see what worked and what didn't. But for now, she's just pleased they pulled the whole thing off.
"If people are inspired to do something, you have to do it," Honey said. "You can't wait for it to happen."