REVIEW: The 25th Annual Hot August Music Festival

Words and photos by Randy Harris

Another wonderful Hot August Music Festival is in the books, and the veteran festival did not hold anything back for its 25th installment. Yes, that is correct, we have now officially completed 25 years of Hot August Music Festival. The reason for the festival’s success is quite simple. The organizers have taken an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach and have stuck to their instincts throughout the years. They have kept the single-day formula all this time, despite the growing trend of 3, 4 and even 5-day festivals. They have grown but not overgrown. Most importantly, however, they have placed their primary focus on the aspects that make festival goers want to come back year after year: the music, the experience and the community.

I could sit here and review every band’s performance at the festival, but 99% of you reading this already know that they were all incredible just from looking at the lineup. What truly makes Hot August Music Festival special is the atmosphere. Nestled in a park just outside of Baltimore, MD, this laid-back festival provides a family friendly environment, while also catering to those who really want to party. There are designated spaces in the back where attendees can set up shade tents, and there is plenty of room in the gorgeous field for camping chairs and blankets. The music from the stages echo from the hill and trees behind the field. It’s a comfortable setting where parents can feel comfortable bringing young children to introduce them to the music they love. Local food, beer and craft vendors line the area in between the stages.

For anyone who has been to Hot August before, none of what I have said is news to them. The festival has continually provided this same level of experience over the years. One thing that made this year different, however, was the Back to the Farm Stage. Located in a little nook of a clearing and surrounded by trees, this little stage featured three blues artists who had played at Hot August within its first few years. Memphis Gold, Lil Ed & The Blues Imperials and John Mooney & Bluesiana all graced this stage with stellar traditional blues music. The Back to the Farm Stage was rockin’ from start to finish, and everyone who had a chance to make their way over there was dancing and whooping like mad.

To sum everything up, Hot August Music Festival, now 25 years in, continues to provide one of the best festival experiences in the country. This year’s lineup featured the return of headliner Old Crow Medicine Show, who put on one of the most energetic performances I’ve seen in quite some time. Turkuaz and Lettuce both rocked the funk arena, while The Infamous Stringdusters and Cabinet took hold on the bluegrass side. Baskery was definitely a bit of a surprise, as the trio of sisters from Sweden brought some serious heat to the stage, and Baltimore locals, Squaring The Circle and Electric Love Machine played their hearts out for the early crowd. Squaring The Circle also packed out the afterparty at the Green Turtle. The quartet featured guest saxophone player Scott Paddock and hosted sit-ins from Jeremy Schon (Pigeons Playing Ping Pong) and Jon Brady (Electric Love Machine). It’s safe to say, we’ll be eager to see what’s in store for us next year Hot August Music Festival.

Check out a full photo gallery below featuring all the wonderful talents that graced the Hot August stages.

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