Since this station’s inception in 2016 we’ve sought to bring the best in both local and independent music to the airwaves, and along with that to help support and promote great artists, bands, and events in our area and beyond. In regards to the “beyond” part of that: now in our sixth year of being a station we’re casting a wider net than ever, and as such this past August we ventured the furthest outside of our broadcast radius yet by attending Hinterland Music Festival 2022 in Saint Charles, Iowa.
Hinterland got its start in 2015, and since then the festival has featured an array of artists you can hear on 101.9 each day with previous performers such as: Brandi Carlile, Willie Nelson, alt-J, Shakey Graves, Band of Horses, The Avett Brothers and many more. The 2022 edition featured headliners Billy Strings, Glass Animals, Nathaniel Rateliff, and Phoebe Bridgers.
Our man on the ground there was Jordan Duroe, who has been with Converge since the start and presently hosts our weekly alt-country and Americana show Farewell Transmission (Mondays at 5 PM and replays Sunday nights at 8:30). You may have caught his post-festival recap episode back in August, but we also wanted to have Jordan share his impressions here in conjunction with Hinterland’s recent announcement of their 2023 lineup. Hopefully this will be useful information for any of our listeners currently considering attending next year’s fest, especially since there will no doubt be increased local interest in the festival given Eau Claire’s own Bon Iver will be one of 2023’s headliners.
(See the full 2023 lineup)
While at Hinterland Jordan also had opportunity to interview Dave Simonett from Trampled By Turtles, a band that has many ties to and a long history with Eau Claire. They discussed their new album “Alpenglow” (which just came out October 28), Jeff Tweedy’s involvement as the album’s producer, Dave and Trampled’s relationship with EC band Them Coulee Boys, and more!
(Listen to that conversation)
Otherwise read on for Jordan’s personal account of his first time as a Hinterlander this past summer, and maybe just maybe it’ll inspire you to head to Saint Charles yourself next year to see Bon Iver among many others.
First things first I want to thank the Hinterland Music Festival for having me out on behalf of Converge. They made me feel very welcome and every time I ran into any of the Hinterland team I seemed to end up having a long conversation about the day’s performers or just music in general—their genuine love, enthusiasm, and appreciation for music and for the festival’s artists and bands was apparent and very welcome.
I also want to once again thank the Trampled By Turtles crew and Dave Simonett in particular for taking the time to speak to me. They were all lovely and we had a great conversation. Likewise for The Kernal and Kern’s team, as even though I ended up talking to them at a different show in a different location. (Look for that conversation to go up on here on the website soon, by the way!)
As far as this write-up goes, though, I figured I’d share a few of my initial impressions, some specific highlights, and then close with my general consensus and feelings on the fest (spoiler alert: I thought it was great).
So let’s get into it…
(photo by Estorie · www.estorie.co)
First off the location is certainly one of the draws. Saint Charles is a small Iowa town of less than 1,000 people, and the festival is nestled right in the midst of it. So, while you’re well outside the city (closet nearby bigger metropolitan area being Des Moines) and semi-secluded when on the fest grounds, you can still easily walk to a nearby Dollar General or Casey’s General Store from camp for supplies as need be, which is really nice—I was fueled by Casey’s blessed breakfast pizza for most of the weekend, in fact! The campgrounds and layout are well organized and well-maintained, and there’s plenty of trails and some woods to explore. In short, the setting and layout are all quite nice.
I also love that it is a single stage festival so there are no sets that coincide, and no decisions ever have to be made about which bands to catch and which to miss. Fest FOMO is a big thing when you’re at one that runs multiple stages simultaneously, and so I much prefer it the way Hinterland does it. No competing sound is a nice part of a single stage fest as well. So while they have The Brunch Stage in the morning and The Campfire Stage for the festival’s night owls (both of which are great!), there is nothing that competes with the main stage and no trade-offs to navigate.
A look at the festival grounds:
(photo by Dronography Iowa · www.dronographyiowa.com)
Viewing out from the main stage:(photo by Alyssa Leicht · www.alyssaleicht.com)
Another thing I really liked about Hinterland: they used the jumbotron videos to add atmosphere, not just show what’s going on. For instance, all the video during Nathaniel Rateliff’s set was monochromatic, and there were different camera effects and aesthetics for Turnstile, Phoebe Bridgers, etc that all matched the feel and sound of the artists very well. I’m aware this is not something that’s entirely novel or unique to Hinterland, but it was the first festival I’ve personally attended that I really noticed it and I felt that it added a lot (especially if you were up the hill or a good distance back from the stage).
Nathaniel Rateliff at Hinterland 2022:(photo by Alyssa Leicht · www.alyssaleicht.com)
So the look, the sound, the set-up: it was all great, as was the lineup. While 2022’s fest
was the first year I attended I’ve noticed and admired Hinterland’s consistently great lineups for a few years now, and 2022’s was certainly no exception (nor is 2023’s newly announced lineup for that matter!). It’s always a blend of alt-country/Americana, indie folk and indie rock that ought to very much appeal to any of Converge’s regular listeners.
Hinterland also does a great job of bringing in buzzed about up-and-coming acts (for 2022 it was the likes of Nick Shoulders, Riddy Arman, Jesse Daniel, MUNA, and more!) alongside heavy-hitters and hugely popular international headliners like Nathaniel Rateliff and Phoebe Bridgers.
I’ll spare you a full daily recap and opt for a rundown of a few highlights instead, but suffice it to say each day I took in a whole lot that I loved.
2022’s main stage lineup:
Favorite Covers Played:
3. “Believe” originally by Cher,
played by Lucy Dacus
2. “Lust for Life” originally by Girls,
played by Jenny Lewis
1. “Punks in the Beerlight” originally by Silver Jews,
played by Kurt Vile in memory of David Berman
Kurt Vile at Hinterland 2022:(photo by Alyssa Leicht · www.alyssaleicht.com)
The Kernal! I had listened through the albums in preparation for interviewing Kern so admittedly wasn’t going in completely cold, but had never seen them live before and was only just getting familiar with their music. I thought they were incredible. One of my favorite live sets I’ve seen in 2022. I also distinctly remember seeing a guy jog out of VIP to get down front for them by the time they were going into their second song. It was just one of those sets that won people over and made folks stand up and pay attention, even amidst the midday sun and heat.
Honorable mention to Kurt Vile, who I can’t really consider as much of a “discovery” as I was quite familiar with much of his music beforehand, but who I was seeing for the first time live as well. He was just so stellar in concert that I’ve since gone back through his catalogue with renewed appreciation and have become a much bigger and more passionate fan than I was previous to seeing him perform.
The Kernal at Hinterland 2022:
(photo by Madison Kim · www.madisonkim.com)
This is a tough call as there were so many I loved, but I’ll narrow it down to two VERY different sets. The first of which was seeing the duo of Summer Dean and Muskrat Jones at The Brunch Stage at 9 in the morning. It was just Summer playing guitar and singing, Muskrat accompanying on pedal steel, and the two of them on a small, unadorned stage. Turns out live music first thing in the a.m. is a great way to start the day, and I loved seeing these two in such an intimate and laid-back setting. Fast forward to later that night and essentially the polar opposite: Turnstile! It was full band, main stage, all the production value, and an unmatched level of energy. It was a simply a total blast, and the positivity and enthusiasm from performers and crowd alike were wonderful to behold.
These two sets made for a very fun bookend of the day for me, and also speak to just why festivals in general are such a unique and wonderful way to experience music.
Summer Dean w/ Muskrat Jones at The Brunch Stage:
Turnstile on the main stage Friday evening:(photo by Alyssa Leicht · www.alyssaleicht.com)
There were lots of great vendors and sponsors on site, but my favorite was Oh Boy Records (John Prine’s record label) who had several pop-up performances adjacent to the Vinyl Cup tent where festival attendees can shop for records (a very cool addition to the fest grounds!) and were also selling Oh Boy merch and giving out stickers for free.
I took as many Oh Boy Records and John Prine stickers as felt acceptable to do…
that sweet sweet sticker haul:
Speaking of Oh Boy Records and their pop-up performances, Emily Scott Robinson played one such set. The whole thing took place in front of John Prine’s pickup truck, and she closed with a cover of “Paradise” by the man himself. For a big Prine fan like myself it all just felt really special.
The other moment that stands out to me is when Trampled By Turtles launched into “Wait So Long” just as the sun was setting and the summer heat of that afternoon was breaking into the cool August evening we had indeed been waiting for.
Emily Scott Robinson playing with a cutout of JP looking on approvingly:
Of course getting to meet and talk with some of the artists, be it casually or for a formal interview, was absolutely a thrill as well! A cool thing about Hinterland is you don’t have to likewise be in radio to meet some of your favorite artists playing the fest, either: they have a number of signings on the grounds throughout the weekend at no additional cost.
…well I hope this is enough to give readers a bit of a feel for the festival without getting too much more long-winded than I already have. Suffice it to say (and as I spoiled above) I found it to be an altogether wonderful time and enjoyable experience, and if the fact Bon Iver is playing it next year has you considering grabbing some tickets and making the 5-hour drive to Saint Charles maybe this will help you do so with confidence. Just don’t overdo it on the breakfast pizza when you’re out there!