Basking in Sunshine and Soulful Jams at Maryland’s Hot August Music Festival
Words By Dan Rozman
Pictures by Mark Raker
On August 19, over 3,000 music lovers convened at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, Maryland, to soak up the sunshine and soulful tunes at the 30th Annual Hot August Music Festival (HAMF). People joked that it was only Warm August this year with the mid-’80s temperature and a nice breeze as fans bonded over eclectic jams, cold brews, and mouthwatering eats.
HAMF jammed the day with nine bands playing on two stages. The schedule was carefully planned with minimal overlap to allow fans to listen to every performer.
The family-friendly atmosphere pulsed with positive energy across generations. There were a variety of food vendors, as well as clothes, hats, jewelry, and more. Little ones frolicked in the grass and had activities including the Infinite Love Project paint your own “Be Kind” sign station. The fans swayed and grooved to varied genres spilling from the Hillside and Meadow Stages. Funky rhythms from local favorites Natalie Brooke & the Infinity Tribe’s keytar-wielding frontwoman stirred the air alongside Alex “Gator” Petropulos’ driving percussion. Brooke who also played at the afterparty said, “We love Hot August. We were here last year. It’s the best day, every year. This year we played a number of songs from the album we have finished recording and mixing.” Keep an eye out for the new album which will probably be out early next year.
Bluesy licks blazed across the Meadow Stage as Maryland local Jonathan Sloane Trio paid homage to the festival’s bluesy roots. After their morning set, Sloane and his family spent the day enjoying everything the festival had to offer. “The feeling of seeing a bunch of friends and family congregating for the same purpose of experiencing connectivity through music is always spectacular, however, it felt extra special to me this year. To be a part of a musical lineup of such high caliber was truly an honor and I enjoyed every minute of it!” Jonathan said.
Watch the Jonathan Sloane Trio perform “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” by Warren Zevon for BandHouseGigs on YouTube:
As the day wore on, Baltimore roots rocker Cris Jacobs Band fired up the Hillside Stage. Jacobs who is always a fan favorite at HAMF also played at the Union Craft Brewery pre-party on Friday. Americana songstress Sunny War then slowed things down with an intimate and emotional Meadow Stage set. Vermont jam band Ripe upped the dance party quotient on the Hillside Stage with bubbly horn lines. At the end of the set, they had everyone repeat their name to commit it to memory. After their HAMF performance, I don’t think anyone would have forgotten it. On the Meadow Stage, thunderous bassist Karina Rykman kept toes tapping and hands waving with cuts from her new Trey Anastasio-produced album.
Later, psychedelic adventurers Oteil & Friends explored spacey improvisation anchored by bassist Oteil Burbridge and guitarist Steve Kimock. Young Nashville shredder Daniel Donato wowed with extensive, improv-laced picking as his Cosmic Country band fused jam, blues, and country.
As the evening sunset painted the rolling hills in crimson hues, Little Feat closed out the festival with signature southern jams like “Fat Man in the Bathtub” and “Dixie Chicken.”
Watch Little Feat perform “Dixie Chicken” for Rockpalast in 1977 via YouTube:
Legendary Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne shared some of the reasons Little Feat loved playing at HAMF, “We are very excited to be playing at Hot August. The Washington DC Baltimore, Maryland corridor is very important to us. It always has been. It’s one of the first places we actually took off. We lived in that area when we were making our first album. We still have a lot of friends in the area and they always bring great energy when we come back to the Baltimore-DC area. It’s a great festival and we love our friends there. HAMF is a great chance for us to recollect, rethink, and sit down with people we love and enjoy. We are excited to be a part of it.”
As always at HAMF, fans get to see bands they know and also find new favorite bands. The Little Feat closing set was the culmination of 30 years of eclectic harmony in Oregon Ridge Park. With a perfect balance of nostalgia and fresh takes, the Hot August Music Festival 2023 proved a soul-stirring meeting of generations showcasing established legends and rising talents under blue skies and jam vibes.
Certain aspects of the research and/or drafting for this piece may have employed AI.
Here are some photos of Hot August Music Festival on August 19, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of Mark Raker.