[Hype Hype Hooray] Ranch Fest: The Secret Idaho Music Event of Your Dreams Pt. 1

Every [two weeks?] Jamie Hale takes a long, hard look at the music industry and the blog scene that feeds it. Here, he releases those findings and makes snarky, sarcastic remarks. Admittedly, both Jamie and Knox Road are a part of this scene. So sue us.

When you move from a big east-coast city to a small western one, finding good live music is tough (I opined about the situation in a Hype Hype Hooray column a while back). This is never more true than when the summer festival season kicks up. I live a cool 14 hours from Coachella and Sasquatch, 23 from Lollapalooza and Pitchfork, and 29 from Bonaroo. I know, I know: “people drive from all over the country to go to these festivals!” Frankly, I don’t know how they can afford the damn things.

But this isn’t a tale of contempt and complaint, it’s one of wonder and joy. Because I did manage to find a summer music festival right here in Idaho. It’s not one you’ve ever heard of and you won’t find a website for it. In fact, unless you’ve been there before, you won’t even know where to start looking. This is the story of my experience at the secret little Idaho music festival called Ranch Fest.

It started back in May with a Facebook invitation. I had written a piece on Boise band Finn Riggins after they did a show here in Pocatello. We became Facebook friends afterward and that was that. Until the invitation. I opened up my profile to see an invite to something called “Ranch Fest.” The event page said it was a weekend of free music, free beer and free food on a ranch in the Idaho prairie. It didn’t specify where exactly this was in the idaho prairie, it only said it was held in the fictional town of Tumbleweeds, ID.

The description continued: “As a reminder, this is more party than festival, and we’d like to see this event continue to happen on this beautiful property…with that said, this is setup as a private event and only those invited can see it. please feel free to invite anyone you’d like, just remember the one very important Ranch Fest rule: NO ASSHOLES.” They promised more information, including directions, to come by e-mail later.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited about being invited to a super secret Idaho music scene party. You know how little kids love things like scavenger hunts and treasure maps and secret agent things? It was just like that, all over again. I told Brittany about the event and we decided to clear out our schedules and make this happen no matter what. We bought a tent and an extra sleeping bag since we, the non-western types, didn’t really have the resources for this kind of thing.

And then we waited. Every weekend was marked as a certain number of weekends before Ranch Fest (one weekend was preemptively “one week” from the event after I mixed up the date). Little by little, information was leaked out. We got the lineup first, a group of bands from Idaho, Portland and San Francisco. Of the 25 main acts, I had only heard of three. It was perfect. Sure, it’s great to go see all your favorite bands play a festival, but there’s something exciting about seeing a few dozen you’ve never heard before.

Finally, five days before the show, the coveted secret directions came. Opening the e-mail, I was surprised at how excited I was to see where exactly in the middle of nowhere, Idaho I would be driving. And if you think I’m telling you what the directions said, you’re sadly mistaken. Let’s just say that if you looked at a map, you would never guess that an indie music festival party would take place there. It was THAT in the middle of nowhere. We packed Brittany’s Jeep with food, booze, blankets and some kind of instinctive western adventurousness.

Well it looks like I haven’t really told you anything yet. I guess this column sort of ended up being a precursor to the actual story. Sorry, you guys. It’s just as well, I’m SWAMPED at work. No time to write out the full story that I promise is interesting and weird and kind of gross. Curiosity piqued yet, hmmmmm?

Next week: Beer, Bands and Barfing or There is Such a Thing As Too Much Awesome

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