Union Deopt Park . 28 Depot Street, Saranac Lake, NY 12983
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The Hobofest is an all-day music festival, “at-the-tracks” in Saranac Lake NY, celebrating railroad culture, and the “hobo spirit,” Sunday of Labor Day weekend. A truly grassroots effort, the event has been fueled by volunteers, with practically no budget, the sound system donated, and manned by the musicians (Big Slyde) for the first two years. When Peter Seward and Todd Smith set out to organize this event, they simply had an art space – 7444 Gallery – and their ears to the ground of the music community and to the character of the folks in this town.
The event is intended to have a socio-political overtones, inclusive for those may not invited to a lakeside property for the Holiday weekend. “Folks have found their roles in this event, and we’ve engaged Saranac Lake,” Seward says. “Although the recession and disenfranchisement are “under-current” players in this event, they still can rear their heads in expected ways.”
Considering a routine application for Hobofest, one concerned town Trustee read aloud the definition of “hobo” being synonymous with “professional idler,” and continued, “if these hobos don’t have a place to stay, if they’re going to camp out there, which I don’t think is allowed in the park.” Although the others at this public meeting smoothed over his concerns and brought him up to speed, the objections to the perceived invasion of the homeless gave voice to the theme of the festival and cemented its identity.
Hobofest takes place at the “Depot Corridor,” a former industrial route askew of town. Sited next to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad tourist attraction, the event is step toward the re-vitalization of dormant resources in a community strengthening its assets. The Adirondack Carousel, Winter Carnival, 90-mile Canoe Race, the Community Store, and the Farm-to Fork festival are anticipated punctuations in the calendar year of this “little City in the Adirondacks.”
Past performers to Hobofest, have included regional North Country acts alongside seasoned Brooklyn hipsters. John Cohen (New Lost City Rambers) blessed the first, and this year’s includes Washington State legend, and “outer-tainer,” Baby Gramps. Several unsigned fully-realized ensembles, all “invested” in this event, offer distinct takes on roots music: The intricate groove-grass pulse of Big Slyde is the festival’s jam-band offering. The Adirondack-Brooklyn hybrid ensemble, Frankenpine, craft urban-informed bluegrass, sometimes affirming, often lamenting. Crackin’ Foxy distinguish themselves with a post-vaudeville vintage of style and song, elegant female three-part harmony, and swinging arrangements. This year’s appearance of forest freaks, the Blind Owl Band, follows their recent local success, and romp through the Northeast, diving headlong into the mosh pit of old-time as dance music.