NORTH HILLSDALE — The Oldtone Roots Music Festival wrapped up its fourth year Sunday with performances by The Feinberg Brothers, Five Mile Mountain and a gospel set hosted by Nadine Landry with performances by a roster of musicians.
The festival boasts four days of music held on the site’s main stage, a dance tent and a workshop stage at the Cool Whisper Farm on Route 21 in North Hillsdale.
Caleb Klauder and Reeb Willms, of Portland, Oregon, perform as members of Foghorn Stringband, which plays traditional fiddle music. The band performed Friday and Saturday and Klauder’s country band played the festival for the first time, he said.
“We finally got to play here this year,” Klauder said. “I started that band because I was writing songs and wanted to have another outlet for those songs I was writing.”
Many of the festival’s acts are peers and good friends of Klauder and Willms. Klauder finds he has a lot in common with the other acts, he said, adding festival attendance has grown.
“It’s a nice community that’s all getting to connect for a weekend,” Klauder said. “This year already has more folks and a lot of familiar faces return.”
Very few festivals are devoted to American roots music and some major festivals will have a token roots band on a bill with bigger acts, Klauder said. Oldtone’s vibe is different from other festivals.
“All these bands aren’t charging a ton of money. There’s a different kind of energy to the whole thing because of that,” he said. “It’s kind of healthy and strong, but Oldtone is putting down another good root for the whole thing.”
Willms loves that the festival exposes visitors to roots music because it is not heard on mainstream radio, she said.
“That’s sad to me because people in our country don’t get connected to their own traditions and they forget about it,” Willms said. “I think if they heard it, they would like it even better than what they’re hearing on pop radio.”
Willms and Klauder performed on the album “Farewell, Alligator Man: A Tribute to the Music of Jimmy C. Newman,” released last December and dedicated to the late cajun singer-songwriter and Grand Ole Opry regular. The duo met Newman before he died in 2014 and discovered their fellow musicians Joel Savoy and Keli Jones were also big fans of Newman’s music, Willms said.
“The two of us, along with Kelli and Joel, found out we shared a common interest in his music,” she said. “We were all buddies and we started singing a lot of his songs.”
Susi Mills, of Cecila, Louisiana, heard about Oldtone through friends and is part of a community of musicians back home, she said. She enjoys the more communal and laid-back atmosphere of the festival.
“It’s a real sense of community — you get to jam and play music,” Mills said. “What more is there to be said?”
Jeremy Leblance, of Hillsdale, loves having a festival like Oldtone in his backyard and he most enjoyed seeing multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins grace the stage Saturday, Leblance said.
“It’s my favorite festival,” he said. “It’s clean, it’s close, it’s beautiful.”
Performances by Foghorn Stringband and Nora Brown stood out for Laura Szklarski, of Waitsfield, Vermont. Szklarski was impressed by the 12-year-old Brown’s banjo skills.
“I play banjo so it was cool to see Nora perform at such a young age,” Szlarski said. “Foghorn is super talented, they’re a fun band.”
Szlarski appreciated the Oldtone’s cool vibe, she said, adding the festival had an important distinction for her.
“It’s the only festival I’ve been to all summer,” she said.
The festival was the first one Tom Socci, of New York City, has attended since his 2-year-old son Eliott was born. Socci finds the festival is family friendly and the music not too loud for his son.
“It’s not like he needs a headset,” Socci said of his son. “The performances are reasonably amplified.”
Socci’s favorite performances of the weekend festival were Foghhorn Stringband and the collective of musicians gathered for Landry’s gospel set, he said.
“It was a nice variety hour,” he said.
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.