I am a delicate fucking flower. I don’t like the sun. I don’t like camping. I don’t like getting dirty. I can handle sweat, but dirt? Ugh. Bugs? Blegh. I prefer my days spent in rooms lined with books and the internet. Festivals are the bane of my existence. I don’t do ‘em. Even day festivals…the only thing that slathered me in sunscreen for Riot Fest was when Iggy Pop headlined. Until Muddy Roots, there was no festival that could get my princess ass out to a sunflaring mudfield to listen to music.

And this is why I love Moonrunners. It’s indoors, bitches. INDOORS.

Jahshie P., my pores thank you.

If yer new to all this, hey, hi.

::shakes hand::

We’re talking ‘bout Moonrunners Music Festival 2014.

It’s awesome. It’s held at Reggie’s Rock Club on the south side of Chicago. Plenty-o-metered-parking. You can walk in and out of the venue. You wanna smoke on the porch? It’s cool. You want to walk down to White Castle? That’s cool, too. I mean, it’s not. It’s gross, but whatever. I can’t judge your sliders and shove my craw fulla cheese fries. You wanna go have a PB&J in yer car because you spent your last dollar on the ticket to the show (abt $90 after service fees for a pass to both days)? Cool. Rather eat at Reggie’s? They have a full-service restaurant open late. (Vegetarian-friendly, but vegan options are limited…like fried pickles and French fries.)

Reggie’s has two entrances. The left side is the smaller Music Joint and the right side is the Rock Club. Above all of it, on the second floor, is Record Breakers, fulla vinyl, CDs, and band merch. During Moonrunners, there were three places to find festival band merch – by the front door of the Music Joint directly after a band played, across from the bathrooms in the Rock Club, and in the Rock Club’s balcony. Want to talk (not creepily stare…talk) to band folks? Sometime they hang up there when they aren’t in the crowd. It’s not a VIP area, so don’t feel like a weirdo about going up there.

You might be thinking…there’s no way that Day 2 could have been as rad as Day 1, right?


OK, sure, there was definitely a hungover feel to the crowd…maybe a late start to the day for some (Um…me and my fella totally late-started it. Ah well. Damn it.) BUT! Still! It was like that movie Bring It On, but instead of bitchy cheerleaders raising the bar on each other, tattooed, country maniacs got wilder as the day progressed.

::pauses to envision a human pyramid made of Fifth on the Floor and Joseph Huber::

::wants Rude Joe to draw this::


Here goes. Here’s what I saw. Apologies to those I did not, and I can’t wait to catch you elsewhere.

Moonrunners Music Festival Day 2: Saturday, April 26, 2014


Filthy Still – 3:15 p.m. Rock Club Stage

This is the second time in a month I’ve seen Filthy Still. (Review here) Which made April a bang-up beautiful month. They sing on everything from dinosaur shit to misery-soaked benders, and I love them. They are the perfect example of how to write a ridiculous song seriously. Re: “Where are all the Bigfoot Bones?” And they do this thing – this magical, fucking, hot thing – where they slow down a song and you can sway your hips. Like near the 2:40 mark of “Another Bottle.” SEX. I want to see them backed by five gyrating ladies and gents in pasties and cowboy boots.

And. AND! Because I donated to Filthy Still’s GoFundMe, I was able to pick out a piece of one-of-a-kind drum head art, drawn by Jesse Roderick. YEAH!

The Hangdog Hearts – 3:50 p.m. Music Joint Stage
Jewelry by Austin Stirling of the Hangdog Hearts

Necklces by Austin Stirling

Guess who got a coon jawbone necklace? ME. Why? Because not only does Hangdog Hearts create the most flail-worthy angry folk I’ve heard, dude MAKES JEWELRY.

The Hangdog Hearts played in its three-member incarnation. Austin Stirling on banjo and bass drum, Shaun Hauger on drums, and Heather Craig on fiddle. I have a total noisecrush on Heather Craig. She is PHENOMENAL. She could make a sunlit Saturday sorrow with the sound she drags from that fiddle. Equal parts haunting and inspirational…but I guess that is the general feel of The Hangdog Hearts. Stirling hopes that he can “…help people through some songs, that people will find something in there that helps them…” Stirling’s deeply metaphored music deals with faith and finding his way through everyday bullshit.

You leave a Hangdog Hearts show and you’ll do it with less weight on yer shoulders than when you walked in.

C.W. Ayon – 4:20 p.m. Rock Club Stage

Driving through the desert at night? Walking into an illicit, basement juke joint? Passing by a crumbling storefront in Wyoming with a one man band in the doorway? C.W. Ayon plays Delta blues that could easily soundtrack any of these situations.

I wish I was able to see more of him, but Carrie Nation was coming on…

Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy – 4:50 p.m. Music Joint Stage

Carrie NAtion and the Speakeasy self titled albumHow could you not immediately fall in love with a band that has dustbowls, windmills, PBR, Stephen Fucking Foster, and underachievement in its list of influences? Oh, and, a band who took their name from a radical temperance movement member who WIELDED A FUCKING HATCHET.

Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy are a pileup of punk, Dixieland, and bluegrass. They play informed, ambitious songs that examine everything from labor unions to Confederate prison camps to mass consumerism. And they do this while making you dance. Their fast songs churn crowds into jubilant gyres. But they aren’t only accelerated brass and grass – they slow it down as often as they speed it up – and thank the ghost of Joe Hill they do – else wise every show would end in at least three heart attacks, double that in exertion swoons, and a room of water damage due to a sweat flood.

I fucking love this band.

Buy all the things.

See them live.

They make me want to finally write the riverboat burlesque story that has been in the back of my head for a blue moon.

Last False Hope – 5:30 p.m. Rock Club Stage

Of all the bands in underground country today, Last False Hope is the most unyieldingly punk. They are a hardcore band with roots influences. Last False Hope is loud, fast, and raw. Jahshie P. plays the mandolin as if he’s digging into a wound. Colleen Alvin’s fiddle is a respite, when its not driving things forward. Every Last False Hope show inevitably turns into a rowdy pit of screamed, sing-a-long choruses – and that’s how we like it.

I don’t know how the hell Jahshie P. has a band, plays shows, organizes a festival, maintains a music podcast, has a family life, and a “real” job. Fucking helluva lot on his plate, that one. I think a lot of Chicago’s growth as a roots music community is straight outta Jahshie P.’s promotions and Jody Robbins Office shows and interviews. I thank them both, mightily, for expanding not only the music I know, but the friends I have.

I only caught part of Last False Hope at Moonrunners because I’d never seen…

WhiskeyDick – 6:05 p.m. Music Joint Stage

OK, I reached a critical mass point where I was like, HOLY SHIT, I HAVE NOT EATEN ALL DAY. And I went over to the Music Joint to catch WhiskeyDick and have some nachos.

BBQ. Sin rivers. Shootin’ guns. This is what you get with WhiskeyDick, a two-piece outta Texas. And really, their bio says it best – “…WhiskeyDick blow minds with a double barrel blast of dreadnaught shredding and hillbilly bellowing that makes you want to knock back a shot, stand up tall, and holler “Oh-hell-yeehaw!”


This is the band that happens when metal meets Southern rock.

Black Eyed Vermillion – 6:50 p.m. Music Joint Stage

black eyed vermillion artBlack Eyed Vermillion sound like a big, bad, rasping wolf belching out carnie blood and Darby Crash’s bones. Lead singer Gary Lindsey had a familiar voice…and then I was like HOLY S, that’s the dude that used to kick ass in Hank III’s band. The last time I saw Lindsey, his face was drenched in blood and he dedicated the song “Punch, Fight, Fuck” to his ma, who sat in the wings.

She was in the wings again at Moonrunners. Lindsey dedicated the set to her and spoke about the long road it took to get healthy. It was hellbilly PMA all over the place. Fucking loved it. I’d never seen Black Eyed Vermillion. I started the set sitting at a table. I ended it in the pit.

J.B. Beverley and the Wayward Drifters – 7:20 p.m. Rock Club Stage

I only caught a bit of J.B. Beverley and the Wayward Drifters. He plays pared-down country that put me in the mind of bonfire-sittin’ on warm summer nights.

Rachel Kate – 7:55 p.m. Music Joint Stage

musician Rachel Kate

Seriously? Really stomach? You choose NOW to be pissed at me about the nachos? Yes, I put grease in you, but seriously, at the start of Rachel Kate? Thanks, asshole body.

My stomach was a tumble, but fuck it. Me and ShawnaBanana swayed front and center for Rachel Kate accompanied by Hanna Rae Mathey on fiddle.

Have you heard of Rachel Kate? You should know Rachel Kate. She is an outstanding songwriter with a voice that stretches easily from folk to blues queen. Inevitably, at least once in her set, I’m wiping a tear away – because goddamn, that woman has rivers of wonder and pain in her voice. Her album, With Love and Hate, was chosen by Moonrunners as their top album of 2013 and you should buy it. GO HERE. BUY IT! Want more of a reason? Watch this.

Fifth on the Floor – 8:25 p.m. Rock Club Stage

Because I am stingy with my Rachel Kate time and because my stomach was turning into a goddamn hell pit, I didn’t see much of Fifth on the Floor. But they are badass. They were my favorite find of last year’s Moonrunners. They have a southern rock, country sound that is perfect for all those potlucks yer about to have. Pick up their album Ashes and Angels and crack open whatever cools you.

Joseph Huber – 9 p.m. Music Joint Stage

Ok. Let’s be honest here. Joseph Fucking Huber is a goddamn genius lyricist. Almost everyone I know is intimidated to talk to him. Not because he isn’t nice, but because he is so talented that it takes your breath away even when he’s standing there holding a beer. It is not uncommon to see people slackjawed around him. I’m not saying the dude shits gold, but I am saying he is the standout songwriter in roots music today.

ShawnaBanana and I have matching Joseph Huber-inspired tattoos. Fairly large ones. Why? Because he is that good. His music has been there in some goddamn hard times and the good ones, too.

And holy shit, HE HAS A NEW ALBUM! And it is as gorgeous as his first two.

Joseph Huber musicLOVE



Joseph Huber.

Which makes me pissed that I could only last a third of his set dancing in the crowd with Banana before my stomach was like I HATE YOU and I had to go off to the side. Which, ultimately, was A-OK because I had a fine, bearded professor and Lou Shields to keep me company.

You want joy? Second chances? Wrongs that might not be able to be made right? Dodging daggers and lovin’ deep?

::stares at the ornamental brick wall out the window::

::turns up The Hanging Road louder::

I just. I don’t know. The man’s music makes me pause. Makes me dance. Makes me want to write. To try harder. At what? I don’t know. Life. Love. All of it. Lester Bangs said,

“We’re all stuck on this often miserable earth where life is essentially tragic, but there are glints of beauty and bedrock joy that come shining through from time to precious time to remind anybody who cares to see that there is something higher and larger than ourselves. And I am not talking about your putrefying gods, I am talking about a sense of wonder about life itself and the feeling that there is some redemptive factor you must at least search for until you drop dead of natural causes.”

When I listen to Joseph Huber I feel…satisfied. I feel possibilities.

And geezus h, someday, SOMEDAY, I will be able to afford his furniture. Yes. He makes furniture. GORGEOUS GORGEOUS furniture.


Ok…you probably guessed it. I ditched out of Moonrunners after Joseph Huber. I felt seven kinds of awful. I missed Roger Alan Wade and Scott H. Biram.

0 _____ o


That doesn’t mean you should miss out on them or any of the other bands at Moonrunners I didn’t catch. Here’s a lineup of the rest of the folks that played the fest on Saturday:

Jeff Shepherd and the Jailhouse Poets
Note from seeing them before Moonrunners: If you like Hellbound Glory, yer gonna like Jeff Shepherd and the Jailhouse Poets. They play stripped down Americana. Barroom, alt-country rock at its best.

The Imperial Rooster

Matt Woods
cigar box guitar festival 2014

The Ghost Bandits

Tony French
Note from seeing him before Moonrunners: Earlier, I credited Jody Robbins and Jahshie P. as the main folks promoting the shit out of roots music in Chicago. Well, I missed Tony French. Dude is AWESOME. Each autumn, he organizes the Chicago Cigar Box Guitar Festival and he’s started putting on (usually free) Roots Riot shows at Save More Lounge, featuring bands like White Trash Blues Revival and Mikey Classic and his Lonesome Spur. Aside from all that, Tony French makes his own good-time, cigar box (and sometimes full-size) guitar tunes perfect for laidback afternoons.

Rickett Pass
Note from seeing them before Moonrunners: Pure Michigan punk bluegrass. What the hell is with Michigan? It keeps spitting out good roots bands.

Carmen Lee and the Tomorrow River Two

Roger Alan Wade

Scott H. Biram
Note from seeing him before Moonrunners: Dude, you need to see Scott H. Biram live. Love. Him.


moonrunners show haulAnd that was Moonrunners 2014.

I hope to see you there next year.


P.S. – Look at this HAUL. Hell yeah.