Photos: Americana West Festival at the Hotel Café, Day 1

Tawny Ellis at the Americana West Festival at the Hotel Café on Friday (Photo by Notes From Vivace)

On Friday, the Americana West Music Festival took over the Hotel Café’s two stages. The venue was filled with cowboy hats, songs and conversations around the topic of whiskey and heavy use of steel and slide guitars. A total of 16 artists graced the stages, while, if the taste buds so desired, River Street BBQ was there to meet those needs out on the patio.

Opening the festivities was Molly Hanmer on the Main Stage who surveyed the area and said, “What a wonderful intimate room. It’s like we’re sitting in our living room.” Over on the Second Stage, the Doohickeys’ Haley Spence Brown sang about her hometown of Liberty, Mo. (pop. 30,000): “We got more cows than people here / On Sundays they don’t sell liquor / This town sucks / This whole place blows.” There’s no doubt about her feelings towards her hometown in “This Town Sucks,” which earned them an Outstanding Achievement in Songwriting Award from The Great American Song Contest.

Nathan Jacques’ backing band was so large that the keyboardist was offstage. Lauren Napier self-described her music as melancholy desert songs. Lyrics to her music were written in a couple notebooks, which she carefully flipped through during the set. “I still use a typewriter to write letters,” she let the audience know when there were technical difficulties.

Tawny Ellis was met with cheers as soon as the first notes were played. “I’m telling stories,” she let the audience know. Her hands would float for just a moment above her steel guitar after each striking note and at one moment she choked up as she talked about a friend who had recently died.

Honey County played with enthusiasm. Their song “Got It From My Mama” hit No. 2 on the US TikTok charts. Midway Wednesday artist Kapali Long made sure to mention that he was from Honolulu, Hawaii. He also called out the many friends and family who were out in the audience to show their support. Since he didn’t mention it, a friend yelled out to the audience that he had gotten to play Stagecoach that past Sunday.

Grand Canyon takes the award for most memorable performance as lead singer Casey Shea gave intimate one-on-one singing performances to various members of the audience and then crawled his way from the stage to the bar. Leslie Stevens said her song “Blue Roses” was about “when you’re not getting what you need from a relationship, but you’ll take it.” She took a moment to talk about Hotel Café and what it meant to her and how it got her connected with the Milk Carton Kids. To symbolize her feelings about the venue, she mentioned that she was wearing the same skirt she wore the last time she played the venue.

Dead Rock West sang the blues with “Tell the Angels.” “Tell the angels, I’m on my way / Tell the angels, I’ll be home one day / Tell the angels, I’m on my way / to glory up there.” Rose’s Pawn Shop closed out the night with harmonies straight from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Their bassist was home sick in Reno and they made sure good vibes were being sent out. They sang “The Lonely One” for everyone who follows their passions. “You want me to settle down / Maybe I ain’t built that way / I was born to be the lonely one / When they started having babies / I started on an eight-week tour.”

Photos and recap by Notes From Vivace

||| Previously: Americana West Festival 2023 set times