RECAP: Winter Hoot 2020
(Photos: Doug Quimby)
The Hoot is a bi-annual event held at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, NY featuring Americana and folk performances. This unique experience was founded in 2013 by Ruth Ungar and Mike Merenda, an Americana duo from the Hudson Valley area. Lodging is available on-site for the duration of the festival, as well as plentiful parking. The idyllic setting in the Catskill foothills makes The Hoot feel worlds away from reality. This past weekend families, friends, and fans gathered for The Winter Hoot and were met with incredibly talented performers, kind and welcoming hosts, and immense amounts of love and light. The amount of care put into the planning of the festival is clear, The Hoot simply does not disappoint.
The event began Friday evening and the festivities were non-stop until noon Sunday. Friday night, attendees gathered in the main hall for a screening of Fantastic Fungi, a documentary diving into the world of mushrooms, followed by a Q&A with a mycology expert. Upstairs in the Kid’s Room, short films about reducing carbon footprints were shown. The night ended with a jam session in the dining hall. Saturday and Sunday offered various things to do throughout the Ashokan Center. With activities in the blacksmith shop, two guided hikes to the gorge, a clothing swap, a kid’s room with activities all weekend, the dining hall serving food that was friendly to all dietary restrictions, a live ice sculptor, square dancing, and more, all on the beautiful grounds of the Ashokan Center.
Winter Hoot was truly an inclusive and welcoming environment with something for everybody.
Musicians performed all afternoon Saturday in the main building. Kicking things off were Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, a renowned folk duo most known for their score to PBS’s Civil War, Mike Merenda joined them onstage for a few songs. They were then followed by Mikhail Horowitz and Gilles Malkine. This crowd-pleasing set featured a parody of The Beatles’ hit, When I’m 64, as well as other satirical songs. David Amram included Native American inspired tunes and entertained with top notch storytelling in his set, which received a standing ovation from the crowd. JK LOL took the stage next wowing the crowd with their harmonies and exciting energy.
(Photo: Doug Quimby)
Up next was Jeffrey Lewis, “lyrical genius” from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. His clever songwriting, intriguing illustrated short stories, and unique approach to performing had audience members of all ages in awe. He played songs from his newest album as well as some unreleased music he decided to give a chance. His simplistic style and undeniable charm was a highlight of the festival. Finally, after much anticipation, Mike, Ruthy, and the rest of The Mammals took the stage. Their set included their hit Sunshiner from their latest album of the same name. A reminder that the buildings hosting The Hoot were powered completely by solar and are extremely energy efficient. They were joined onstage by members of JK LOL to perform a new song from their upcoming album. Every act blew the crowd away and was an excellent example of what The Hoot is all about.
Meanwhile, in the Pewter Shop, various artists played mini sets consisting of about three songs each. The room featured a wood stove and intimate seating. First up was Mikhail and Gilles, followed by Jeffrey Lewis. Jeffrey played his three songs, taking time to showcase his art via “low-budget Nirvana music videos” he illustrated to accompany Kurt Cobain’s lyrics. JK LOL had come to watch Jeffrey Lewis perform, and he reciprocated. JK LOL’s vocal harmonies filled the Pewter Shop as they previewed three of the songs they would play on the main stage later on. Brooklyn-based Ginny’s Kitchen closed out the shop with four songs played on their string instruments. The cozy setting allowed for a relaxed vibe and the sets were timed perfectly to coincide with the main stage performances, creating a constant flow of quality music all day long.
The Hoot is a donation-run festival, tickets for Summer Hoot will be available online and sold at the door. Those who run the festival are incredible souls who have made a habit of bringing people together with love, light, and music.
Make sure to head to the Ashokan Center this summer and experience the next Hoot!