Now celebrating its fifth birthday, Hinterland has grown into one of the largest music festivals in Iowa. The lineup this year was packed with Grammy winners and Grammy nominated artists who did not disappoint on stage. Like many other festival goers, we left feeling inspired to go home and shower off layers of sunscreen and bug spray. We also left with the desire to google the tour schedules of the acts we loved, so that we can see them again soon.
Here is our list of favorite sets from the fest.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit have been playing together for years now. Isbell showcased his band to powerful effect, headlining the second night of Hinterland. While he included many of his ballads, Isbell expertly kept the rock and roll energy going throughout the set, with “Anxiety” kicking off the night in style. To the delight of fans, he reached back to his Drive-By Truckers days for two of his best songs with that group - “Outfit” and “Never Gonna Change.” The latter included an electric guitar call and response between Isbell and Sadler Vaden that was absolutely thrilling. As a songwriter, the man has a great catalogue of songs to choose from. For the encore, Isbell rocked out one more time with his only cover song of the evening, the Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac song “Oh Well.” Then the bittersweet “If We Were Vampires” to send us on our way.
The Wood Brothers
As The Wood Brothers took the stage on a beautiful Saturday evening, we knew we were going to hear a set of the trio’s original songs, drawn from their seven studio albums. We knew that guitarist Oliver Wood, bassist Chris Wood, and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix are seasoned musicians who know their way around a tune. The pleasant surprise for many was the high energy exuberance and sheer fun of their hour-long set. For example, Jano Rix played drums and a keyboard at the same time. Virtuoso bassist Chris Wood danced around his upright bass and laid down a most compelling rhythm throughout the set. Like many of the bands at this year’s Hinterland, The Wood Brothers drew upon the rich heritage of American music in all its different forms, and they created something beautiful of their own.
Irish singer Hozier closed out the first night of Hinterland this year, and it was something special. A huge crowd, stretching all the way back to the edge of the field, experienced a 90-minute set covering Hozier's entire catalog, including "Nina Cried Power," "Movement," and the set closer, "Take Me To Church." Hozier is rightfully well-known for his beautiful and powerful voice, which was on full display. He's a skilled guitar player as well. This was Hozier's first time in Iowa, and he said the woods reminded him of home. He definitely sounded at home!
The War And Treaty
The husband and wife duo The War And Treaty performed Sunday afternoon, when the heat was at its worst. Still, the humidity in the air couldn't stop the crowd who gathered down by the stage for this incredible performance. The band's raw, rock and soul sound had the crowd moving and singing along. Their message of love, togetherness and caring for each other was well-received and much needed. Michael and Tanya Trotter’s love for each other was also obvious during their set, which was moving and inspiring. The War And Treaty are definitely a one of a kind live music experience.
My two favorite artists from the weekend were Kacey Musgraves and Sunday headliner Brandi Carlile. I loved many of the other artists I saw at the festival, but these two blew me away.
Carlile won me over with her powerful stage presence, gorgeous voice and our mutual love for Joni Mitchell. Her cover of Mitchell’s “A Case of You” was stunning. She and her bandmates’ chemistry was obvious in the way they functioned on stage, and it made for an even more enjoyable performance. By the end of her set, I was Googling tour dates to see if I could see her again in the near future. If you have the chance to see her any time soon - do not pass it up.
Many Hinterland-goers came to the festival specifically to see Kacey Musgraves. Her voice is so pure, and the scope of her talent really came through during her performance. Considering her recent success, critical acclaim and Grammy Award for Album of the Year for her 2018 record “Golden Hour,” she was one of the best artists the festival could have booked. Her set list was well-paced and was primarily sourced from her most recent record.