Gary Clark Jr. discusses the different genres that inspired his new album and how he almost gave up on music but then ended up working with Alicia Keys. (Oct. 25) AP
ST. CHARLES, Ia. — Festival-goers briefly traded sunscreen bottles for plastic ponchos Saturday afternoon and rain briefly poured down on the Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater, host of the third annual Hinterland Music Festival.
Shakey Graves, a boisterous, booming American artist from Austin, Texas, commanded the crowd through an impromptu version of “Rain, rain … go away” during the bridge of his second song. He tried, but despite the in-song pleads, the rain continued through his 45-minute set.
Luckily, however, for the rest of Saturday’s artists and fans, Graves was the only performer who spent an entire set singing through the rain Saturday, the second of two days for Hinterland’s third year in Madison County. An estimated 9,500 festival-goers — from 33 states and four countries, per Hinterland — flocked to rural Madison County for what would turn into a partly cloudy evening of music, featuring performances from acts the likes of Ryan Adams, Gary Clark Jr., Dwight Yoakam and more.
Exposed to more than 10 hours of tunes, here’s a look at what music fans saw (and heard) during the jam-packed second day of Hinterland.
Honky Tonk in charge
Country-western, Americana and roots music dominated the Saturday bill, with performances from Minneapolis’ The Cactus Blossoms, Nashville outlaw Nikki Lane, traditional rock ‘n’ roll act JD McPherson, Des Moines’ own Max Jury and cross-generational staple Dwight Yoakam.
A tested and timeless performer, Yoakam packed 16 songs into his hour-long set, including “Honky Tonk Man,” “Guitars, Cadillac” and set closer “Fast As You.” Yoakam slipped a few Merle Haggard numbers — “Swinging Doors,” “Mama Tried” and, of course, “Okie From Muskogee” — in the middle of the set, honoring the late icon.
“It looks like y’all know some Merle,” Yoakam said. “Can never play enough Merle. … My generation and every ensuing generation owes him a debt of gratitude for the path he forged ahead.”
Equally mesmerizing was the prowess of Nashville songstress Nikki Lane, who glided the audience through her set of down-to-earth, country charm. The mid-afternoon, 45-minute set from Lane brought with it original numbers, like the too-real “700,000 Rednecks,” and a pleasing Bob Dylan cover, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
As most before her, Lane spent a few moments of her time on stage to celebrate the day’s lineup.
“This is amazing,” she said. “We feel spoiled. We’re gonna be at every show of the whole damn day.”
You’ll know his name …
Ryan Adams headlined Saturday night’s show with a commendable two-hour set, but it was blues songwriter Gary Clark Jr. who stole this year's show. Commanding the audience with his seamless guitar playing and visceral blues lyricism, Clark Jr. graced rural Iowa with a 10-song, hour-long penultimate performance.
Staying mostly silent between songs, Clark Jr. let his lyrics, such as “you gonna know my name by the end of the night,” speak for him. Tracks Clark Jr. brought to Hinterland include a 10-minute jam of “Bright Lights,” the elegant “Our Love,” pleasing "Next Door Neighbor Blues" and punchy “Shake.”
Balancing the deep, head-nodding groove of Black Sabbath and the invincible smoothness of B.B. King, the set came to a climax during its ninth number, “Numb,” in which Clark Jr. solidified his stature as the festival’s act to beat. The Chuck Berry and Foo Fighters collaborator left the stage shortly after to swelling applause, as though the audience could do for another hour from the Texas native.
“Thank you,” Clark Jr. exclaimed after the set’s second song. “I like this. Thanks for havin’ me.”
A full moon with Ryan
The eighth and final act to perform on the day, Ryan Adams dug deep into his multi-decade catalog to give fans a two-hour, 20-plus song set to close the festival.
Performing in central Iowa for the first time since 2014 and in support of his latest studio album, “Prisoner,” the acclaimed American songwriter and his four-piece backing band led the crowd through a handful of new numbers — “Doomsday,” “Prisoner,” “To Be Without You” and “Do You Still Love Me" — as well as tracks deeper in the discography, such as “Fix It,” “Cold Roses,” “Stay With Me” and “Dirty Rain.”
The 42-year-old spent time between songs sharing with the crowd his fascination with the Saturday night’s moon (a topic he later discussed on Instagram, as well).
“All right, you guys,” Adams, after performing “Let It Ride,” said to the audience. “This moon situation is such a heavy metal album cover right now. It’s awesome.”
Moon glowing full, Adams closed the set with a “thank you” to the onlookers before performing 2007 number “Halloweenhead” and “Heartbreaker” track “Shakedown on 9th Street.”
Wrapping 2017 with an estimated 18,500 attendees between two days, festival owner and manager Sam Summers confirmed Hinterland plans to return next summer for a fourth year of camping and music.