Smile Politely

A preview of Hogchute Opry 2018

Each time Hogchute Opry (or Harvest) comes around, I find myself wanting to tackle this as a piece for the magazine, though I don’t need to rehash my feelings about this event. I kind of did that last year prior to their fall installment, so you can read that if you’re interested in hearing those thoughts.

This Saturday, Hogchute Opry takes place at the Kalyx Center in Monticello, where a dozen acts or so will play music. While there’s nothing mindblowing about that on its face, Hogchute’s slow burn in developing their event has taken a bit of a turn in 2018.

This year, they have a handful of acts that aren’t from Champaign-Urbana. Here’s the lineup:

Ryley Walker hails from Chicago, and Jack Grelle, The Cara Louise Band, and Les Gruff & the Billy Goat are all from St. Louis. There’s a nice pipeline between Chicago and St. Louis here in Central Illinois, so there’s no surprise that those acts are making a small trek to Monticello for this.

Chicago’s Ryley Walker has been through Champaign-Urbana a few times — once at PYGMALION in 2015, and another time last year supporting Andrew Bird at the Canopy Club. Walker just released his new record, Deafman Glance, which you can stream below. With a mixture of folk with jazz elements, Walker is well worth the trek to Hogchute alone. Plus, there might not be anyone better on Twitter than him.

Photo by Evan Jenkins

Grelle came through C-U last fall as a part of Hogchute’s Off-chute series back in 2016, performing with the Fights at the Iron Post. Grelle just did a support run with Pokey LaFarge, who is returning to C-U on October 5th at the IMC. He’s one of three outfits from St. Louis on the bill, which isn’t unfamiliar to Hogchute entirely — the Maness Brothers are from that area as well, and have performed in the past. Both Grelle and Walker are kinda perfect for Hogchute.

I spoke with Brad Olson, the organizer and creator of Hogchute, and some of the connections to the artists come through the local acts themselves. “The two big acts ccame about because of the connections we have. Ryley goes way back with Matt Wenzel in Falbonauts, so Matt pitched it on him and he was into it” Olson mentioned in our phone conversation earlier this week. 

“Moving forward, we want to keep booking acts of that caliber, but we’re just trying to grow a little bit. I think word of mouth certainly helps to bring more people into the fold one by one. It has been organic, and really kind of taken on a life of its own,” Olson mentioned. “There are so many local acts, it gets harder to pick and choose each time. Saying ‘no’ is tough.”

While the goal is always to grow and make the event better, maintaining the intimacy of Hogchute is of the utmost importance to Olson and the crew that helps make Hogchute happen each time around. The goal is to create a situation where there are a few touring acts that make sense for the June installment, and for Hogchute Harvest, scale it down a bit and separate it a bit — making it more of a local artist affair.

Here’s what the schedule looks like for Saturday, so make sure to save it because there isn’t cell phone reception out at the Kalyx Center — it is pretty remote. If you want to camp, you totally can. If you don’t, just be sure to have a safe ride home.

The lineup features a variety of locals: A new-ish project Primitive Lights, Revelator (which features Kenna Mae), the always entertaining punk outfit The Dry Look, and a bunch of others worthy of your attention. Check them out, and see you at Kalyx.

Hogchute Opry takes place on Saturday, June 2nd at the Kalyx Center for Sustainability (436 E 1300 North Rd, Monticello, IL 61856). Admission is $15.

Top photo by Sam Logan.

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