Crazy train: Railroad Earth’s 4-day Ball under way

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Tim Carbone and Railroad Earth host the Oct. 22-25 Hangtown Halloween Ball.
Tim Parsons/Tahoe Onstage

It is harvest season again and it’s time for Railroad Earth and its fans to have themselves another ball in Hangtown.

The band kicks off the its fifth-annual Hangtown Halloween Ball tonight, Oct. 22, on the main stage in Placerville and surely will be happy to be joined by such a familiar crowd.

The band has acted as the official host of the Halloween-themed throwdown ever since it decided to make Hangtown a yearly destination after having so much fun at the inaugural festival. Railroad Earth’s violinist Tim Carbone said he sees the gate as “a demarcation point from the current world to the nether world.”

The El Dorado County Fairgrounds certainly does become its own crazy world for four days, with Friday, Saturday and Sunday each having its own theme. This year’s themes include Voodoo Masquerade, Monster Mash and Funky Forest Fantasy, which will hopefully breed hordes of fans dressed as zombie bands or voodoo dolls, which Carbone thinks is what the weekend is all about.

“I like to think that that whole thing is about the crowd participating rather than standing around watching whatever the band is going to do. No, we’re all going to do something together, so let’s have a ball,” Carbone said.

Having a festival as interactive and spirited as Hangtown is something the band has been proud of and it has been happy to help curate that vibe. The immersive experience is something Carbone treasures as not only a musician, but as a fan as well.

He explained, because of his recognizable curly mane, it is not always easy to remain completely anonymous at festivals in the United States. So for the past three years he and his wife have found a respite in England and have enjoyed festivals such as the End of the Road and Green Man Festival. The experience created by those gatherings is something Carbone has come to truly appreciate and hearing him describe it is easy to see why.

“They do it really great,” he said. “The music is a little bit more eclectic, it’s not so much funk and jam. There is not a jam band in sight. It’s more alternative rock, alternative folk. They also have writers and comedians they involve. Also, they curate the food. Anything you get food wise is astounding!

“Green Man is in Wales and the whole courtyard is filled with Welsh ales and ciders, and the ciders are a revelation. This year, they had 75 ciders from all over the country and they were all delicious, super dry, and very strong and just great stuff.”

Dozens of varieties of beer, scores of good music, beautiful settings; all of these things are great reasons to attend a party like Hangtown. But the people bumping hips next to you at the Railroad Earth show and the helpful tent neighbor who throws you a beer are the real heart of the festival. They have rallied around the Railroad Earth flag and have declared Hangtown a sanctuary of good music and a welcoming atmosphere. In its honor, the band has even written a song called “Hangtown Ball.”.

“Our following is a big part of our whole thing, they call themselves The Hobos. It’s a vibe, it’s not just come to a show, it’s come have the immersive experience of listening to a Railroad Earth show with friends you’ve made over the years,” Carbone said.

Railroad Earth has carved itself a nice little home in the Placerville hills with Hangtown Halloween Ball, one that Carbone knows is warmed by the many faithful who have made the festival into something special over the past half-decade. Here’s to each year being a little warmer.

Hangtown Halloween schedule: LINK


About Garrett Bethmann

Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. He moved to Lake Tahoe in summer 2012.

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