A Venice Beach Band Heads North to Play "Hempapalooza"

Christopher HawleyEXPAND
Christopher Hawley
Photo by Chelsea Mehalek

Christopher Hawley, longtime Venice resident and frontman to the Christopher Hawley Rollers is reminiscing over the band's past and looking to a future that includes the legalization of hemp for conservation and sustainability.

The band is playing at Washington state’s Hempapalooza this weekend to support the cause, and Hawley, who often plays to his favorite town, shared his Venice memories from back in the day.

“I don't remember too many acoustic venues besides Abbot's Habit when I first moved here around the turn of the century,” he says with fondness. “One time my old girlfriend and I did a set at a Midsummer Naked Open Mic that was held there. They put up newspaper to cover all of the windows, and they had a booth set up where the performers could undress before taking the stage.”

Hawley and his band will venture from the Westside to the Olympic National Forest for the second annual Hempapalooza Music and Film Festival, June 19 to 22. They also have a lot of shows coming up within easier driving distance of L.A.

“We are excited to support the Hempapalooza Festival because we are really pro hemp,” Hawley explains. “We all could really improve a lot of situations environmentally and politically if we legalized hemp. Plus, it’s a totally sustainable product. It’s a no-brainer of a great resource. I don’t’ know why we need to think about it.”

Also appearing at the festival will be Julius Melendez and the Randy Hansen band. The festival will feature Cannabis in Olympics hosted by Matt Shotwell of the Discovery channel's Weed Country. Attendees can camp or park an RV in the nearby town of Brinnon.

The festival will also focus on gathering signatures for Washington state ballot initiative I-1372, which was designed to strengthen the state's medical weed law by establishing a state board for medical cannabis laws; and state Referendum 76, which would repeal another state law, SB 5052.

The Rollers are looking forward to getting down with a Pacific Northwest fan base. They play weekly or monthly in Venice and in resort towns including Aspen, and they're regulars at the Sundance Film Festival. Despite that glitz, Hawley named laid-back Topanga Days as the band’s favorite festival. “Outdoors at Topanga, you can’t beat it."

If anyone can give the lowdown on Venice’s scene, it’s Hawley, who says, “There are a lot more venues for singer-songwriters around here now. I think that trend began about six or seven years ago when the Stronghold was in full swing on Abbot Kinney Boulevard every night. It gave a bunch of locals the opportunity to play a lot and work on new material. Those nights really got people's attention, and they kept coming back and bringing their friends no matter who was playing. The audience and performers were interchangeable, and everyone was super stoked to hear original songs.

“Needless to say, it was a lot of fun. Now there are a few weekly open mics and other more acoustic venues on the Westside. Perhaps the acoustic venues are conducive to folks getting to know each other.”

Though Hawley plays worldwide, his heart remains in Venice.

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“I love that I can ride my bicycle to perform,” Hawley says. “We play a set of originals and covers from classical to reggae to funk to folk for a super-fun, all ages audience. We play outdoors all year long, on a weekly basis on the patio of the Basement Tavern. You can travel just about anywhere in the world in a week, and I've toured as far as Brazil and landed in time to be back for the Tuesday Victorian show.”

Asked how many members play in the Rollers, Hawley answered, “around the world there are about 30 members. At Hempapalooza we are going to be a three-piece.”

On June 26 and 27, they play at the Mt. Baldy Moonlight Hike and BBQ. In July, Hawley hopes to be playing at Utah’s Mystic Hot Springs Music Festival.

Meanwhile, Hawley exclaims, “Save water, grow hemp!”


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