Orange County’s thriving and distinctive rockabilly scene is a collision of classic car-club and pin-up subcultures, tattooed greaser aesthetics and adrenalized Americana and roots-related sounds. For years this was both evidenced and partially fueled by two major annual festivals: the Hootenanny, held at Oak Canyon Ranch in Silverado from 1995 to 2013; and Ink-N-Iron, which took place at the Queen Mary in Long Beach from 2003 until last year.
With both these gatherings of the slicked-back, victory-rolled and sleeved-up in limbo, a new OC fest appears to have stepped into the breach. The inaugural So-Cal Hoedown will invade the four blocks of downtown Santa Ana’s East End on Aug. 13, with multiple stages of national and local rockabilly, psychobilly, outlaw country and punk acts; car, art and burlesque shows; and a pin-up pageant.
The man behind the So-Cal Hoedown, Scott Tucker, owner of Huntington Beach–based Sellout Productions, insists that the timing is purely coincidental.
“We have been doing concerts like this for years," says Tucker, who was previously involved with San Pedro’s rockabilly-themed Horton’s Hayride festival. "We built a new format — not trying to replicate any other concerts, just putting great talent together — and we ended up with the Hoedown.
“We had planned on doing the third annual Horton’s Hayride. When that didn’t happen, we created a completely different and diverse festival. … At no point did we look at the Hootenanny to see what we could do, but obviously there’s going to be comparisons and similarities.”
The inaugural So-Cal Hoedown boasts such national headliners as Wanda Jackson, Shooter Jennings, Nekromantix and Supersuckers; local luminaries including Cadillac Tramps, Throw Rag and The Slim Jim Phantom Trio; and an array of area up-and-comers such as Lonely Stars, Thirsty Crows and Galactic Polecats.
The event also encompasses a lowbrow art exhibit curated by photographer Justice Howard; “tons” of pre-1970 classic cars; a pin-up contest hosted by model Kandy K; twin burlesque shows featuring live performances by the likes of Iza La Vamp, Leggy Lass Greenleaf and Nikita Bitch Project; plus dozens of food trucks and vendors. General admission will be just $25.
“We built what we felt were aspects of the culture,” Tucker says. “Cars are part of the culture — car clubs are the fans. Burlesque and pin-ups are obviously a great, huge part of the scene. These are not things that we created, it’s not things the Hootenanny created, and we are just trying to bring these aspects into our show.”
The Hootenanny somewhat mysteriously disappeared after its 2013 edition. “It’s been 20 years … we need a nap,” announced a 2014 Facebook post, but the accompanying “See you in 2015!” prediction proved optimistic. Meanwhile, Ink-N-Iron moved to Nashville (where by most accounts it flopped) in 2015.
“I think they just ran their course. They both had ... years of insane shows, and at what point are you able to keep growing or do you get to a point where it’s just too much?” Tucker says. “They obviously were iconic institutions … if I could be a third of what the Hootenanny became, I would be a happy man.”
Tucker also handles in-house marketing and booking for Santa Ana’s Yost Theater, Underground DTSA and Diego’s Rock-N-Roll Bar & Eats, all of which will host Hoedown performances.
“Why Santa Ana? It’s to bring those venues into the picture and to really showcase the venues and the area,” he says.
Further indoor attractions will be at the Auditorium and Festival Hall, while the event’s mainstage will be the same outdoor set-up used for the Like Totally 80s Festival (another Sellout production) in May.
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“Orange County is a hotbed of all the great scenes," Tucker says. "The car clubs were formed in the ’50s and ’40s through the pachucos and the zoot suit scene. The Hells Angels were formed [in Southern California]. Orange County and Los Angeles are scene-starters!”
Far from just dipping a toe in the OC’s rockabilly water with the So-Cal Hoedown, Tucker foresees the fest as an ongoing annual fixture.
“We have been talking with years two and three headliners,” he says of Hoedown’s future. “I’m already considering year five.”
The So-Cal Hoedown happens Saturday, Aug. 13, in downtown Santa Ana. Tickets and more info at www.socalhoedown.com.