A band of hermits is an oxymoron, kind of like "jumbo shrimp" or "reality television." And yet Hermit Music Festival is Boise is a yearly excuse for musical and artistic "hermits" to come out and mix with their own kind over a weekend of music, art, dance, camping, vendors and workshops at Indian Creek Winery over Labor Day weekend, Thursday, Aug. 29, to Sunday, Sept. 1.
The festival was started by Ava Honey and Travis Ward in 2013 as a way to bring an acoustic music fest to the Treasure Valley. With 29 bands, kids activities and plenty of beer and wine, it has grown considerably in its seven years without losing its distinctive character.
Ward and Honey had never put on a music festival prior to first Hermit Fest in 2013, but both had a similar vision: To bring their acoustic musician acquaintances to the area for a weekend-long music festival of blues, country, bluegrass, old-time and singer-songwriter tunes. A member of Boise band Hillfolk Noir, Ward had come across enough bands and musicians to fill a festival. He met Honey at a local show where Honey was a square dance caller.
"I have a lot of musical friends across the Pacific Northwest and I've been a square dance caller for almost a decade," Honey said. "I've met a lot of really wonderful people and I wanted to bring them to Idaho and Boise to show them off."
A full-time hairdresser when not organizing the festival, Honey got started calling dances after attending a concert where the caller asked if anyone was interested in learning the trade. According to Honey, she thought it sounded like fun and the hobby snowballed from there. After learning they had a shared interest in establishing a music festival, the two started pooling resources.
Ward had a connection with Indian Creek Winery from playing shows there. Its open layout and atmosphere made it ideal for live music. The owners, whose taste in music aligned with Honey and Ward, were enthusiastic about the partnership.
This year's Hermit Music Fest kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 29, with 300-500 people rolling in to hear music, learn at workshops and dance their pants off. Bands from the Boise area like Hillfolk Noir, Sawtooth Serenaders and The Pearl Tones will join bands hailing from Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; New Orleans; New York and everywhere in between. Six workshops will take place on Saturday and six more on Sunday on topics like family-style songwriting, guitar maintenance, a children's writing session, beginning fiddle techniques and Austrlian folklore. Often members of bands playing the festival will take up teaching the workshops. In addition to children's writing sessions and the overall family friendly nature of the event, the Boise Rock School will be there to conduct a kid's camp. Ward's son Reuban is an artist and will have an art booth set up for kid projects.
With Honey and Ward splitting booking bands, the final lineup has sometimes surprised them. Though they've been caught off guard by their own choices, they—and fans—have always liked the outcome.
"I always look forward to the bands Travis is bringing," Honey said. "Ninety percent of the time I've never heard their music before. That's one of my favorite parts of the festival. It's become such a community event and people look forward to it. It feels like we're creating this community service for people in multiple generations to just come and have this peaceful environment and be entertained. It's pretty sweet."
Several artist vendors will have booths including Sacred Wheel Pottery, The Garden City Projects, Wild in Love Photo and Fluff Hardware. Those looking for food and drink can enjoy Sweet N' Savory, Hammer and Kettle, ERTH Beverage Company, Crisp Eats, Kanack Attack and the Fly Food truck (Sunday only). Indian Creek Winery will also have wine for sale.
For fans, the festival has become a tradition, complete with people taking the music off the stages and into the parking lots and campgrounds.
"People camp and there are groups of people playing music all night and all morning," Ward said. Honey added that they felt last year's festival was the right size for optimal enjoyment, and hope it has a similar feel in 2019.
"We've got great bands, workshops in the morning and music after the workshops," Honey said. "For some people, it's a full weekend event and people camp out and play music the whole time. Other people spend an afternoon hearing music they've never heard before."