The Holy Hootenanners were back at it again in 2015! This time, we were armed with a smooth new dobro, a slew of original music, and a classy Hoots’ Bus to get us to our gigs in style! The bus has been a game changer for our little Hoots family, allowing us valuable practice time traveling to and from shows, as well as a respite from driving long distances, all separately, in our personal vehicles. The bus was made affordable by a large donation, and we feel incredibly blessed to have this little beauty to get us around. A Hoots’ tour to Nashville in this bus is on the horizon (it would have been this summer if the Anderson’s weren’t always having babies…)
2015 began with countless hours of preparation for another CD recorded once again at Sparta Sound in April, while continuing the tradition of playing Salem church services every 2nd, 3rd and 5th Sunday with a few local churches thrown in the mix as well. It was an intense time for us, practicing a few times a week for a few months to develop our new original tunes and perfect the old favorites in an effort to tighten our sound for the upcoming album. The album showcased our personal growth and our growth as a band, with heartfelt original songs, tight harmonies, and some new instruments thrown in the mix. The final product is something we are incredibly proud of, and have enjoyed sharing with our friends, families, and new friends we have met along the way.
In lieu of our latest album’s release, we ramped up our performance schedule and ventured out into numerous churches and venues in both Duluth and the Twin Cities in the spring and summer. It was an exciting time for us, and opened up many doors for spreading our message and gaining support for Salem’s Mahtowa Hall. The Hoots were again chosen to play at Duluth’s Homegrown Music Festival, playing to a packed house at The Underground. We were also pumped to hear our little band from Mahtowa discussed and played on “The Local” show – a weekly broadcast on a big-time radio station The Current, based out of Minneapolis/St. Paul. We literally all stood around the big table at Salem listening to the broadcast on someone’s smart phone, grinning from ear to ear and jumping up and down like kids at Christmas. Then, in June, we kicked off our CD release whirlwind weekend with a little radio air-play on both KUWS and KUMD, and then released our CDs at Mahtowa’s Elmwood Inn and Duluth’s Teatro Zuccone. The CD received a glowing review from Duluth News Tribune’s Tony Bennett. We were thrilled to see a positive write-up about us in the Weekly Reader as well. After all the positive vibes and our album’s evident success, we couldn’t have been more excited to get our CD out there. We were more than ready for a packed, exciting summer.
The Hoots played quite a bit in the local area through the summer months, participating in Cloquet’s Wood City Music Festival on a huge, open-air stage. Though the stage was a bit intimidating, we had a blast showing Wood City what true country-gospel sounds like. It was quite a turn from the acts that came before and after us, but they must have liked what they heard because we’ve already been asked back next year! We also enjoyed playing under the Carlton County Bandstand for both the Carlton County Fair church service and an afternoon entertainment slot. We then had the opportunity to play at the Encore Theatre on two occasions, one to fundraise for the Welcome Home Benefit and again as a typical Hootenanners’ show. This was such a terrific venue, and we look forward to going back again soon!
As an end to our local summer schedule, we played at TJs during Mahtowa Days, and then hosted our 3rd Annual Mahtowa Hootenanny. We had a great turnout, despite a cloudy day, and loved the opportunity to show the community how much progress our Mahtowa Hall has made since our last Hootenanny. This year the stage was out on the front lawn, and we saw many new faces among the familiar ones.
While we continued to play church services and fundraisers in the Cloquet, Barnum, Sandstone, McGregor areas throughout the summer, one major goal for the Hootenanners this year was to gain a broader audience by pushing for shows in both the Cities and Duluth. Some notable summer Duluth gigs were the WELCA convention in Duluth (where we witnessed a WELCA conga line formed to our rockin’ “Rock of Ages” – I think it’s safe to say they enjoyed the show) and the Lester Park United Methodist Church BBQ. We also visited First Lutheran in Columbia Heights and headlined the Christ the King Block Party in New Brighton.
As summer turned to fall, we continued our “big city” momentum. We were thrilled to play at Jeff’s home church, St. Paul’s Lutheran in Minnetonka. However, the most exciting gig of the fall was playing at the House of Mercy in St. Paul. This was a beautiful, expansive building with incredible stained glass and old, gothic style architecture. We played a few songs during the service, and then joined the House of Mercy band in some country-gospel postludes. This gig got us acquainted with a member of the Roe Family Singers, a popular gospel band who we will be playing with in an exciting 2016 show at Teatro Zuccone in Duluth. We continued to make ourselves heard in the Duluth music scene as well, playing a packed Pizza Luce Brunch and a show at the popular Beaner’s Central.
We ended the year with some incredible local shows. First, we squished onto the Star Club stage to entertain at their Steak Fry, where we even got Caleb to play a few polkas on the accordion. Then, as Christmas approached, we switched gears and started preparations for the youth group Christmas program. This event proved to be a great time as usual, and we enjoyed backing our wonderful youth as they showcased their talents on the stage!
We ended the year with our annual Hoot Years’ Eve party. The chili cook-off competition was fierce and the theme was Rock and Roll Revue. Boys busted out giant wads of hair gel and rolled up blue jeans, while the ladies pinned their hair up in curls and either grabbed their polka dot dresses or pulled off their best Rizzo. There was a (mostly appropriate) lip sync contest and an intense hula hoop competition. We even had someone on rollerskates, just like at the drive-ins! We had a blast playing 50s and 60s music and enjoying the smiling faces and laughter of the crowd. It was another huge success.
Our focus remains being a positive extension of and reflection on Salem Lutheran Church. We continue to put all our funds towards the renovation of Salem’s Mahtowa Hall, and have felt a great sense of pride over the progress it has made over the last few years. We hope to continue our fundraising efforts this year by expanding our fan-base into greater Minnesota and will be looking into the possibility of some small tours throughout the state and possibly beyond in the next few years. We are also currently commissioning a music video of Colleen’s song “It’s Time to Let it Go,” and have some exciting bookings in the works already for this coming spring and summer.
As we reflect back on our year, we feel incredibly blessed to be able to not only spread God’s word and make money for a great cause, but to do so with people we love and care so deeply for. We have really become like a family, sharing in so many wonderful moments, inside jokes, and countless hours together as we continue to do what we love: making music. The success of this band wouldn’t be possible, however, without our super-fans at Salem Lutheran Church. We feel beyond supported and our cup runneth over.
With Love - Holy Hootenanners