Hootenannies, informal gatherings of folks who enjoyed singing and swapping songs, were a popular fixture of the folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The casual format of the "hoot" ensured a comfortable setting for seasoned and fledgling musicians alike, and a place for emerging songwriters to try out their material.
Infinity Visual & Performing Arts Cafe will be the site of a 1960s-style hootenanny on Friday evening, Jan. 18, from 7-9 p.m., hosted by the local folk music duo, Doc & Bill. Admission is free, and persons of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to attend, as are those who simply want to enjoy the experience of hearing others sing and play.
"Although hootenannies hit their peak popularity decades before Infinity was created, they were very much in keeping with what we are doing today," said Shane Hawkins, executive director of the Jamestown-based organization. "Our mission includes providing a diverse creative experience for a wide cross-section of young people, giving them a place to learn from others and try out their skills in a nurturing setting."
In keeping with the format of early hootenannies, the event will be strictly unplugged; no sound amplification for voices or instruments will be used. Attendees are encouraged to bring traditional acoustic folk instruments such as guitars, banjos and mandolins, as well as lyric sheets for songs they would like to share with the group.
Doc & Bill will open the proceedings with a couple of songs that were standard hootenanny fare back in the day, and will facilitate the festivities from there on out.
"My fondest memories of the original hoots have to do with the joy of playing with other people and the confidence that grows from that experience," said the duo's Bill Drellow. "It was impossible to feel self-conscious at a hootenanny, or to not have a good time."
Added John ("Doc") Hamels, "We'll all be seated in a big circle on the floor of the cafe, no microphones, no amps, in a setting that's even less pressured than an open mic. In addition to bringing out younger performers, we'd love to see people from our generation dusting off guitars and banjos they've kept under the bed for years."