Preview: Hot August Music Festival 2018

Words & Photos: Tim Newby & Stephen Varanko

The Hot August Music Festival returns for on August 18, 2018, to Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, Maryland with a lineup that runs the full musical gamut roots to blues to funk to reggae to rock ‘n’ roll and is headlined by The Revivalists and Trampled by Turtles.


Entering its twenty-sixth year the Hot August Music Festival has again assembled a lineup this year that reflects the overriding principle that festival founder and promoter, Brad Selko, has adhered to over the history of the festival, “To provide a different variety of American Roots music each year.  Blues, bluegrass, rock, funk, jam, whatever.” This year’s line-up does just that with a diverse roster of twelve bands who represent all facets of American Roots Music. This year’s lineup is topped by The Revivalists and Trampled by Turtles, and features the funk of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, the southern blues of Marcus King Band, the soulful rock of Cris Jacobs Band, the Pyscho Killers, the bluegrass-punk energy of Whiskey Shivers and Dirty Grass Players, Nikki Hall, the traditional blues of Selwyn Birchwood, Hall Williams Band, and reggae superstar Omari Banks.  

Over the years, the festival has stayed true to the inspiration that first sparked Selko to hold the first Hot August Music Festival on his farm and has witnessed positive-growth every year.  The only change over the years was a minor tweak to its name, changing from its original moniker Hot August Blues to Hot August Music Festival, to reflect the growing diversity of bands that fills the line-up each year.  The Hot August Music Festival eventually grew into an award winning festival (Baltimore Magazine Best Music Festival in 2013, Tri-State Indie Music Award for Festival of the Year in 2011) and annual event that is a must see each year.  Much of the credit for that growth goes directly to Selko and his tireless efforts year in and year out.  “I love doing it, I love producing, it,” declares Selko. “It gets to you. After all these years, I think I am going to take a bit of a break, but I find as soon as this year ends I am already writing down possible bands for next year.”

Held at idyllic Oregon Ridge Park, just outside the Baltimore City limits, whose picturesque setting of helps to forge an extremely fan-friendly environment.  The festival grounds feature three stages.  The main stage is set at the base of a large hill and is surrounded by an army of trees which creates a natural amphitheater and the gently sloping hill ensures that no matter where you are, you have a great, unobstructed view of the stage.  The two side stages are a short walk away, enabling one to bounce from stage to stage and catch as many acts as possible without missing much action during the walk.  The walk between stages is littered with a wide variety of vendors, food, and various activities for all ages.

Hot August Music Festival has separated itself from other festivals its size with its relaxed low-key atmosphere and consistently stellar line-ups.  The schedule each year has minimal over-lap between the two stages, and features set lengths that give every band from the opener to the headliner ample time to get up and stretch out their musical legs.  Founder Selko’s over-riding philosophy each year is his willingness to schedule bands with the idea of quality over quantity.  He prefers to give each band enough time on stage to really get warmed up and into the groove as opposed to the brief forty-five minute sets that seem to be the norm at too many festivals that instance on shoehorning as many bands into the lineup as possible.  Hot August Music Festival gives each band time to play and really connect with the audience.  This attention to detail and thoughtful approach to planning extends into every aspect of the festival for Selko who constantly tinkers and improves the festival each year to create the best possible experience for everyone.  He explains, “It is like a jigsaw puzzle, and all of these pieces, the bands, vendors, beer, and food all have to fit together over a ten-hour period of time, and if they don’t people in the audience know.”

For further details and ticket information visit: Hot August Music

Check out past coverage of Hot August Music Festival from Honest Tune.