Bonnaroo bound: Riding high on the Dirty Bird
When the Hackensaw Boys burst onto the Charlottesville music scene back in 1999, their sheer number was enough to get a Blue Moon Diner crowd rockin' to the old time bluegrass music they played. Four years later, the group, now winnowed down to a core group of six, is finally getting some of the national– and international– recognition for which every small town band longs.
On Saturday, June 12, the Hackensaws will play Tennessee's massive three-day music festival, Bonnaroo, joining headliners the Dave Matthews Band, Trey Anastasio, The Dead, and Bob Dylan, along with a plethora of lesser known artists, including ATO Records' newest signee, Jem.
But while the Hackensaws have had no shortage of exposure these last four years or so– including Bonnaroo 2003, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and the High Sierra Music Festival– they're still waiting for the record deal that could put their music out for all the world to hear.
"We've worked really hard," says David Sickmen, a.k.a. Shiner Hackensaw. "We're still working really hard."
In the past four years, Sickmen estimates, the band has played 750 shows across the country and in Europe, doing most of their touring in the aging bus– dubbed the Dirty Bird– given to them by local developer and auto mechanic Oliver Kuttner, a big fan of the band.
"I really like those guys," Kuttner says. "I hope they do even better."
But no matter how far they go– or how much fame they find– the Hackensaws say they will remember their roots.
"We'll keep Charlottesville as a home base," says Sickmen, "of course."
David Sickmen a.k.a. Shiner
Role: Guitar and mandolin, singer/songwriter
Resume: Local music scene-ster who formed The Ninth (with Stefan Lessard) as well as "goofin' around playing music in art rock punk bands" such as Beau Prie.
Jimmy Stelling a.k.a. The Kooky Eyed Fox Age: 35
Resume: Prior to joining the Hackensaws in 2001, just before the band's first trip to NYC, he worked as a "soup chef, playboy model, and carpenter."
Tom Peloso a.k.a. Pee Paw
Resume: Fiddle-fixer; played with Richmond bands King Sour and Chigger
Robert Bullington a.k.a. Mahlon
Resume: Played with Richmond alt-rock group Fried Moose
Jesse Fiske a.k.a. Baby J or Dante
Resume: Once jammed with harmonica legend James Cotten
Justin Newhart a.k.a. Salvage
Role: Drum and "charismo," a percussion instrument made of "portable junk"; he also refurbishes the Dirty Bird.
Resume: Played drums with punk rock group The Proles
Top row: Salvage Dante J, Kooky-Eyed Fox and Shiner; bottom row: Pee Paw and Mahlon.
PHOTO BY LILA FENTON