An Americana festival at the last saloon in town

The moon rises over The Drytown Social Club, which will host a new Americana music festival on June 10. Courtesy photograph

Drytown Social Club owner plans an afternoon of tunes, beer, wine and food

By Casey Rafter

Gold mining was at its height when Drytown boasted a population of over 25,000 wild citizens trying their luck at finding chunks of coppery joy in the nearby mountains. To keep their thirsty mouths satisfied, the town – nestled in the crosshairs of Highway 16 and Highway 49 – offered 26 raucous bars and saloons.

The numbers in town have dwindled since, falling short of 200 residents in the area; but those who remain are still very thirsty. That’s where Susan Feist, owner of Feist Wines, finds her footing: She runs the Drytown Social Club. As the saloon’s owner, she notes that her roadside bar is the only place left in town to enjoy a cold beer or glass of wine.

And thanks to Feist’s efforts, music too.

In recent years she’s offered one of Amador County’s few venues for live acts, supporting local blues and country groups while also bringing nationally known performers to the Gold Country. Lately, Feist has been adding Americana artists to the calendar, which is now culminating in the inaugural Drytown Americana Festival at her social club on Saturday, June 10 from 1 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $20.

“Thinking of these men living in tents on this creek and going across to the bars, and I’m kinda the last remnant of it,” Feist reflected. “I had done a little mini musical festival in Sutter Creek when my tasting room was there, and it worked well. Willie Watson actually headlined it. I just thought it would be fun, and it’s a great venue for that because it’s this roadside bar and it has this western vibe. It’s a good way to bring people together.”

The cover for Forever Goldrush’s new single, “That’s Your Man.”

For Sacramentans, some familiar names are on the ticket in addition to touring musicians that include Cory Cross, hauling in from Fort Worth, Texas. Cross will be opening the event at 1 p.m. and joined on the bill by San Luis Obispo band Longstraw, as well as local favorites Loose Engines, California Stars and Forever Goldrush.

Josh Lacey, guitarist for Forever Goldrush, will take the stage twice during the festival, also performing in California Stars. Lacey said the bands are both working on upcoming new music and eager to share it on the special evening.

“We were getting ready to put out a new record this year called ‘Moon Flower Songs,’ Lacey explained. “We’ve got a website up going just recently, finally for the first time in our entire band history. We’ll be playing a bunch of tunes off of that [new album].”

This month, Forever Goldrush also released its first-ever single in the group’s 27-year history, “That’s Your Man,” which is available on Bandcamp

Lacey also expressed excitement to share a venue with Longstraw, who’s guitarist is Sacramento’s own Kolton James, a member of local band Mondo Deco. Lacey said his tenure as an active member in the Sacramento music community helped big-time when Feist reached out for some assistance in forging an Americana fest.

“At this point, being a Sacramento guitar player, I get lots of calls for filling dates and kind of keeping myself busy with all these guys,” Lacey acknowledged. “I think that was why it was so easy to put this thing together: I’ve known so many bands in the Sacramento area for so long. It was literally within five minutes everybody jumped on board and was just down to do it. That was kind of fun.”

The stage at The Drytown Social Club, which serves vino from the owner’s winery, Feist Wines, and craft beer brewed in the Gold Country. Courtesy photograph

Upon learning about the storied Gold Rush history of Drytown, Cory Cross admitted between excited gasps that he had not even heard of the place.

“I’m kinda familiar with San Diego and Los Angeles as a tourist, but this is our first time doing any kind of music run; I’ve never even been North of Malibu,” Cross chuckled. “We’ve been doing this a while. We play five nights a week all over Texas. We have several different sets of original music that we can choose from depending on the venue, the crowd. When we get there, even though we’re not familiar with Drytown, we gauge the vibe and gauge the energy to put on the best fitting show.”

Feist metaphorically peered over the fence at Burgie’s in Arbuckle as a standard of who she might book, and how to best serve the potential audience that makes their way to the foothill town: Burgie’s has been booking national and touring acts, in addition to local talent, and is able to get a draw in some of Yolo’s most remote farming fields. Feist said that, moving forward, she hopes to expand the festival to be multiple days.

Cory Cross will come in from Texas to play the new Americana festival in Drytown. Courtesy photo

Drytown Social Club also offers a farm-to-fork menu all prepared in-house. Feist said there will be wood-fired pizza and barbeque with meats from Sacramento butcher V. Miller.

“There’s a new brewery called Break Even in Amador City, so I’m gonna have a good display of their beers and then also Amador Brewing Company,” Feist added. “I’m selling a lot of beer and I’m new to that because I’ve had my winery for 11 years, so just trying to add some of the Sacramento craft beers that day, and I’ll have my wine of course.”

Doing some research about the property her saloon is on, Feist said she discovered that the current three-plot item once was divided into nine mining camp units. Though the wine maven has lived in Amador County for over two-decades, she’s still learning about the proprietors that came before her.

“It’s amazing and it’s just a blip,” Feist mentioned of Drytown. “The speed limit’s high through there, and you definitely just drive through, but it’s worth stopping.”

The Drytown venue is nothing new for Lacey. He said that when Feist brought up the idea for a festival in conversation, he was supportive and offered to help find bands to fill the evening. Lacey looks forward to watching the festival continue to grow.

“Drytown Club’s been a place I’ve played for years,” he mused. “There’s not a lot of things to do here. It’s nice to see something like this being put forth as an effort to get people out and enjoy music. We’ve found that it’s kind of difficult from both ends to get people from Sacramento to come up here and to get people from Amador County to go down there. Drytown is kind of the closest town in Amador County to Sacramento. It’s not a very long drive.”

The Drytown Social Club is located at 15950 Highway 49 in Drytown. 

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