Gordy’s HWY30 Music Fest Was A DAMN Good Time

Koe Wetzel country music
Andrew Quinn

If you follow our socials, you may have seen that Whiskey Riff had our first ever pop-up shop at Gordy’s HWY30 Fest in Filer, Idaho last week.

And it was a DAMN good time.

From meeting some of our favorite artists, to making friends with the fans, introducing the uninitiated to Whiskey Riff and playing an insane amount of beer-pong, it was a hell of a good time and I hope I get to do it again.

You’ve probably been to festivals before, but I can almost guarantee none of them are quite like this one, because HWY30 has a wildcard up its sleeve.

Gordy, the King of Idaho.

The title I made up, but from the jump it was obvious the truth isn’t too far off.

Gordy Schroeder and his wife originally started HWY30 in 2009 as a fundraiser for a school near his home in Fairfield, Idaho, grew it to a full-out festival in 2014 and put it on every year since.

He told Idaho News 6

“Our first year we had 13 bands, we sold 14 camping spots, and about 300 people showed up the first day and 700 the second day.”

This year over 30,000 people made their way to the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds, so it’s clear to see the festival has taken some major steps forward. This year’s Day 4 was the highest single day attendance in festival history.

Gordy’s name is literally everywhere during the festival. From the name itself, to his personal beer brand, to a Koe Wetzel ass-tat (that he showed us on stage), pretty much everything had his name slapped right on and for good reason.

The man has put his heart and soul into making this festival happen year after year and will do anything he can to assure smooth sailing. Whether it’s talking you through a schedule, pointing you to the right area or person, or sprinting from end to end of the grounds to take care of a problem himself, he didn’t stop and probably didn’t sleep for a week, yet still went out of his way to check in on us multiple times to make sure things were good on our end.

While Gordy is the guy calling shots and pulling strings, the atmosphere for vendors and fans can be described as nothing short of family. Pretty much every vendor had been working the festival since the start and made us out-of-towners feel right at home. Even while working their ass off in the summer heat, not a single media person, security officer, food seller or hat maker greeted us or any of the fans with anything less than a smile and a big Idaho “Hello”.

For the last 9 years, HWY30 has hosted a who’s who of country mainstays and fan-favorites while showcasing up and comers and lots of local talent.

This year’s lineup featured the likes of Koe Wetzel, Lainey Wilson, Shane Smith & The Saints, Kolby Cooper, Ray Willie Hubbard, Pecos & The Rooftops, The Steel Woods, Mike & The Moonpies and the one and only Turnpike Troubadours, proving they’re focused on bringing in the cream of the crop, not just the corporate big names.

And that’s exactly what drove Whiskey Riff to make the trip and exactly why everyone there was our kind of people.

Along the way we got to meet some rising stars we’ve been excited about for a while now, like Kat Hasty, Tanner Usrey, and Big John from The Lowdown Drifters, while also getting introduced to some Texas risers like Palmer Anthony and The Huser Brothers Band, all of which crushed their performances, especially during the acoustic sets they were gracious enough to play for us and a select group of fans and sponsors at the nightly afterparties.

But one thing which really puts this festival in a league of its own is the focus on promoting fantastic, local music coming out of the state of Idaho.

If you’re anything like me you didn’t know the Gem State had a strong music scene, but trust me, you’ll become a fan too when you hear 3 favorites of those local acts: Jesse Dayne & The Sagebrush Drifters, Kaden Madden and EllieMae.

I should have known something was up when significantly more Sagebrush Drifters T-Shirts were being worn in the crowd day after day than some headliners and near top bill acts, but it took hearing the band onstage and front-man Jesse Dayne’s acoustic sets to open my eyes.

Playing songs from their just released debut record Poison Creek, Jesse pulled the entire crowd in and blew us away. So many fans stopped by the tent and told us to keep an eye out for those guys, saying that Idaho’s best kept secret won’t be a secret much longer. After hearing them live and listening to the new record multiple times, I completely agree.

Get onboard now, the train’s about to start rolling.

Jesse Dayne – “Wild Horses”

Kaden Madden is just 20 years old but sings crushingly beautiful ballads of reminiscence and heartbreak with a voice aged well beyond his years. An unreleased song called “Leave Me Lonely” caught my ear while he was up on stage, but his cover of Zach Bryan’s “Something In The Orange” took the crowd to a fever pitch and planted him on top of most people’s favorites list.

He recently recorded over 20 songs for a new album that will be coming out at some point this year (Apologies for forgetting the date, had quite a few beers throughout the week…) so we’ll be keeping an eye out for that.

Kaden Madden – “Leave Me Lonely”

You may recognize the name EllieMae from her time spent on Team Blake on NBC’s The Voice, and while there’s a lot to say about singing competition shows, EllieMae has every bit of the potential to turn into a full-fledged star.

At one of the acoustic performances she even played a song she just wrote the previous day called “Cowboy Boots” and I have my fingers-crossed this one makes an album some day.

Her biggest song so far is “Coors Light and Jesus Christ,” which she says is the cause of her church singing ban. The self-proclaimed rebel child was pretty much everyone’s best friend on the fairgrounds and is a name you’re going to want to pay attention to.

EllieMae – “Coors Light & Jesus Christ”

Sure, big festivals have their charm and upsides, but after our experience last week, it’ll be hard for me to say that the small one in Filer, Idaho isn’t absolutely top tier.

The state is absolutely gorgeous, the lineup is always badass and there’s no better group of folks to spend your time with, so if you can, get your ass there next year.

Thanks for having us out, HWY30.

Cheers to all of you for a hell of a festival and a hell of a good time.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock