Welcome to Hotel Blotto…You can check in anytime you like, but you may never want to leave!
Some friends of ours have been raving about Hotel Blotto for years, but it never aligned with our schedules. This year we finally had a chance to go, and had an absolute blast! Check out their website!
A Mr. Blotto Tradition
Mr. Blotto is a jam band from Chicago, wildly popular in the Midwest, with a solid national following too. They play a blend of originals and covers, but even the covers sound original after being “Blottofied.” In traditional jam band style, they embellish with extended instrumentals and the crowd gets in a groove right along with them. Check out the video above for a taste of Hotel Blotto and the band’s style of music. If you’ve never seen them before, they are definitely worth the ticket price, and then some!
Rockin’ The House At Hotel Blotto!
Every year for more than a decade the band has reserved the Best Western Plus Hotel & Conference Center in La Porte, Indiana for a two day music festival. It’s about an hour outside the Windy City and draws folks from all over the region.
Mr. Blotto headlines both nights, with other bands playing side stages before and after the main act. We’ve been to large music festivals where several bands play at the same time, so it’s possible to miss a band you want to see. That’s not the case at Hotel Blotto, since the sets don’t overlap. You simply move from one room to the next to catch each band without missing a note.
Our friends have attended five Hotel Blottos in the past; their sixth was our first. We’ve been to tons of outdoor music festivals and concerts, and with Hotel Blotto you get the best of both worlds! There is the comfort of a hotel room within stumbling distance of the venue AND you can catch multiple bands for an
This post contains affiliate links. You will not pay extra for products purchased through those links, but we will earn a small commission from the sale.
The Best Western was booked up by the time we decided to go. No problem, though, as there’s a Travelodge right next door to handle the overflow. After checking in on Friday, we took the one-minute walk over to ‘Hotel Blotto’ and got our wristbands for the show. It’s a cool scene. A lot of the concert goers are friends through this event, so they’re catching up while they check in or have a smoke outside.
Once our friends showed up we chilled in their hotel room, shot the breeze, and exchanged concert stories. The last time we saw them was on a camping trip in Michigan last year…another blast!
The hotel atrium is a big open space where bands play the early and extra-late sets. There are hotel rooms adjacent, each with its own “front porch” in the atrium, so the people in those rooms get to watch these bands from their Hotel Blotto abodes. Also, you can bring your own food, drinks, and chairs to the atrium shows.
It’s a nice area to hang out and catch a band, but the acoustics aren’t the greatest. Maybe if there were banners hanging on the walls it would help to soften the sound a bit. Apparently, banners were allowed in the past but the new hotel ownership banned the banners this year. Whatever, we went around behind the band and noticed the sound quality was actually better there.
Getting Ready For The Show…
Some of the regulars hold an informal potlock dinner on Friday, but we just ordered a pizza and chilled with our friends in their room. They booked early enough to get a room at the Best Western so we used that as a home base for hanging out between bands. It was a handy place to keep our beers so we didn’t have to lug a cooler to the atrium. (Next year we’ll book far enough in advance to get a room at the Best Western.)
The scene itself is very laid-back. The staff is friendly – in fact, many of them request to work that weekend because the crowd is so much fun (and loaded with good tippers). There are a couple of bouncers on site and two police officers, but they didn’t seem too busy. People freely walk around with open containers in the hallways and the atrium.
We did hear rumors that the new hotel owners were less than thrilled with the scene, but we didn’t encounter any problems. This crowd is definitely not your typical ‘conference center’ clientele. The pool was closed and we never found out why, but some people were a little annoyed about that.
Besides the atrium, there’s a bar/restaurant where a few bands perform before and after the Blotto sets. We had dinner there on Saturday while watching Chester Brown perform a great set. The food was good and reasonably priced, and the acoustics were decent. It’s a smaller venue with tables and a small area next to the stage for dancing. There’s also a raised seating area that allows for better viewing if the place is crowded.
The main attraction, of course, is Mr. Blotto, and they play the headline sets in the hotel’s ballroom. The acoustics there were good and it was a large enough space for the crowd to dance, with room in the back for tables.
Although you can bring food and beer into the atrium, you can’t bring it into the bar or the ballroom. At the bar you just order what you want and pay cash. In the ballroom you needed to purchase tickets out in the lobby for your beverages. We heard from some regulars that the tix were new this year.
Hotel Blotto had a nice variety of bands before and after the Mr. Blotto sets. From a folksy vibe to hard rock, they were a great supplement to the main gig. Here’s a bit more about each of the bands…they were all new to us!
The first band, Lunar Ticks, really rocked the atrium with a great performance to open the festival! As they were playing, our friends were introducing us to people they know through this once-a-year adventure. One guy we met said, “Welcome to Hotel Blotto. The people here are a little weird, but harmless.” It occurred to me that “a little weird, but harmless” describes pretty much every friend I’ve ever had. I knew we were in the right place!
Mr. Blotto, Of Course!
Around 9:00 we headed to the ballroom to hear Mr. Blotto. They played two killer sets, with a slew of Blotto originals and some pretty cool covers, including “Franklin’s Tower” (Grateful Dead) and “Wolfman’s Brother” (Phish). They wrapped up a little after midnight, and we headed over to the bar to catch Chester Brown’s first performance of the festival. One thing about jam bands: they often don’t use a setlist, so you never know what they’re going to play. When you see two bands in a row, you might hear the same cover twice. In this case, we heard another version of “Franklin’s Tower” – no complaints, though!
One-by-one, the members of Mr. Blotto came to the bar to catch the set. They mingled with the crowd just like regular music fest fans. (Maybe “regular” isn’t the right word to describe music fest fans, but you know what I mean.)
Arbor Creek…Sorry We Missed You
Arbor Creek played a 2:00 AM set in the atrium, but we were pretty beat at that point, so we took the chilly walk across the parking lot and back to our motel room to crash for the night.
Kara Cavanaugh Opened on Saturday
Saturday, after a little sleep, a leisurely breakfast, and a hot shower (sleeping in a bed and having a shower in the morning are two benefits of hotel music festivals), we went to check out the first musician of the day, singer/songwriter/guitarist Kara Cavanaugh. She was accompanied by Philip Roach, who alternated between violin and electric guitar. Her music was a perfect segue between waking up and getting back into the concert groove. Along with her originals, Kara did a great version of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.” And we met her dog! (It’s a pet-friendly hotel, and two of her friends took care of the dog while she was on stage.) Like most musicians who performed at Hotel Blotto, she stayed to watch the other bands.
Some Cool Cats: Gato
After Kara finished, we went to the bar to catch a very cool band called Gato. (That’s the Spanish word for “cat,” if you didn’t know). Their music is an eclectic blend of genres, and they’re a rare band that features a steel pedal guitarist. We got a table right up front for a great view. It was pretty chill being able to watch that steel pedal in action!
As a big neo-
Not Just A Cover Band!
One thing I really appreciated about The Mudmen is that they didn’t just play a note-for-note replication of every piece. In many songs they’d start out playing the way Pink Floyd played it, then they’d break into a section of the song and put a totally different spin on it, and then go back to the original style. With a nice blend of authenticity and novelty, the band paid due respect to the original versions while making each song their own in one way or another. That can’t be easy to pull off, but they did it!
Back to the obscure stuff, they played “Embryo,” which never appeared on an original studio album, as well as one of my favorites, “Childhood’s End” from the album “Obscured By Clouds.” (Another side note: the friend who turned us on to Hotel Blotto is an old college buddy who introduced me to “Obscured by Clouds” back when we were in school together.)
With all but one “famous” Pink Floyd album having been represented, the Mudmen closed out with a great version of “Sheep” from “Animals,” arguably Pink Floyd’s best album. (I think it’s at least as good as “Dark Side of the Moon,” but less
Next up was Chester Brown in the bar, for their second set at Hotel Blotto. Remember what I said about hearing two covers of the same song by different bands? After The Mudmen gave us a rocking version of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar,” Chester Brown played a bluegrassy rendition that had the place jumping! Same song, very different sound – no complaints here!
We didn’t get an up front spot at this show, but the sound quality was good and there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
The Theme: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Every year the band chooses a theme for Hotel Blotto; during their second set on Saturday, Mr. Blotto plays songs related to that theme. This
Dress As Hunter S.
Some fans come dressed up according to the theme, so this year, we saw a lot of people looking like Hunter S. Thompson. Coincidentally, one of the T-shirt vendors there had actually met Thompson back in the 70s. He told us some stories about missing out on a party opportunity with Hunter and some friends, and about how he picked a quote for the back of the t-shirts he was selling: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
More Bands We Missed…
There were midnight and
Hotel Music Festivals Light Up The Winter!
Living in the northern US, we’ve always thought of summer as music festival season. Hotel Blotto is a great respite from the winter blues just when you need it: the middle of February. Now we’re on the lookout for more winter venues for music fests and we definitely plan on Hotel Blotto next year! I hear tell of Sunshine 66 with Mr. Blotto in April…sounds like another blast!
This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for Music Fest Fans to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. You will not pay any extra for these products and we earn a small commission to help support this free website.