Calling an event a “Holiday Hang” suggests a loose, informal and fun way to spend a December evening. That’s accurate, but organizers of the annual event — now in its sixth year — have set their sights much higher. True, a night of bluegrass and country music featuring a double bill of Asheville-based bands Town Mountain and Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters is sure to entertain, but the Holiday Hang also helps feed those in our community who are food-insecure. This year’s Holiday Hang takes place Friday, Dec. 15, at The Orange Peel.
The event began several years ago thanks to Josh Stack, a good friend of the musicians in Town Mountain and executive director/founder of Funding America Through Entertainment. FATE is a local nonprofit dedicated to facilitating relationships between corporate entities, affiliated food banks and entertainers.
Town Mountain took part in the first event, then not yet known as the Holiday Hang. The band’s banjoist Jesse Langlais notes that, over the next couple of years, the annual gala — then held at Isis Music Hall — “kind of transitioned from Josh’s thing into something that Town Mountain spearheaded” and became a benefit strictly for MANNA FoodBank. This year marks the fourth consecutive year that the event is billed as the Holiday Hang.
More recently, the musicians of Town Mountain collectively decided to expand the reach of the Holiday Hang concept. Langlais notes that, while it began as “a strictly local thing, a benefit for MANNA that would bring Asheville bands together to support a local entity and showcase some local talent,” there was the opportunity to do more.
Town Mountain realized that the model could be used to raise awareness about hunger issues while showcasing Asheville-area bands in front of other audiences. “We did it last year at a few venues,” Langlais says, “and this year we’ve expanded from four to seven nights.”
Those seven dates — all featuring Town Mountain plus Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters — are scheduled in locales around the Southeast, including Rocky Mount, Va.; South Carolina cities Greer and Charleston; Atlanta; and three North Carolina cities (Charlotte, Raleigh and Asheville). And the Asheville date has moved from Isis Music Hall to The Orange Peel. “Town Mountain had our first headlining show at The Peel in April, and we did great; we brought in a lot of people,” Langlais says. “So they gave us this date for the Holiday Hang.” The bigger venue allows a significantly larger audience to take in a night of music while supporting good works.
Langlais says that 20 percent of the Asheville show’s proceeds will go directly to MANNA FoodBank; in the five years that the event has been supporting MANNA, the Holiday Hang has raised funds to provide 6,000 meals. Other shows on the schedule will focus on supporting affiliated food banks in those markets.
New Belgium Brewing Co. is sponsoring the Holiday Hang tour dates. “They’re very community-based,” Langlais says. “They’re always willing to step up to the plate and help sponsor and promote events.” The Colorado-based company (with operations in Asheville) has partnered with Town Mountain since 2014. “And then this year,” Langlais says, “they were like, ‘Yeah, we want to stick around for this event. Let’s continue to grow it.’”
Langlais notes that while previous Holiday Hangs have included some informal onstage collaborations between the featured acts, this year may take things to another level. “We’re going to put forth a little more effort in terms of rehearsing some stuff,” he promises, “really making a good, short finale set” featuring Platt and her band sharing the stage with Town Mountain.
As excited as he is to watch the Holiday Hang grow each year, Langlais doesn’t think its full potential has yet been reached. “You always have the goal in mind to grow the event,” he says. “We would love to see The Orange Peel sell out. It would legitimize the event that much more if we could see our hometown base come out to support both the bands and MANNA FoodBank.”
With just two bands on the bill, the Holiday Hang remains a relatively modest extravaganza. But Langlais has ambitious ideas for the future. “Asheville has various events similar to this, and I think there’s room for more,” he says. The entertainment and fundraising model is a solid one, he believes: “Just look at Christmas Jam.
Asheville is a town that likes to give back,” Langlais says. “People here are always willing to go out and support a cause that’s greater than themselves. And that’s part of what makes it such a special place.”
WHAT: Asheville Holiday Hang featuring Town Mountain with Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters
WHERE: The Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Ave., theorangepeel.net
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 15, at 9 p.m. $15 advance/$18 day of show