High Sierra | 07.03 - 07.06 | California

High Sierra Music Festival :: 07.03.08 07.06.08 :: Plumas County Fairgrounds :: Quincy, CA

By: Kayceman

High Sierra 2008 by Julie Blaustein
Wildfires are still raging through Northern California. Sparked by lightning storms on June 21, come July 2, the day before the start of to the 18th Annual High Sierra Music Festival, Highway 70 (a commonly used road to get to the fest) was closed and there were reports of poor air quality. Concern was spreading and there were rumors of a possible location change or even cancellation. Turns out the other primary route (Highway 80) was a little easier and by the time we heard the first notes of the fest the wind had changed and was blowing the smoke out of the valley. Everything was working out just fine, just like it always does at High Sierra.

The key is to just relax and let High Sierra happen. By staying true to their roots and keeping the festival an intimate, boutique-style event, organizers are able to give patrons a unique experience that is impossible to duplicate. There's an ease to the proceedings, from getting into the grounds, to getting food and ice, to clean showers, to walking the short distance from one stage to the next, there's never any stress and things just seem to roll along at the perfect pace. There are a variety of camping options, lots of shade, a swimming pool, the beautiful Feather River and you're surrounded by giant trees and rolling green mountains. This is Northern California in all its glory, and there is no better place to celebrate America's birthday than at High Sierra.

This relaxed atmosphere and slowed down pace dictates life at the festival. Work and worries, money issues and all the other weight that piles up on our backs begins to lift, revealing a simpler you, reminding us of the kids we used to be. High Sierra is summer camp for adults and it not only affects the fans, but also the musicians. Artists feel the respectful, positive vibe and it allows them to let down their guard and roam the grounds, interacting with fans. Unlike a lot of festivals, most of the talent sticks around for the weekend so they too can unwind. It's common to see an artist checking out other bands, standing right in the crowd, dancing like no one is watching because they probably aren't.

Musicians even rolled into campsite parties, JamBase's Camp Harry was fortunate enough to host a bunch of bands (for both music and just beers) including Mike Gordon, who rolled in with a cymbal on his head, which Rotary Downs drummer Zack Smith played with the RV antenna for a bit. As Smith tells us, "Seeing Mr. Gordon at Camp Harry with a Zildjian 16" deep crash on his head made me want to further the symbolic cymbalism while I wondered, 'Why,' and thus played the intro to 'YYZ.' I got one bar into it and Mr. Gordon had enough. I hope this didn't delay any future musical or otherwise relationships." What other festival could that conceivably happen at? Artists play impromptu gigs at campsites, on RVs and even in RVs at sunrise. There's a freedom and simple joy to High Sierra that has made it a must attend event for those in the know. With so many festival options, such a poor economy and insane gas prices we have to pick our plans carefully, High Sierra is money in the bank. It's always the weekend we long for most.

Akron/Family

Seth Olinsky - Akron/Family by J. Miller
Akron/Family is the only band to get two reviews in our High Sierra coverage (see Dennis Cook's coverage on the next page); and I assure you they earned it. Having been relatively impressed with their studio work and hearing from multiple trusted sources that it was all about Akron's live show; I made the difficult decision to skip one of my favorite bands - Surprise Me Mr. Davis - for Akron's first of two sets at High Sierra. I was rewarded with a spiritual awakening. Exploding with light, energy and raw passion, active participation is required. This is more an experience than a concert, with an ancient, ritualistic nature to the proceedings. Throughout the show I found myself clapping (and I hate clapping during songs), throwing my arms over my head and chanting. This was wildly psychedelic, very risky, free-as-fuck music that screamed through the body. Just as dark and scary as they are beautiful and subtle, they constantly walked the fine line between creation and destruction, heaven and hell. The plethora of influences and distances traveled by this band is what sets them apart, but it's their late '60s, twisted American rock roots that fuel the beast.

The next day on the Big Meadow was even better. Once again accompanied by the guys from Megafaun and this time adding The Slip/Mr. Davis rhythm section of Andrew Barr and Marc Friedman for a few jams, the vocals were cleaned up and the songs even more fluid. They brought up a young friend of around twelve to play cowbell on top of the bass amps and there were more than a dozen percussion instruments handed to the front row. With all the drums, guitars, banjos and beatboxing (nice one Andrew Barr!) it was unlike anything I've put in my ears this year, and it very well may be the most overwhelming musical experience of 2008 for this scribe. After just two days with Akron/Family I'm fully on board, ready to join their cult.

Built To Spill

Headlining the main stage on the first night there was considerable buzz surrounding Built To Spill's set. Clearly the most "outside of the box" big name on the bill, if you were looking for something a little different, maybe a little louder and more distorted, this was the place to be. Having seen BTS both at festivals and in clubs I've consistently been more impressed with the later. Perhaps it's playing in front of a less appreciative audience, maybe all those guitars just sound better bottled-up inside, or maybe they need more time to set up their massive sound and tweak all their gear; but whatever it was, they had a hard time fully getting on track. Some of the tempos seemed to fluctuate and the triple guitar attack was just a hair off target. That said, Doug Martsch and his team still tore up some tents with their swirling guitar meltdowns, specifically during "Going Against Your Mind" and set closer "You Were Right." Although it may not have lived up to the expectations of die-hard fans, Built To Spill still put on one of the more enjoyable, and definitely one of the more rocking shows of High Sierra.

The Slip

Steve Adams (Big Light/ALO) during The Slip late night
By Scott Galbraith
High Sierra just wouldn't be High Sierra without The Slip. Making their eleventh consecutive appearance (the only band to ever do so), these two sets are the only shows the band has played this year and it's very likely they won't play any others. Knowing this, it was difficult to tear myself away from most of their day set, but it was their late night set on Thursday that I was happy to be able to catch in its entirety. Packed into the Vaudeville Tent there was a palpable energy running through the crowd. Leaning heavier on more recent material - like the wonderfully updated reading of "Airplane Primitive" - it was impressive how easily these three were able to communicate. There are few bands as in-tune with one another as The Slip, and the fact that they all grew up together and have shared their lives is readily apparent when they're onstage. Brad Barr's guitar work was sharp and nimble, moving from crunchy rock power chords to obtuse jazz runs and melodic interludes. Though certainly not perfect, when these three clicked they truly soared. Often led by Marc Friedman's inspired bass work, he and drummer Andrew Barr create a fluid stream of sound that allows the band's vast instrumental segments - such as the freaked-out "Get Me With Fuji" - to move unhindered into new waters with ease. But as boundless and enthralling as their jams can be, The Slip are a mature band with a keen focus on songcraft, hooks and pop structures, making their cover of Paul Simon's "The Boy In The Bubble" (which they played at both sets) a perfect choice for the festive High Sierra faithful.

Nathan Moore

Nathan Moore should be a star. He's one of the greatest songwriters we have and the faucet is always on, pouring fresh songs out like water. He's intelligent, funny, honest, warm, a little crazy and full of love, and so is his music. As the leader of Surprise Me Mr. Davis, Moore is able to get in touch with his wild rock & roll side, mixing with The Slip to become something bigger than either could be without the other, but it's with just a solitary acoustic guitar and his open voice that we see deepest into his soul. Watching him strap on his harmonica while listening to him tell stories between songs, explaining their inspirations and deeper meanings, we're reminded of folk legends like Woody Guthrie and pre-electric Bob Dylan. His ability to tap emotions and use his experiences to create unifying theories throws a rope around the crowd, pulling us all closer. Having stayed up the entire night before, even helping his team win the sunrise kickball game with a miraculous double-play, on Sunday Moore was a little beat up, his voice giving out just a bit, but he got lots of laughs and even a few tears as he performed "The High Sierra Heartbreak," a song he wrote in the pre-dawn hours in a friends RV (he also lead a touching "You Are My Sunshine" sing-along in said RV). Nathan Moore is a true American troubadour, perhaps the perfect acoustic artist for Independence Day.

Dusty Rhodes and the River Band

Andrea Babinski - Dusty Rhodes and the River Band
By J. Miller
One of the great, relatively unknown outfits of the day, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band put on a rock & roll sermon under the California sun. Drawing from a wide swath of American roots music - from rock, country, folk and bluegrass to gospel, soul and psychedelia - the six band members made good use of their guitars, keyboards, violin, accordion, mandolin and more. Predominantly playing music off their stellar 2007 release First You Live, including great versions of "Ghost Trails," "Dear Honey" and "Goodnight Moonshine," it was impossible not be mesmerized by big Afroed frontman Dustin Apodaca. As the band swapped lead vocal duties, sang harmonies into each other's mics and bounced around the stage, they were loose in all the right ways and they made a good argument for being the current incarnation of The Band. It was a few minutes later that they dove into one of the best versions of "The Weight" I've ever heard. After that it was all gravy, but when Dusty took the mic, jumped on the speaker riser and started preaching, we all went along for the ride. With hands reaching out to the crowd, Dusty pleaded, "If you just believe we can do this, if you believe in rock & roll, me, you and Obama can legalize marijuana!" Amen.

Rotary Downs

Coming all the way from New Orleans, with two day slots and a late night throwdown at Camp Harry, Rotary Downs left a serious mark at their first ever High Sierra. Although guitarist/pedal steel guru Chris Colombo was unable to make these shows because his wife was giving birth to their second child, NOLA hot shot Chad Viator (from Lafayette band Arbor Vitae) did a bang up job on guitar, covering all of Colombo's parts while injecting his own style (nice slide work) into the mix. Also new to the stage was second trumpeter and keyboardist Michael Girardot. Not only did Girardot prove the perfect addition to his band Rotary Downs, he also added tasteful trumpet work to Surprise Me Mr. Davis' late night show. While it's true that RD have horns and are a distinctly New Orleans band, they are most definitely a gritty rock band that isn't afraid to dip into whatever form of sound inspires them. Watching drummer (and famed photographer) Zack Smith slam the skins it was obvious that no one has more fun than Smith. Led by vocalist and guitarist James Marler, it's his opaque, hyper-intelligent lyrics and dry, Stephen Malkmus-style singing that defines the band, but it's the group melodic, dynamic, patient tension-building jams that make them special. Wowing the crowd with standout tracks like "Feast In Squalor," "B/W" and "False Protection" from their breakthrough 2006 album Chained to the Chariot, it was the new, unfamiliar material that reminded us why Spin just named them one of the top NOLA bands to watch, as well as why Rotary Downs won "Best Rock Band" in NOLA's Gambit Weekly's Big Easy Awards. Perhaps the Downs guys said it best on their website: "We had NO IDEA how awesome High Sierra would be until we experienced its majesty a few weeks ago. The ultimate intimate festival in the Sierra Mountains of Northern California treated us so well, we still feel all warm and fuzzy about it... we smiled so much it hurt. See you there next year!"

Critters Buggin

Mike Dillon - Critters Buggin by Susan J. Weiand
When Critters Buggin is playing you go, it's that simple. With only five dates scheduled for 2008 (all in the summer and two of them at High Sierra) this was a treat of the highest order for fans of the freaky. For many, this is the band that introduced us to, and perhaps even defines, saxophone manipulator Skerik. Working with his partner in crime, percussionist Mike Dillon as well as bassist Brad Houser and drummer Matthew Chamberlain, it's Chamberlain's high-profile, big time session work with artists like Tori Amos that forces Critters to be a side project. One can only dream of what would happen if Chamberlain could dedicate a real slice of time to this avant-noise-rock-mind-melter of a band. Although their day set was fun, it was late night in the Funk'n Jamhouse where they truly excelled. Twisting from ambient electronica to thundering percussion to free-jazz squawks and dubbed-out meanderings, Critters utilized samples, loops and lots of traditional instruments to create a world completely unique to these four genius-weirdoes. And just when it seemed things were at a peak, Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker joined the fray, adding his angular licks to an already overwhelming wall of sound. Selections such as "Critters Theme" (from 1994's Guest) and "Mount Blasta" (off 1997's Host) stuck out, but this set came off as a single entity, blending lines, pushing boundaries and dragging listeners through a heady, outro experiment in sound.

James Hunter

British R&B soul singer James Hunter was one of the biggest surprises of High Sierra this year. Stumbling past his Big Meadow closing set on Friday night it was impossible to not walk over and get a look at this outstanding, rich voice. The band (including a baritone and alto sax duo that could have come out of the Stax heyday) was a slick group of guys, all dressed in suits, and they never missed a step. Listening to Hunter sing in a classic, timeless 1950s/1960s manner it was obvious why Van Morrison called on Hunter to tour and record with him, but it was equally apparent why Hunter broke out on his own. One of the greatest showmen I've ever seen, Hunter knew how to use his powerful voice, not to mention his guitar and fancy dance moves. When he sang "No Smoke Without Fire" and "Class Act" the girls screamed like he was Elvis Presley.

Big Light

Torphy, Bifulco, Adams - Big Light by Scott Galbraith
Rising from the fertile San Francisco music scene, Big Light is a band on the move. Led by singer-songwriter-guitarist Fred Torphy, the band's catchy, hook-heavy pop songs and psychedelic instrumental moments have made fans of Surprise Me Mr. Davis, Apollo Sunshine (AP drummer Jeremy Black produced their self-titled 2008 debut) and even pulled ALO's Steve Adams into the fold making him the official bass player. Performing two early morning (10:45 a.m. is early for a festival) sets and one afternoon RV bash, it was the balance of touching songs like "Hard Knocks" (with the refrain "you remind me of my sister with your heart of gold") with grittier, more experimental selections like "Heavy" (with it's stadium-sized hook and ginormous guitar jam) that made fans of everyone in attendance. While this is Torphy's band, it's the team he's assembled, including wild keyboardist Colin Hoops and rock-steady drummer Bradly Bifulco that gives this band life. Coming off High Sierra the buzz around Big Light is growing and it seems clear that next year they'll be on a bigger stage with a better time slot.

Continue reading for more on High Sierra...

By: Dennis Cook

The Mother Hips

Bluhm & Loiacono - The Mother Hips By J. Miller
The Mother Hips rolled out two nigh perfect but utterly different performances, piling on weird, rubbery elongation at their Thursday late night set and then making folks sigh and sway at the Friday Big Meadow afternoon session. By all appearances they're a classic four-piece rock unit, but one had only to pry just a few millimeters below the surface to find rich layers full of diamond wisdom and peculiar tunings, subtle life lessons and bedrock fundamentals. Their philosophy going into the late night gig was, according to drummer John Hofer, "to play until they shut us off." The gargantuan setlist drew from their entire 15-year catalog, hitting the sledgehammer pop of "Rich Little Girl" and the squirrel-y elusiveness of "Figure 11." The sheer range, potency and mind-blowing musicianship they displayed made this one of the most thrilling, unpredictable sets this year. Guitar solos soared and ripped in unpredictable directions while the rhythm boys created an endless, strong undercurrent. The Hips kept things rolling past 4:30 a.m., when, in fact, the powers that be gave them a quick bum rush and raised the house lights within seconds of the last notes. That they had an utterly lovely, fan faithful set left in them the next afternoon was impressive. In a just world, folks would know the name 'The Mother Hips' the way they do The Rolling Stones. The Hips are a living, breathing classic in every respect and this weekend only cemented that fact.

Gov't Mule

At this point, you kinda know what you're in for with Gov't Mule, and their Friday headlining set offered few surprises. That's not to say it wasn't enjoyable; there's a lot to be said for burgers-and-fries comfort music, all greasy and salty and good going down. They have shaken up their setlists, and the High Sierra selections ranged through crystal jazz jamming and dub reggae pockets on the way to familiar fare like "Thorazine Shuffle" and the obligatory "Soulshine" encore. Ivan Neville's sit-in on keys during "32/20 Blues" was a ball, too. Primarily the child of hirsute '70s hard rockers like Mountain, Humble Pie, et al., Gov't Mule does electric blues rock as well as anyone ever has. There's no shame in being good at that, and if sometimes it feels like we've revisiting the same ground, it's never really an unpleasant return.

Railroad Earth

Warren Haynes - Gov't Mule by Susan J. Weiand
Railroad Earth has turned into a tremendous live band. Not that they were ever really wanting, but both their Friday late night and Saturday main stage sets were powerful, amazingly well played and paced for maximum effect. Their ability to read a crowd, to anticipate their desires and adjust in the moment was apparent at High Sierra. Combining traditional folk instrumentation with a lock tight rhythm section, they are the natural progression of something started decades ago by Fairport Convention, Pentangle and even The Byrds – folk music married to rock, which then honeymoons somewhere quite different. There's both modernity and antiquity to RRE, and the tension between the ages adds much to their excellent and ever-growing song list. Unlike many bands on the festival circuit, it's not the covers that garner the most attention but their originals, which are obviously gaining increased dearness with their fans. Saturday's late afternoon set was better attended and perhaps even more warmly received than RatDog's headlining performance immediately afterwards. It's worth noting that kind of love in the air, and in this instance it's totally warranted.

Bob Weir and RatDog

Oh how I wanted to like RatDog's headlining set on Saturday. Long a champion of Bob Weir and his rambling, jazz-inflected, blues rock warriors, it was frustrating and disappointing to listen to them work into "Dark Star" and find my mind wandering because the music didn't demand my attention. It's hard to put a finger on exactly what was off. They played well together, the solos were nicely constructed and the song choices were top flight but very little gelled completely. While it's been their ballsy character and irreverence for traditional arrangements that's made RatDog so engaging in recent years, this gig relied too heavily on nostalgia and the abundant goodwill the Dead's catalog holds for many of us. Guitarist Mark Karan played his ass off, the one true standout of the night, and it was wonderful to see him back in action after his recent health issues. Everyone else played well, too, but some indefinable spark one expects (and it's probably unfair to expect it) was missing. Not bad so much as just not all there.

Cornmeal

Allie Kral - Cornmeal by Susan J. Weiand
Cornmeal opened for Railroad Earth's late night gig and damn near charmed the pants off more than a few of us. There was something elegant yet homey about their playing and compositions, and the gusto they put into everything from the very first minutes was impossible to resist. They play bluegrass like a sophisticated cousin that takes bits from the Grateful Dead, '70s psych, country and more. Like myself, you may have a hard time tearing your eyes off their clear firebrand, violinist-singer Allie Kral, whose imaginative playing kept sending jaws to the floor at this set and during her guest appearance with RRE the next afternoon.

Benevento/Russo Duo

The Benevento/Russo Duo either completely click live or else ramble a bit self-indulgently. Fortunately, a big reduction in tour time and myriad creativity sparking side projects delivered the pair at their warmest and softly charming at their Thursday main stage set. Beginning in a comforting haze, the Duo very slowly turned up the heat, hitting the boiling point only after building up some trust. With Marco Benevento's keyboard array bumping against Joe Russo's percussion rack, they danced between spotlight outbreaks and bled over into one another's sound, letting things get messy if it fueled the music. "You all know Joey Russo? Well, it's all true," offered wiseass Benevento, who opened things up to "Q & A time" for a minute. While most couldn't hear the shouted inquiries up front, we did get Benevento's snarky retorts ("Indica versus sativa tonight at 3 a.m. on the main stage!") The "aah shucks" moment occurred when Benevento was handed his baby daughter Ruby after Russo had briefly used her as a hand percussion instrument (as any parent will tell you, great sound but VERY unpredictable). Ruby banged at the keys for a moment in the simplest but perhaps nicest solo of the weekend. The Duo's endless builds and straining for resolution made for a compelling, if easy going, stretch of electronica-jazz-classical-rock.

Bustle In Your Hedgerow

The Sparrow Quarter by Josh Miller
It would be easy for Bustle In Your Hedgerow to be some gimmicky bullshit. In fairness, one's appetite for cheese and pomp is tested by this instrumental Led Zeppelin cover unit comprised of Joe Russo (drums), Dave Dreiwitz (bass, also of Ween), Marco Benevento (keys) and undeniable group superstar, guitarist Scott Metzger (RANA, American Babies). But, watching them thumb down the Zep pleasure button during their Thursday late night opening set for The Mother Hips and again the next afternoon in the Big Meadow, one had only to surrender to the Valhallan splendor of their BIG, BIG ROCK thang and grin. The audience frequently jumped in to carry key vocals – a "la la la la la la" or Plant-ian "way down inside, woman, you need me" – and usually with zero prompting from Bustle. What always makes me happiest about this band is the fully '70s, large amp, shreddy burn Metzger brings to the table. It's a fool that steps into Jimmy Page's boots, but Scotty is a glorious fool that makes those heels click and skip. Even with all the other mayhem and melody happening around him, Metzger demanded our attention from top to tail. If anyone is paying attention, he's one of the under-sung treasures on his instrument. Hats off to Tom Hamilton for picking Metzger up for the American Babies, who plied roots rock at its finest at their very winning Friday Big Meadow set.

Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet

Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet were a total delight at their Thursday main stage set. Take seriously any ensemble where Bela Fleck plies his skills in service of another musician/composer's work. Add in the staggeringly talented Casey Driessen (violin) and Ben Sollee (cello) and you have one of the most gifted, enjoyable and exploratory acoustic groups today. You'd be hard pressed to find a bigger Uncle Earl fan than myself but Washburn's banjo and natural, unique voice shine most brightly here. Grabbing hunks of 78 rpm hot jazz, Eastern Chinese folk, bluegrass and chamber music, they offered up a great conversation to eavesdrop on. Minute details and subtle resonances abound in their interplay, which proved that seated musicians could make a good-sized festival crowd lean in and focus. Washburn introduced "Great Big Wall In China" as "a kind of meeting between Woody Guthrie and that great opera writer Puccini up on that mountain." The Sparrow Quartet erased distance and revealed the intersecting lines inside seemingly disparate music in the sympathetic vibrations of their voices and instruments.

New Monsoon

New Monsoon by Susan J. Weiand
Having seen a great many New Monsoon shows it still comes as a surprise that they keep evolving and finding fresh ways to explore their music and get it across with greater clarity. Their Friday main stage set was idyllic, pairing the perfect setlist for a postcard lovely summer day with stellar playing. Drummer Sean Hutchinson and bassist Marshall Harrell are driven cats out to make their mark, and that youth wave has swept up the others, making them refine and accentuate the many good things inside this band. Older cuts, like "On The Sun," were given a fresh face; in the case of "Sun," a razor sharp funk feel. With their mutating catalog, their ceaseless melodic grace shined on Friday, rushing from banjo to kick drum to searing electric guitar to ebullient piano. New Monsoon pours jazz fusion, stadium rock, high-end folk and considerably more into a single vessel, and while in the past it wasn't always able to contain such multitudes, today's incarnation has shaped something sturdy and beautiful that holds every drop.

Aphrodesia

Thirteen people is a LOT to wrangle but Aphrodesia made it seem easy on Friday. One of the few acts to fill up the massive main stage, they conjured a "Holy Ghost Invasion" that crept into our pores and heated us from the inside out. While grounded in Afrobeat and other Motherland flavors, Aphrodesia also draws heavily from American funk and soul pioneers like Sly Stone and James Brown, something reflected in their gift for performance. They haven't forgotten the value of being entertainers as they've explored global politics and social disorder on record. There's a sensual core and dusky vibe to them, and the tattered, moon age carnival tart costumes on their trio of female singers gave one a gateway into their complex but very appealing world. Mesmerized by hips and lips and wonderful, unpredictable voices, one could miss how much was going on musically and intellectually. Step back, let the elements rise and fall, and one discovered a gorgeously marbled marvel of cross-continental flavors. Friday was hard charging and firmly in the pocket, subtle shades sliding into brilliant colors that cut across one another to create new stripes in a rainbow of human creation. Well fucking done, folks.

EOTO

Trombone Shorty by J. Miller
There's not a lot terribly original about EOTO but there's no denying their pleasure in making this quasi-futuristic, improvised dance music. In 1995 this sound was new(ish) but today it's just blip-blonky good fun. It was hard to tell who had a better time on Friday night in the Vaudeville Tent - the hopping, twirling dancers on the grass or Michael Travis and Jason Hann. If you don't over think it too much, EOTO is fun; scrape at it and it's oddly sad, like a chrome and neon shopping mall, once so shiny and new, that's fallen behind the times.

Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty puts on a hell of a show. Both pure New Orleans stomp funk and something a little leaner, cleaner and today, Shorty and his vise-tight band, Orleans Avenue, hit the Vaudeville like a happy storm on Saturday night. There's no substitute for charisma and the buoyant energy of young men, and these boys have both in crazy abundance. Vibrating with soul, their musicianship and showmanship are impressive, especially for such a relatively new act.

Izabella

Izabella is a band to keep your eyes on. Their Thursday Shady Grove set ranged from Return To Forever-esque jamming to the sugary funk of Shuggie Otis' "Strawberry Letter 23" (their take the equal of the iconic Brothers Johnson hit version). For Izabella, "jam band" means something positive but neither is it a straightjacket that demands every tune be stretched and bloated with improv. Their originals are dead solid with hooky lines like "Thank you for the kisses, girl/ Thank you for the food you taught me to cook." This is exultant, flowing music, and follows in the Bay Area tradition of great forebears like the Sons of Champlin. Plus, lead singer Brian Rogers sings with genuine soul, which is pretty bloody rare in this vocally challenged age. Their self-description of "dance rock with a cherry on top" fits this consistently entertaining new group very well indeed.

Scott Amendola Band

Blue Turtle Seduction by Susan J. Weiand
The Scott Amendola Band put intelligence to groove early Saturday afternoon in the Big Meadow. Amendola is a drummer that recognizes talent and a bandleader that knows what to do with it. This stellar trio with keyboardist Wil Blades and guitarist Jeff Parker (Tortoise) funked shit up proper but also gave the serious musicos in attendance plenty to consider. There's terrific smarts to Amendola's work, and just leaning in to watch their gears turn and lock was a real pleasure. Was it jazz? Sort of. Soul? Yeah, though I'd call this trio soulful first. More than anything, it was great instrumental music that never once made you wish there were vocals or another instrument in the mix.

Blue Turtle Seduction

Blue Turtle Seduction filled the wee hours Thursday night with a bubbling, topplingly fun vibe. Everything about them danced, from the tunes to their demeanor to their growing, very engaged fanbase. The theme was "Punk Rock Pirates" and they offered up well played takes on the Misfits ("Astro Zombies") and The Clash ("Guns of Brixton") for the beautifully trashy costumed audience, but the overriding energy was a quasi-futuristic party planet – somewhere other than a building in the Sierras, where motion and color and joy swirl into a taste your body eventually craves. The other cover choices further reflected their range – an inspired reworking of Pearl Jam's "State of Love and Trust," a jaunty take on Wyclef Jean's "Perfect Gentleman" and R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)." Blue Turtle is a slow burn, and the 'seduction' at the end of their name is a clue to those that think they've got them figured out after a few minutes. Take a little more time, leave your preconceptions outside and actually listen, and you may find a more complex, modern group than you expected. Beyond that, they work tirelessly to create a good time for anyone who steps inside their sphere, and that alone is worth props.

Robben Ford

Papa Mali by Susan J. Weiand
I felt a right fool for having missed Robben Ford live before his Saturday afternoon set. There's not a lot of singers or guitarists one can reasonably compare to Buddy Guy but boy howdy does he deserve it! In the Big Meadow, Ford laid us flat with six-string pyrotechnics that teetered between hyper technical dazzle and nearly-off-the-rails wildness. Combined with his keening, sweet & sour singing, a curious and appealing blend of warmth and funky phrasing, and one great song after another, Ford's performance was one of those amazing surprises that High Sierra's programming offers open-minded participants.

Papa Mali

Papa Mali has the authority of an elder bluesman mingled with a shaman – a true crossroad walkin', folklore funkin' bundle of serious mojo. Talk to the man and he's sweetness incarnate, an articulate lover of a huge range of music (we discussed our shared mania for The Felice Brothers after his Saturday main stage set) and a gracious soul that warms your cockles. Put him onstage, especially when the lights go down (like during his crazy, twisty, intense Friday evening late set in the Vaudeville Tent), and this honeybee can sting with the best of 'em. Parts echoed early '70s John Lee Hooker, others Dr. John's "Nighttripper" period, but ultimately he's a unique soul. Papa brought it on "bon temps roule" style at his afternoon main stage show but it was his evening ramble that truly ignited his dark light magic. He's one for the ages.

Will Bernard

Will Bernard by Susan J. Weiand
After many years of being a revered musician's musician, Will Bernard is finally getting some of the attention and kudos he richly deserves. A ceaselessly tasty guitarist, Bernard's playing is a friendlier but no less brilliant cousin to the endlessly (and justly) lauded Nels Cline, who happens to be his peer and friend in the Bay Area jazz/experimental scene that Bernard inhabited for years before moving to NYC. Thursday in the Vaudeville Tent, Bernard and his ridiculously tight band chomped on grooves with grinning tenacity. Their knack for hold-and-release explosions kept the energy high and ears tuned in as Bernard cruised with the mercurial flow of Steve Cropper (Booker T & The MG's) and obvious ancestor Grant Green. But, there's more razor sharp teeth inside his bite – in the whole band really – than these touchstones. More simply, these guys were kinda mean in a really cool way.

Ashleigh Flynn and the Killdeer Orchestra

Sunday opened with Ashleigh Flynn and the Killdeer Orchestra under the Vaudeville Tent charming the sun from its hiding place. Some of the finest singer-songwriter stuff these ears have heard in a few years, Flynn and her boys (Portland's wonderful acoustic explorers Sneakin' Out under a new guise) beguiled a smiling audience that grew steadily throughout their set, drawing in passersbys with the sheer fineness of their picking, singing and composition. Seriously, I haven't been knocked back by a female songwriter like this since I first encountered a young Patty Griffin or Nanci Griffith. Flynn's uncommonly real tales possess an amazing eye for detail that situates one in the moment and captures all the small things we miss as life unfolds but ultimately prove to be the most important aspects of our experiences. Like the best outsiders, she captures all the ache of waiting on the sidelines as the pretty people glide across the dance floor, so much more graceful and beloved than we will ever be. Combine that fantastic raw material with a full-bodied, womanly voice and collaborators that tucked subtle, inspired complications into what can be well-worn territory and you had one of the festival's highlight this year. And their facility for quietly upending traditionals like "Rocky Top" and "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (carried along by typewriter percussion!) added icing to what was already a real joy. I will be seeking out Flynn's new album, American Dream, forthwith.

The Lee Boys

The Lee Boys by Susan J. Weiand
The Lee Boys demand your attention from the instant they step onstage. At least that was the case on Saturday when they took a bunch of barefoot hippies (and their associated comrades) to church. Their steel guitar driven rush reminded us that one doesn't need a steeple, pews or even the clergy to tap into the divine – God is everywhere and frequently most potently inside musical notes like the ones the Boys dished up. They rarely slapped a Bible or even mentioned the Almighty but there was plenty of Holy Spirit spilling out of their hop and strut. If it's true that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink, well, The Lee Boys have figured out that you just have to make folks thirsty before you offer them something to slake their dryness.

Akron/Family

I leave each Akron/Family performance feeling like I've gone through a cosmic meat grinder – all pink and new and tender. Without question, their Friday Vaudeville and Saturday Big Meadow sets were my personal high marks for High Sierra 2008, far more than a spot of brilliant music, a true and lasting experience, a moment of complete presence, ingenuity and passion. Describing their sound is like the old adage about "dancing to architecture." It is what it is – a fantastic, scorched, verdant amalgam of rock, jazz, blues, folk, punk, avant garde and kid's music strains. Both childlike and bug ass wild, Akron/Family drilled down to a ground of reality that made the earth shake and the air shimmer for some of us. Their undisguised exuberance engages one, offering a chance at profound experience and not just another concert. It's more than a little off-putting if you're not ready to throw down with them but what became clearer to me than ever at this festival was what you put into it with Akron/Family returns to you threefold. Much of what we imbibe musically is pure pleasure or distraction. Akron/Family might make us better people, helping us shed old skin and rise out of our constrictions through the power of song and sound. As I told them with kisses on their foreheads after each set, they make one glad to be alive.

Continue reading for more on High Sierra...

By: Andy Tennille

Surprise Me Mr. Davis

Marc Friedman - Surprise Me Mr. Davis by Scott Galbraith
Going into High Sierra 2008, there were a few acts I'd marked on my schedule as "can't miss," and Surprise Me Mr. Davis topped the list. Despite having regularly stopped through San Francisco the last several years on their way to and from the festival, I'd never had the opportunity to catch them, but this year's lineup afforded several opportunities to see the foursome in action.

The Slip has been around forever, or so it seems. As one of the preeminent '90s jam bands, the trio has played nearly every hole-in-the-wall venue and graced every festival stage our country has to offer, but it wasn't until the winter of 2003 that they met their musical match in Nathan Moore. Legend has it that Surprise Me Mr. Davis was formed when Moore was snowed in at The Slip's Boston apartment and the result of being holed up for a week was their 2004 self-titled debut released on Butch Trucks' Frogville Records.

For their Big Meadow stage set at High Sierra, the quartet drew from their album, but beyond the song selection, it was apparent that Moore's presence enabled the Barr brothers and Marc Friedman to relax and just play, something akin to The Band's backing of Ronnie Hawkins or Bob Dylan. The trio moved and grooved behind Moore's capable singing and hefty songwriting and delivered one helluva set. But more than anything, what Surprise Me Mr. Davis proved is that the whole is often times greater than the sum of its parts.

Eric McFadden Trio

Harley Prechtel-Cortez - TWU
By Josh Miller
With the cobwebs of Friday night's festivities lingering in the midday sun, Saturday's music got off to a ferocious start with the Eric McFadden Trio. Augmented into quartet status for the weekend by percussionist Doug Port, the Trio – with James Whiton on double bass and Paulo Baldi on drums – blew through an hour-long set of dark originals interspersed with a few choice covers, including an absolutely incendiary cover of The Clash's "Guns of Brixton," an instrumental jam and a slowed-down take on Outkast's "Ms. Jackson." With a new album out this summer, EMT continues to be among the best of the Bay Area bands. Should they gain some consistency in the drum seat, it's only a matter of time before San Francisco's best-kept secret becomes a household name for rock fans across the country.

The Weather Underground

While many groups on the High Sierra bill are habitual attendees, returning every year to perform in front of a sea of familiar faces, a few bands make their festival debut each July and have the opportunity to grow their fanbase in the process. For The Weather Underground – frontman Harley Prechtel-Cortez, bassist Ryan Kirkpatrick, drummer Diego Guerrero and guitarist Sho Bagley – High Sierra 2008 marked their first foray into festival gigging, but the immediacy and urgency of their mid-afternoon Thursday performance was well-received by the small crowd gathered at the Big Meadow stage. By the time the band took the stage the following afternoon at the Vaudeville Tent, word-of-mouth praise had spread across the festival grounds and the High Sierra faithful had packed the shaded stage to see what the buzz was about. Drawing songs from across their three, self-released EPs, TWU delivered an electric set that had the crowd calling for an encore and thus cemented the Los Angeles-based quartet as one of the festival's biggest surprises.


By: SuperDee

Charnett Moffett

High Sierra 2008 by Julie Blaustein
Bassist Charnett Moffett - named after his father, jazz drummer Charles Moffett, and mentor, jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman - was born with an undeniable gift for improvisation. He is a prime example of a musician that just feels the music and what he plays comes out effortlessly and naturally. Somehow, he is able to put this innate sense into words as he did at the improv playshop at High Sierra. Joined by Andrew Barr on drums, Marco Benevento on keys, Stephane Wrembel on guitar and Laurence Scudder (Ryan Montbleau Band) on viola, Charnett gave a lesson on how to listen to other players and combine sounds to create one. In a very cosmically charged session, we learned that "all sounds are created equal" and that all keys can blend together to create something beautiful. And then he proceeded to drop jaws by playing a distorted Jimi Hendrix style "Star Spangled Banner" on his upright. Truly an inspirational High Sierra moment!

And with that we start planning for the 19th installment of the High Sierra Music Festival. It's the one place we know we'll be each and every year!

Continue reading for images from High Sierra...

Images by: Josh Miller

Akron/Family
Miles Seaton - Akron/Family
Miles Seaton - Akron/Family
Akron/Family
Buckethead
Buckethead
Doug Martsch - Built To Spill
Brett Nelson - Built To Spill
Mike Gordon
Charlie Hunter
Fred Wesley (with Groovesect)
Michael Franti
Dave Dreiwitz - Bustle in Your Hedgerow
Scott Metzger - Bustle in Your Hedgerow
Joe Russo - Bustle in Your Hedgerow
American Babies
Nathan Moore
Brad Barr & Nathan Moore - Surprise Me Mr. Davis
Brad Barr & Marc Friedman - The Slip
Chris Gangi & Allie Kral - Cornmeal
Allie Kral - Cornmeal
Ivan Neville & Tony Hall - Dumpstaphunk
Skerik - Critters Buggin
Dustin Apodaca - Dusty Rhodes and the River Band
Bela Fleck Workshop
Keller Williams
Marco Benevento & Andrew Barr - Camp Harry
Warren Haynes - Gov't Mule
Bob Weir - RatDog
Tim Bluhm - The Mother Hips
Greg Loiacono - The Mother Hips
Todd Sheaffer - Railroad Earth
Ryan Montbleau
Langhorne Slim
Monophonics
Fred Torphy (Big Light) & Nathan Moore

Continue reading for even more images from High Sierra...

Images by: Susan J. Weiand

Emmitt-Nershi Band
Aphrodesia
Eric McFadden & Papa Mali - Blues Workshop
Eric McFadden Trio
Robben Ford
Dan Lebowitz
Mike Gordon
Ivan Neville sitting in with Mike Gordon
Fred Wesley (with Groovesect)
Sean Lehe - Izabella
Akron/Family
Keller Williams & Keith Moseley - WMDs
March Fourth Marching Band
Nathan Moore
Monophonics
Buckethead
Wil Blades & Scott Amendola
Joe Craven
Dumpstaphunk
Michael Franti
Charlie Hunter
Sean Hutchinson - New Monsoon
The Heavy Pets
Bob Weir - RatDog
John Skehan - Railroad Earth
Tim Carbone - Railroad Earth
Ryan Montbleau
Trombone Shorty
Vida Girls
Carolyn Wonderland
Michael Girardot - Rotary Downs

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Comments

First_Panda_in_Space starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/15/2008 07:57PM
Show -14 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
alltimepanic Tue 7/15/2008 08:58PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

sounds like fun...

Nate1110 starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/15/2008 09:14PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Thanks to Akron/Family for being a breath of fresh air and inspiration. Way to push the envelope...

I love me sum High Sierra.

-Proprietor at the Big Pig Bar

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/15/2008 09:19PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Wow guys, how is it that none of you choose to writeabout/see/hear the Ryan Montbleau Band? This band is tearing it up on the East Coast, and really making a name for themselves. I really wanted to read about their set, and about the crowd for them. On well. Still, thanks for sharring the West Coast love with us. Great reviews and pics.

Justin Gillett Tue 7/15/2008 09:22PM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Justin Gillett

Damm!!! I knew I should have gone. Even if it was only for the late night New Monsoon show!

Sizlunt Tue 7/15/2008 09:35PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Sizlunt

Izabella was one of my favorite shows that whole weekend, my only complaint is that they had a daytime set and it was hot as hell, but if you get a chance, check those guys out. RRE was solid. I disagree about Ratdog, the crowd was loving the hell out of it and I enjoyed getting a Dark Star, its one of the songs I always somehow missed seeing when the Grateful Dead were still touring. Emett Nershi band was solid, and their little workshop together was kick ass, nice little mellow point for the middle of the day to get out of the heat. Low point for me was a huge let down by Keller Williams and the WMD's. Kind of sucked because I kept it really mellow all day that day to go to their late night, and it was nearly unlistenable to me. Other than that though, I had a hell of a time at High Sierra, even despite the nuclear winter smoke.

pornofunk starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/15/2008 09:36PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

pornofunk

wow gordo's looks skinny

-when am i going to beable to go a day w/o seeing franti?

Ching starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/15/2008 10:05PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

No mention of Marco Benevento playing w Lee Boys both days??? The set on Sunday w Marco was ON FIRE!!! Great article though!!!

Here is link to the video of Marco w Lee Boys

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faMHzseliFk&fmt=18

androckguitar starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/15/2008 11:15PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

androckguitar

Awesome, Amazing fun time this year!

One of the best festival experiences...incredible vibe this year.

I thought this was the best fest since 05 High Sierra for me.

androckguitar starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/15/2008 11:22PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

androckguitar

continued...

Highlights were Gov't Mule, New Monsoon Late Night with Tim Carbone from RRE (this was so sick, loved NM grandstand show as well)

Robben Ford, Micheal Franti always a fun party, Bustle in your Hedgerow, Papa Mali free late night, and many many others

I'm sure Rothbury was great but I wouldn't trade in my experience at this fest for anything.

I love how I was five ppl back from the stage during Gov't Mule and still had room to move around and dance with all the great ppl around me.

androckguitar Tue 7/15/2008 11:22PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

androckguitar

*Michael Franti

PunkJazz starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 03:02AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

PunkJazz

A fest on the west is always the best!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Wed 7/16/2008 03:37AM
Show -7 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
Sixmilliondollarman Wed 7/16/2008 05:45AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Sixmilliondollarman

Scott Murawski kicks ass.

snausages Wed 7/16/2008 05:45AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

snausages

I agree with you PunkJazz.

and i hate i missed it :(

Greatwaves Wed 7/16/2008 06:44AM
Show -5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
tourfan starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 07:01AM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

dparriss1 - I don't think you understood the Rothbury review at all ... it wasn't a negative review. The writer of that review was simply making the point that he hoped that Rothbury wouldn't turn into the next Bonnaroo, by getting to big and overcrowded, and booking mainstream popular acts - Metalica and Kanye West !!!! Further, Jambase is based in San Francisco, and HS is a few hours away. HS is this sites premire event. As an east coaster whom couldn't make either Rothbury or High Sierra, I am very pleased with the coverage the site gave both fests. I would love to know what you read in the Rothbury review tha made you feel it "was completely negative" ???? Not the Rothbury review I read. I think JB very much wants to see Rothbury succeed.

jackstraw1984 Wed 7/16/2008 07:03AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

jackstraw1984

This was a great review that really made me want to go to High Sierra in the future. That being said, what is Jambase doing sending around 6 or 7 writers who all write great reviews and by all accounts have good taste in music to this fest, and only sending one guy who wouldn't know good music if slapped him right upside the domepiece to Rothbury? (and for the record, good music DID slap that guy in the face and he chose to ignore it) I'm sure High Sierra is one of the best established fests out there, but you guys at Jambase did a disservice to everyone who didn't go to Roth by not covering it with the gusto you did this. My 2 cents. I'll write for you, shit.

mickrod420 starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 07:28AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

FUCK yeah RRE. I hope their music spreads much further than NJ! ]

msudtg Wed 7/16/2008 07:30AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

msudtg

High Sierra looked like a blast, im glad dumpdtaphunk was there because that is the only thing that Rothbury was missing( meters reunion!!!) I agree, why is HS a detailed band-by-band review, while the rothbury reviews focuses on how clean it was and how cool the sherwood forest was. Rothbury was almost too much, more than 10 hours every day, probably 10 miles a day and I couldn't see every band I wanted too. The writer who reviewed rothbury was obviously overwhelmed, having to run from band to band and catch 15 minutes of an act and then write about it. Not an easy thing to do, and the readers are the ones who miss out. Next time Jambase should consider hiring local writers. I am a published writer and would have been more than willing to write a review for Jambase for the price of a ticket, that way they could get some diversity in opinion. By the way 10,000 lakes fest is coming up and that is gonna rock

Runde starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 07:49AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Runde

Wow, great review! My High Sierra experience was heavenly. Small enough to see everything I wanted to, diverse enough of a lineup to be turned on to tons of new acts(Akron! James Hunter! Big Light!), and probably the most friendly scene and staff of any festi I've ever been to. Highlights included: Surprise Me Mr Davis at Camp Harry, Critters Buggin' Late Night and Rotary Downs at the Vaudeville. Three cheers to everyone who made HSMF '08 one of the best weekends of my life. Hurrah!

commentmaker starstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 07:53AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Rothbury and its organizers made a hugely greedy and disrespectful (not to mention incredibly stupid) move by putting it on the same weekend as High Sierra, which has been going on for 18 years. High Sierra is Jambase's local party so it's not surprising that they would give it more ink than Rothbury. The thing that I'm upset about is that they decided to not cover a lot of the bands that were there so they could report on Akron/Family twice?! I was at that wook-cult circus and it wasn't any more worth reporting on than anything else. It's obvious they have their favorites (The Slip, Nathan Moore, ALO, etc) so that's who their coverage always centers around and this review is no different. Festival gets an A. Review gets a C.

danpfunk Wed 7/16/2008 07:55AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I thought this was a great review. Very well written and really told me what the vibe and the music was about. Which is what a review should be. You Rothbury clones are something else. Whats the point of a write up on all 95 bands at Rothbury? “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” If you went, then you made your choices then, if you didn't, then reading about it wouldn't have made up for it. I know it was an awesome fest but don't expect this site to change its name to Rothburybase, I have been to plenty of festivals that get no coverage here or anywhere else.

gamecat starstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 08:02AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

gamecat

One of the best fests I've ever been to!

Great people and above all else, GREAT MUSIC!

Surprise Me Mr. Davis was so good.

Nathan Moore is one of the best songwriters around.

Dumpstaphunk late night with Skerik was out of control.

Didn't finish til after 4am.

RRE, Cornmeal, Emmitt-Nershi, Blue Turtle Seduction,...so much good bluegrass.

I can go on and on.

From the workshops to the kickball games @ 6 in the morning, HSMF is like no other festival.

Thanks for a great time!

Robusto Wed 7/16/2008 08:43AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Robusto

Joe Craven IS an instrument.

jtcincy starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 08:52AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

jtcincy

HIGH SIERRA KICKS ASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FREAKY FANTABULUS!!!

Lobster starstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 08:58AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Lobster

Nice article. Great pix as usual. A little surprised there's no review of Dumpstaphunk's shows or Five Eyed Hand's sangria party and no mention of Stephane Wremble, all who threw down hard. Can't mention everyone I know but most surprised about Dumpstaphunk who had huge crowds at both their main stage and late night blowouts. Can you smell it?

Andy starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 09:03AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Andy

High Sierra is an amazing fest. Wonderfully planned and executed. A highlight for me was Cornmeal. One thing to say is that I would argue that HSMF is very green. There was a compost. Every camp was given a trash and recycle bag, and I didn't see any trash anywhere all weekend. So, its probably as green as Roth if not more green, but doesn't have to make a big deal about it. Music is the focus of HSMF

jerryil starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 09:04AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

jerryil

Commentmaker...... Akron Family being a "wook-cult circus." That's priceless!!! I dragged five good friends to watch those clowns and we all laughed hysterically at how terrible they were. Needless to say we left and went to see something worth our time. These guys are a joke. Don't let the article fool you into thinking otherwise. Besides that I FREAKIN' LOVE HIGH SIERRA AND CAN'T WAIT FOR THE FOURTH OF JULY EVERY YEAR!!!!!!

jackstraw1984 Wed 7/16/2008 09:24AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

jackstraw1984

ps- ole' keith moseley's wearin the same shirt he was wearing at rothbury. funny....

RedHeaven starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 09:27AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

RedHeaven

YEAH Jambase!! YEAH High Sierra!! This is beautiful!

Let me get out of the way that High Sierra is too special for me to use this comment section as an explanation of why HSMF got a more detailed review overall than Rothbury.....if you havent been, then you dont know. Im sure Relix will cover Rothier berries over higher sierras.

Its pretty amazing for a 7K festival to be SOOOOO unique for everyone. Everyones going to have their own High Sierra. I happen to have one thats more centered around the hoe downs and the super groove funk and the untz. Im really glad Jambase included awesome write ups for Izabella and BLue Turtle!!! Reading both of those sent my heart fluttering. Blue Turtle put the punk rock in HSMF for the first time, and even busted out the Ramones at their Sunday eve set.

Let me mention that Tim Carbone of RRE was definitely an MVP, played with Monsoon all of their late nite...I think Monsoon deserved a more epic review, but I'll help: Their late nite was truimphant. This is a High SIerra staple band that hasnt been on the line up in a few years, (milesgone heres your answer to why bands take breaks) and they made their return HUGE!!! Best Monsoon I have ever seen. The RRE late nite (they took a break last year) was, dare I say, the best show I have ever seen in my 20 years of seeing live music. Top notch performance + my favorite venue = oh yeah.

Anyone notice the Beatles Synchronicity going on this year at High Sierra. Unplanned, the Beatles were everywhere. Monsoon did a BRAIN CHANGING version of I Am the Walrus for late nite, Govt Mule had Dear Prudence and Love Me Do, Sneakin Out did a plethora of em, Gordo did She Said She Said, and I heard a lot of Sgt Pepper in the PAs!

Theres a reason why bands take a break from HS, the fest needs to keep it fresh and keep it churning, or the festival spirit will get lost. This festival has a spirit like no other, and I am a proud lifetime attendee. I saw all 4 kickball games this year which included the members of Blue Turtle Seduction and Michael Travis in the realms.

Speaking of Travis, this was my first time seeing EOTO and I thought they were completely inspiring!! I hope they return. I thought their build ups and segues were unique to that style of music, which IMO was MUCH needed this year. Props to the Carbonated EOTO late nite that was to DIE for.

I just loved visiting all the camps. I saw Kanvus at Camp Harry and I ate the best crab cake in the world served at Camp Happiness. We had an epic post Railroad Earth late nite Bacon and Mimosa party at Camp Wood Bee that was a great morning treat.

More highlights for me was the March Fourth Marching Band parade that I randomally walked into. Ryan Montbleu made a new fan out of me first with his excellent cover of Electric Avenue, then with the realization of what an awesome tune 75 and Sunny was. Cornmeal playshop pickathon with RRE members, Bo from Monsoon, and Christian from Blue Turtle. Cozier than a cashmere sweater on Christmas. I also had an amazing time at DUMPSTAPHUNK late nite!!! This is the MARDI GRAS that High Sierra truly spirits!!! It made me reminiscent of epic all night Karl Denson shows there in years previous.....Dumpstaphunk was way on, and is a staple way to groove thru the High Sierra darkness.

Jambase has their personal High Sierra, and the lovely thing about that, is they love it so much they cant stop writing about it. I might not be into the Akron Fam (I tried, I really did) or SMMD (Again, I really tried this year) but I see it as a love they have that is so strong, they make it a yearly thing to revel in, and thats awesome. Long live the spirit of HIGH SIERRRRRRRAAAAAAA!!!!!! see you every year!

If anyones interesed in seeing a SHIT ton of people pics that are mostly of the WIERD SURREAL stuff, like sunrises and empty fields and Kickball, plus that cornmeal playshop, smiling fans, check mine out: http://picasaweb.google.com/SamsaBee/HighestSierraFestivaaaal2008

Natey starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 09:32AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Natey

Commentmaker--well put. Not only is HSMF the BEST festival around, it has pretty much laid the foundation for all festivals we know of today....and for any festival to slap them in the face like Rothbury....man. I can still remember the first time I saw SCI at HSMF in '97 (they loved it). There is VERY good reason why High Sierra deserves the best write-up (even if they did think Akron/Family was the best?)

marik Wed 7/16/2008 09:36AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

nice pic of brad barr blazing a joint!

AZ~*Droo* starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 09:57AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

AZ~*Droo*

awesome lil write up redheaven! those blue turtle boys ripped it up both nights!DO WHAT WE WANT!!! and i almost have to agree about the RRE latenight, maybe the best show ive ever seen. it was so magical. i freaked for ROAD HOUSE BLUES!!! i hope to see that show on the archive soon i still cant beleive what i expirienced a couple of weekends ago. the vibe is still buzzing in my heart and i hope it keeps buzzing till next yr. this fest will live on forever no matter who is playing.

blower starstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 10:14AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Good pics-fair review at best. Way to centered around the Bay Area music scene. That is fine and undestandable, but seems a little cultish. The Slip and SMMD are ok and a good time, but really don't warrant the majority of review space every year. Move on Jambase!

Mule=predictable, Papi Mali, Robin Ford, Slip, Mother Hips=not predictable. Makes no sense. Mule killed at as usual and were tighter and more professional than just about anyone else and that is why I pay to see them. New Monsoon was epic. Dumpstafunk, RRE, Bustle were great. No write up of the fantastic Emmit/Nershi show. Best suprise for me was the Spam Allstars. Seriously jambase get off the Slip bandwagon and wonder round a little.

HSMF still reigns as the best time I have ever had pretty much anywhere doing anything. I will be back for number 7 next year. Thanks for tall the good times.

breckenridgejam starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 10:29AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

breckenridgejam

Wow, that Marco Benevento & Andrew Barr - Camp Harry picture sure does look stoney baloney!

Natey starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 11:01AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Natey

I am sorry to chime in again.....Blower, the Slip and SMMD could never be written/promoted enough. These guys have been working hard on being TRUE artists (which is a rarity nowadays) for a long time with very little deserved recognition. If we could call anything a BANDWAGON it wouldn't be associated with these guys.

PS I love the Mule, but they ARE more predictable than many of the bands this year....as most main stage closers.

androckguitar Wed 7/16/2008 11:31AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

androckguitar

oh yeah....forgot to put Dumpstaphunk as a Highlight.

Colonel Redbeard Wed 7/16/2008 11:44AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Colonel Redbeard

The intro paragraphs mirror my sentiments exactly ... once again, High Sierra is the highlight of my calendar year - plans are already being made for next year and I absolutely CAN. NOT. WAIT.!!

granola starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 12:42PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I dont understand why on jambase festival reviews they only have pics of the bands instead of the beautiful land and crowds that all of these festivals are on. I think that a lot of people are more interested in seeing those kind of pics than of still shots of people we see all the time just playing an instrument

blower Wed 7/16/2008 12:58PM
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Natey-I don't disagree with the statement that Mule is predictable. Thats why I go see them. I want my face rocked off! Only saying that many others are as well like Robin Ford who played standard straight up blues. Thats what he does. That does not have anything to do with the quality of their show or their chops. Buckethead was predictable as well, so what he kicked ass. The Slip and SMMD are true artists as are everyone else that played at HSMF.

The Slip have been covered extensively at HSMF for years by jambase and thats fine but it seems like overkill to me sorry. Music is about taste and I honestly thought the Slip were just good, but not exceptional, just like everytime I have seen them play over the last 6-8 years. The exception being when they played with the Living Daylights. Not even in the top ten this year for me. So to me they are very predictable. I have heard them do the same thing for years. If they as great as you convey they would get the deserved recogniton somewhere other than Jambase.

Kaycemans first page was great writing however and the pics where great.

rpmills starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 02:13PM
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So bummed I missed this year. Looks like the usual High Sierra magic was in full effect. Even more bummed that I missed Five Eyed Hand's first HSMF performance. This band is killing it. And its still nice to see the bands throwing down the RV and campsite sets...shit like that doesn't happen at any other bigger festival. After reading this review I can't possibly miss this fest next year.

Well done HSMF. And thanks Jambase for the coverage. Kayce always does a great job of conveying the feel/vibe of the show. Funny folks have the nerve to complain considering Jambase is basically the only site (not blog) that gives decent coverage of the scene. Be grateful for what you have.

RedHeaven starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 02:14PM
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RedHeaven

If you want pics of the innards of High Sierra, I posted a link up there in my comment, soley for the purpose of giving you all who have never been an underbelly look at this amazing surreal festival. Here it is again:

http://picasaweb.google.com/SamsaBee/HighestSierraFestivaaaal2008

Im wondering if the reviewers didnt like EOTO because they just arent into that kind of music much? When youre not into something, it all sounds alike most the time. When I was younger I didnt like jazz and thought it all sounded alike until I got into it, now its all very distinguished.

bluefox starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 02:51PM
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bluefox

Great reviews! I think what some folks forget about jambase is that you don't have to be an 'official jambase person' to write a review or get it put up. If you submit a well-written, thoughtful and hate-free review they will generally post it on their site. If you want Rothbury covered in depth or whatever, do it yourself! A lot of the content on here is user-submitted and unpaid.

And keep the Slip/SMMD/Nathan Moore coverage coming! Also thought Akron/Family was good fun...Don't get too hung up on how they look...

hawkleberry starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 03:18PM
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hawkleberry

Akron/Family, The Mother Hips and Robben Ford all blew me away at High Sierra this year. Also, Guitarmeggedon w/all the sit ins really kicked some ass - Eric McFadden playing Black Sabbath YES

Conjugal Burning Wed 7/16/2008 03:42PM
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Conjugal Burning

Bucket is still wearing the all white bucket?? KFC must have threatened to sue after all these years

UncleStinky starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 04:03PM
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UncleStinky

One of my favorite things about this festival is getting to see old favorites rock it late night but more importantly are all the bands I've been introduced to at HSMF (STS9, Garaj Mahal, etc.) This year's top for me had to have been IZABELLA....these guys ROCK!!!! check em out!!!!

cygnusx11 starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 04:16PM
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Hey gang - to all those cats wishing they would have seen more coverage on certain bands, festivals, food, toilets and whatever else you like - why dont you write about it? Jambase is written not only by the folks that work there, but music lovers like yourself. Instead of waiting for someone not to write about some of your favorite things...why dont you pick up a pencil and do it yourself.

swanroad starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 11:09PM
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Thanks for the excellent coverage; the text and photos are much appreciated. I'm happily reliving one of the finest HSMFs I've ever attended (2008 being my 10th annual).

I'm glad I can get my fill of good music and enjoy jaw-dropping puppet show (March Fourth, that was too much fun).

I can never get enough of Joe Craven and Drew Emmitt, among others.

whooley Thu 7/17/2008 08:31AM
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MoJoW & the Vibration Army would have loved to be there, but we have been focusing on LA. We hope to be back next year with our stage show. We were recently on the cover of the LA Weekly!!

http://vibrationarmy.com

RedHeaven starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/17/2008 09:46AM
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RedHeaven

WE MISSED VIBRATION ARMY!

Missed your antics in the food court....I hope youre back next year.

melkava8 starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/17/2008 10:30AM
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melkava8

I can't help but love how much Jambase loves The Slip. Right now that band plays about once a year unless they are playing as part of Surprise Me Mr Davis. And every time I see them it rocks so hard. I also loved Ryan Montbleau, he was so much fun, good positive danceable music. I feel like if you had a chance to catch those early morning Big Light sets they definitely deserved some quality praise. 10:30am at HSMF that's brutal for anyone. And then someone mentioned Jambase loves ALO and it seems they do, but there was no mention of Lebo's set. Which does Lebo ever let anyone down...no.

thehurricane23 Thu 7/17/2008 11:18AM
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thehurricane23

Man how did I miss out on the Ak/Family so long? Just been blasting "Ed is a Portal", mindblower. Sdntribefreak I agree, if you look at submitting a story, the editors tell you that the readers don't care about the venue or fan shots, in reality I could care less about seeing a stock photo of a musician on stage holding their instrument. You can go to their website if thats what you want. Hopefully I'll make it out to HS some year, looks like a blast, and I'm sure the Chron is flowing...

thehurricane23 Thu 7/17/2008 11:28AM
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thehurricane23

Skerik with the D'phunk late night...oh my gawd. That alone would have got me there if I was on the best coast. And after seeing RRE at Allgood during a Sunday day slot, I can imagine a late night with them, they are tearing it up right now.

ClarkSean starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/17/2008 11:48AM
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Wow, what a great review. Great pics too. You've articulated my recent feelings at Ratdog perfectly.

iwantstogetfunkedup Thu 7/17/2008 03:29PM
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HIGH SIERRA is the shit!!!!!! I also must agree that Ratdog is a little tired. The best parts of Ratdog are Jay Lane and Kenny Brooks who are much more at home with the jazz and funk they played with Charlie Hunter and Alphabet Soup back in the day. BUT, who can blame someone for going with a great paycheck. They've paid their dues and then some.

chicoavenue Fri 7/18/2008 09:53AM
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ahh the magic of HS. you know, i have to admit i had my doubts this yr with Rothbury and all. But it didn't matter in the least, the weekend was incredible as usual. before my review of the bands-the staff, sound guys, & people always help make HS great! Oh & I was sorry to have missed Nathan Moore this yr ( alas only 1 last song at the vaudeville tent-maybe Thamusemeant next yr.) So...my highlights

Thurs: Vida girls, Will Bernard (galactic/funky), the playshop with Craven on fiddle, Emmitt, Nershi (& 2 guys on banjo & base) & later that night on the big meadow. Wow, what a treat-like back in the old days! They did some of drew's songs & a killer restless wind & jelly fish. Personally, I preferred SCI in their earlier days so I thought it was beautiful. Then Bustle in your Hedgegrow (better than I expected-its gotta be tough covering LZ...but would i want to sit thru a whole set, nah. & MHs-on fire!

Fri: Dusty Rhodes & the River Band-can you say amen?! These kids rock-think the Band with a gorgeous female dark haired fiddle player. 3 great voices, piano, enthusiasm. Go see them! Trombone Shorty (from NOLA & horns)-yep another booty shaking event-3 cheers a favorite of mine for the wkend. Dumpstaphunk -what can you say?! There the shit & the best that wkend!! Gov't Mule sounded good from camp, better than i usually think of them. & finally Papa MAli (including spec guests ivan neville, alo guy, & others) in vaudeville-voodoo magic once again. thank you!

Sat: Eric Mcfadden-sweet, darkly disturbing rock N roll. he's the shit! CArolyn Wonderland--triple threat (Blues queen)! GO check her out. another fav of the wkend. The Lee Boys w/ Benevento sitting in all wkend was insane. Besides dumpstaphunk, these guys probably had me dancing the hardest. & Robben Ford- a master! James Hunter Band-kudos-(R&B/soul) great voice & tight band. Then late night w/ groovesect (NOLA funk) & Fred Wesley (member of JBs, Parliament/Funkadelic)& then Dumpstaphunk w/ not only skerik all night, but the OG drummer from Sly & the Family Stone for 2 Sly songs. Fun fun!!

Sun: Rotary Downs-pleasantly surprised Lee Boys & Benevento again did not disappoint! Then with ALo-bass player & unknown drummer, papa mali, eric mc fadden & carolyn wonderland had a fantastic roundrobbin playshop. Oh & one of my favs, was the MONOPHONICS from SF. They are GROOVY. Thankfully I left Keller at the right time & ran into these guys on the RV. They are the shit! By Sunday, I was pretty beat so I ended my night with Eric Mcfadden late night-incredible musician & he had this awesome odd-looking stand-upbass player with him too, & a drummer.

chicoavenue Fri 7/18/2008 10:00AM
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P.S. I meant Eric Mc fadden's awesome base player had an odd looking instrument.

Deon starstarstarstar Fri 7/18/2008 10:17AM
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Deon

All this time and STILL nobody has talked about Gamelan X. Their vibrations cant be captured in any recording. See them live the next chance you get. These people are connected together as many parts to a whole while they are playing together, and with a band that huge with that many percussion players, its all jam. They channel music from different realms than most. It is obvious that music is a HUGE part of these peoples spirituality. Besides the fact that they use a good number of sacred sound healing devices in their music.

Wood Bee Bacon and Mimosa party was non stop!

AT WHAT OTHER FESTIVAL do you get MIKE TRAVIS or VINCE HERMAN @ kickball while the sun is coming up? Or Blue Turtle Seduction taking Kickball over? Let me know cause I want to go to that too.

I loved getting to see Kanvus, 5 Eyed Hand, Gamelan X, Heavy Pets (I missed Big Light) and all the other local bands written about in the article simply because they are awesome and dont really play anywere besides west coast. BTS and Izabella play out here in CO, but they are still growing a a base out here, it is growing though.

So glad I could hear the non stop Camp Harry renegade late night show from my tent 30 feet away. That and be able to walk to the front of 2 different stages in 3 minutes, all of them in 5. I KNOW THAT DIDNT HAPPEN @ ROTH.

Deon Fri 7/18/2008 10:22AM
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Deon

EOTO KILLS IT BTW

Jen starstarstarstar Sun 7/20/2008 05:52PM
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Jen

Mostly Well Said! What a review! SEE YA NEXT YEAR!

LusciousLovelyLiquid starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/24/2008 09:36AM
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LusciousLovelyLiquid

Yes, another incredible High Sierra...thanks for the great review & photos JamBase!!!! Every year this is my favorite weekend, and it's always fun to relive it with the JB story/pics And thanks for the crazy crowd/venue shots Samsa!!! I'm with you, I really dug the EOTO set in the Vaudeville, they seemed completely in synch with the crowd, which is a big part of what all-improv is, right? Drawing inspiration from the feeling in the air? I loved SMMD too though, so I'm OK with all that coverage...

Good point folks who urged disgruntled Rothbury attendees to get on it and write/submit their own reviews. The JamBase regulars are High Sierra faithful, why expect these music lovers to give up their absolute favorite musical weekend of the year to review something else, far from home? If you went to Rothbury add your review to the comment section on that review to beef up the coverage! And next year submit a request to do an official review...don't wait until then though, start by submitting a review or two of some other festivals you'll be attending this year so JB knows you and accepts your Rothbury application...

High Sierra Music Festival starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/29/2008 05:53PM
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High Sierra Music Festival

Thanks so much for the kind words and great pictures. We love JamBase!

kathryn93 starstarstar Sat 8/2/2008 05:42PM
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kathryn93

Did anyone see BLVD and MC Souleye at the festi???? How come no love for them in the article...they were off the hook and have been a staple of HS for years. They ruled the late night party scene!!!