Las Tortugas III | 10.30 – 11.02 | CA

Words by: Dennis Cook | Images by: Josh Miller

Las Tortugas – Dance of the Dead III :: 10.30.08 – 11.02.08 :: Evergreen Lodge :: Groveland, CA

Las Tortugas 2008 :: Groveland, CA
The sound I carry home with me from Las Tortugas – Dance of the Dead III, the reverberation captured in memory's locket, is laughter. The easy peel of people truly at ease, unguardedly happy and blissfully free is a rare sound, and one that echoed from pre-music Thursday afternoon on through a Sunday sanctified with revels, hard work, showmanship and, above all, sweet music poured out with humility, skill and deep passion. Let's be honest, music festivals are a dime a dozen and often amount to little more than a few stages, some kegs and a loud PA. What emerged in the third year of this Blue Turtle Seduction hosted gathering near Yosemite was a bucolic lil' slice of life – something too dear to last more than a few days but positively intoxicating while in existence. Tortugas is a festival designed by and for festivarians – a safe, contained world where music is treasured and showcased, where both musicians and audience are valued and allowed space to, as the program encouraged, "freak freely."

Driving into the woods, one hits a place where cell phones cut out and most markers of the bullet fast 21st century world slip away. Pulling off the highway onto the rugged seven-mile back road that leads to Evergreen Lodge, one truly enters a different world, a pleasant sort of dislocation. Pulling up to the log adorned cabins, one feels they've arrived at a pastoral trading post for weirdoes and ramblers, long hairs and moonshiners. Despite being Federal land, one picks up on a delightful outsider-ness at Evergreen, and one quickly wonders why many haven't picked up on this phenomenal gem amongst the tall trees. With clean, warm cabins with hot showers, a general store with long hours and good espresso drinks, a full bar and restaurant, a cozy fireplace warmed lounge with free long distance and Internet access, as well as three lovingly decorated, acoustically great, centrally located stages and easy pathways everywhere, it's not hard to fall in love with the place.

As much as the music, the environment played a major factor in setting a self-contained mood, a shared community dedicated to good times accessed through sound waves, dance and a neighborly spirit that'd bring a grin to Andy Griffith's face. Everywhere people tacked up Christmas lights and laid out Halloween decorations, offered sniffs of this and tastes of that to strangers, stuffed bellies into spandex and painted their faces. Even in the earliest hours of the festival, one sensed a collective rush to create a unified, electrified experience. The only thing I can compare it to is the elaborate setups one encounters at High Sierra, and frankly this felt better, perhaps because of its smaller size, indoor plumbing, real beds and other small but significant differences. While a new tradition, Las Tortugas has all the makings of an annual event that folks will mark on the calendar in permanent ink.

Thursday, 10.30.08

Josh Brough - Poor Man's Whiskey
A few minutes of Poor Man's Whiskey's fest opening set erased any weekday feeling. Blasting out fiddle sawing, rusty trumpet quacking and guitars shivering, they announced the ferocity and unreal musicianship that would mark the entire weekend. While often tagged a bluegrass or string band, Poor Man's energy was pure rock 'n' roll – the '50s variety, full of danger and sex and barely controlled fire. The packed Tuolumne Hall, the medium sized indoor stage, shook, assess and elbows flying, as Whiskey poured on coal, showing no signs of slowing. Dressed in ad hoc Guns n' Roses costumes in honor of the evening's "Welcome To The Jungle" theme (which also brought out an alarming number of anthropomorphic fur hats and leopard print fabric), PMW sang about being "P.M.S. (Pretty Much Screwed)" and settled a welcoming arm around everyone. The distant flickers of the Dave Stein Bubhub coming from The Tavern, the smaller indoor stage, seemed to be doing their wooing with jammy intensity, fueled heavily by ever-dexterous keyboardist Jordan Feinstein, who cropped up in different aggregates all weekend. By 9 p.m. on a Thursday, surrounded by lions and tigers and bears, one felt full flung into the festival experience.

Those needing a final shove needed only to plant themselves at The Mother Hips' main stage (The Terrapin Big Top Tent) christening set. Starting late due to Tim Bluhm's traffic woes, they showed no dust, no hesitation with a selection of comfortable favorites played with grit and Cheshire smiles. Every now and again I think they realize they're an American rock great, and that surfaces in muscular, sensuous playing like this performance. I doubt they'd ever admit it consciously but something in their bodies takes over and they fly with the kind of rough boy grace one associates with early '70s Stones, Bon Scott-era AC/DC or Muswell Hillbillies period Kinks. Starting with "Honeydew" and then swiftly into "Time Sick Son of a Grizzly Bear," they had people dancing on the walkways, slipping high fives to plush paws and sharing smokes and slack jaws with passersby. As a longtime Hips devotee, it's always a kick to watch first timers or the largely uninitiated get bowled over by this band. Everywhere my eye turned, I found people getting switched on, which in turn fueled the sets to come this evening and thereafter. Something within the intensity of this first night lit a flame that no band seemed anxious to extinguish. Thus, the performances from the start were marked with a driven focus, a need to go just a bit further than the norm, deliver something special to add to the specialness unfolding around them.

Tim Bluhm - The Mother Hips
"If you don't tell me what you want/ I can't give it to you," howled Bluhm as Greg Loiacono bent strings in ways that merged Zappa technicality with Mick Taylor dirt diggin'. Ever present, rummaging around our frames and slapping our behinds, was Paul Hoaglin's bass. Hunched over and hidden beneath an old man mask that made him look like a hill dwarf from Lord of the Rings with a sparkling white axe, Hoaglin goosed his bandmates continuously, driving drummer John Hofer to dig out some of the toughest playing I've heard from him this year. A positively trippy "Figure 11" and a "Two Queens" with a rock candy jam inside were but two of many highlights.

Never one to offer audiences a breather, Monophonics, looking like they'd raided the Art Ensemble of Chicago's closet and make-up drawer, funneled nasty strangeness into funky frames after the Hips. Monophonics have clearly studied up on their James Brown but don't genuflect to any orthodoxy. Like the best funk units, they go by feel, and in Tuolumne Hall theirs was a sweaty, grabby sort of Braille read. One felt them, shining out from a central chakra, limbs illuminated with youth and raw gusto. In their eyes shined a single message: "I'm gonna get some." How you define "some" may vary wildly but the sheer lust of their playing was undeniable and intensely palpable.

Back on the main stage, Hot Buttered Rum emerged in basketball gear to the Harlem Globetrotters theme, shuckin' & jivin' in all their buttermilk whiteness. Then, incongruously, the trill of flute reminiscent of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks (which also echoed in the stunning, humidly permeating bass work of Bryan Horne). Beyond being a band built around strings, there's no category that really suits them. Sure, the deliriously appropriate "Sweet Honey Fountain" that soon followed could be categorized bluegrass in the early sections, a descendent of Jimmie Rodgers and Bill Monroe, but the exploratory tail section has all the swoop of '60s modal jazz, a child of Impulse Records Coltrane far more than mountain music. Even when they talked about "rambling" they did so with the swing of hot jazz instead of country. It is their contradictions and juxtapositions, including a drum kit that now sits onstage ready for occasional poundings as the spirit moves them, that define HBR. The set rolled with lock tight harmonies, electric banjo, graceful fingerpicking powered originals and smile bombs like the Grateful Dead's "Tennessee Jed" (done in coked-up '76 style) and The Beatles' "I've Got A Feeling," though this cover did make me feel for those sleeping in tents, exposed to the rains that stayed with us most of the festival. I poured whiskey into a tiny, drowned hood rat to heat her bones as HBR sang about wet dreams and good times.

Dan Lebowitz
More so than any other fest I've attended, folks seemed to look out for one another, and like the musical spirit of the weekend, the more you cared, the more you extended yourself, the more you saw others doing the same. Still twittering with pre-election jitters, fully aware of the coldness America is capable of, I was reminded at Las Tortugas – reminded by the shaggiest, most seemingly nare-do-wells – that it doesn't take much to uplift your brothers and sisters. Sure, this is a write-up of a music festival, but for me, and not a few others I encountered on both sides of the stage at Tortugas, music is the key that unlocks everything else. Why then not social progress and flashes of random kindness triggered by an experience designed to elicit joy and togetherness?

Knowing there'd be multiple chances to catch Blue Turtle, I hung on the porch outside The Tavern for Austin's Wisebird. I rolled up to find piano and organ swirling along a chooglin' boogie worthy of ol' Lowell George and early Little Feat, all hips and dips and just a little bit bad. Dressed in camouflage fatigues, they played with the intensity of men who'd just arrived from being "in country," a strength and meanness needed for survival pumped into exceedingly pure rock 'n' roll, driven by drummer-singer Dave Meservy, guitarist Will Webster and the blazingly great keys of Trevor Nealon. One could lazily say they sound like the Allman Brothers but more accurately they're the children of Leon Russell and Freddie King, real blues and blood soaked barrooms surfacing in their heavy notes. A comely tweaker skipped past me and said, "Can you believe it's just four guys making that fucking sound?" From the mouths of babes.

I'll admit it, I'm kind of an ALO neophyte, and it's only in the past year of that band's near dormancy that I've really come to know the playing of guitarist Dan Lebowitz and bassist Steve Adams as they've gigged around the Bay Area. So, I wasn't fully prepared for Lebo and Friends' late night set to be so freakin' roadhouse tough. With Lebowitz way out front on electric, pedal steel and other guitars, one heard the DNA of Albert King, The Doors and Canned Heat throb in this band's veins. Prodded with intense filigree by Feinstein on keys, they took a crosscut saw to rock 'n' roll, imbuing even the instrumentals with strong legs and a mildly ornery character. There's sometimes a tendency towards melodic sugar in ALO and it was keen to watch Lebo drive the boys into gnarly territory, culminating in a mind-blowing sit-in by Tim and Nicki Bluhm on Neil Young's "Down By The River." This cover had all the floating corpses and aching sentiment of Young's original delivered in a sweet 'n' sour way that rivaled Crazy Horse at their very best, Lebo and Tim Bluhm striking sparks as their guitars swung at one another, not so much seeking union as heartfelt sensation and release. Oh, Lebo did dabble in cheeriness, too, especially a great reading of Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel."

Continue reading for Friday's coverage...

Friday, 10.31.08

Las Tortugas 2008 :: Groveland, CA
Friday morning I woke early and walked the grounds. I began to sing Three Dog Night's "Shambala," quietly under my breath, more a prayer than anything I cared to share with others:

Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
With the rain in Shambala

Ah, ooh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind
On the road to Shambala
Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind
On the road to Shambala

There's a naiveté I nurse that says we really could make the world an amazing place if we were just a little nicer to each other, a little more respectful, a little more wide open to joy and pleasure. Thanks to the work of many hands, Las Tortugas began and remained a place where one had the chance to live out this theory accompanied by a shifting, always stellar soundtrack. Beyond individual band/set descriptions it's worth highlighting that this festival's lineup was driven by a real love of music and people who play it well. While one act might not have been your cup of tea, there was no denying that everyone onstage could play their ass off and approached their craft with seriousness and pure talent. No one was booked because of a hit single, label pressure or any of the other myriad x-factors that often fuel festival programming. A strong bond of camaraderie already existed between many bands but it didn't take long before the newcomers were being asked to sit-in. Call it a blanket of overlapping pleasures, and it felt great wrapped around our ears.

The bonding began early most days, while waiting in long lines for the breakfast buffet with the early risers and those still buzzing from the late night sets. The players mingled with the attendees, and conversations ranged from discussions of specific moments from the night before to Sarah Palin's presidential worthiness to rambling, blissed out sighing over steaming coffee. The line between performer and spectator was generally blurry here. It also helped energy levels and general enthusiasm to start music on the full days at 4 p.m., which allowed the late night partiers to rest through daylight or gave the fully ambulatory time to hike, fish and otherwise enjoy being in such a lovely setting.

Hot Buttered Rum - Las Tortugas '08
Hot Buttered Rum got Day Two hopping with banjo pluck and a certain irrepressible dosie-doe that turned us into kissing cousins in a square dance called by genuine oddballs. They tapped the grime of old 78 records, vaudeville and much more in a swirl that truly fit All Hallows' Eve, even dipping into an instrumental one could imagine cartoon skeletons doing a production number to. As with Thursday, their set construction, tone, etc. were pitch perfect, an exact and accurate read of the audience and their needs, and a testament to their growing panache as showmen.

Guitarmageddon oddly let HBR's bounce slip a bit in their slow rise to hesher heaven. Led by Tea Leaf Green's six-stringer Josh Clark, this occasional band delights in tasty guitar solos and Camaro shakin' anthems. This set included Curtis Mayfield's "Freddy's Dead," Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper" and an absolutely monstrous assault on CSNY's "Ohio" that bettered any version I've heard the original foursome pull out. Aided by a banging, watertight rhythm section and fellow guitarists Lebo and Sean Leahy, Clark ultimately turned things up to "11" and tapped that spine like we know he can.

The second installment of The Mother Hips was more focused, more psychedelic, more obscure, more a lot of things. I wouldn't call it better but surely a denser offering that put their left foot in our ass and kicked us out a "Third Floor Story" that unleashed light in the main tent. There was something so solid, so enduringly right about each note played, each song offered up. Words fail even as the feeling remains, but in many ways the Hips showed everyone how this rock thing should be done in every fundamental way.

Guitarmageddon - Las Tortugas '08
With Poor Man's Whiskey picking with goose grease speed and abandon in The Tavern, I sauntered over for a second dose of Lebo and Friends. Without putting too fine a point on it, Dan Lebowitz is a serious motherfucker, a masterful musician perhaps on the order of one of my personal musical heroes, Bill Frisell. The feeling and dexterity of his playing this set cemented him as one of my personal faves from a Bay Area crammed with incredible players. And the company he keeps did a fine job of holding their own, too, especially a frisky Josh Clark on a sweller-than-swell cover of Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like A Rock."

Blue Turtle Seduction, often a bit overshadowed by better known acts at their own festival, offered up a stunning main stage set that put them shoulder to shoulder with anyone here. Charging out with a pleasantly snarky bit of sing-song rhyming about misconceptions, they found growl and brisling tension inside their folk-punk-funk sound. Electric guitarist Jay Seals poured molten heat into the proceedings, keeping things from ever shifting far from a hard rockin' vibe, pushing in voice and instrument inspired covers like The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated," Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" (given heady, crowd pleasing skank in its set closing spot) and a truly amazing run through Joe Strummer's "Get Down Moses," which had a Krautrock space excursion devoid of any dub sleepiness, all prickly and cosmic and downright cool. And this band is cool in their own quiet, largely unheralded way. Blue Turtle proved they are a magnificent party band for smart kids with unbound tastes, mashing sock hop dancers with hip-hop flavors, power chord monsters with bohemian drinking tunes. They inspired a need to raise a glass in good cheer, a yo-ho-ho that fit the general celebratory mood well. And their own wide-rangedness was indicative of the general genre bursting of the fest lineup; these are not bands that take well to constrictions and keep finding new ways to expand rather than solidify any boundaries.

Blue Turtle Seduction - Las Tortugas '08
Perhaps the most audacious gambit on Halloween at Las Tortugas goes to Izabella and their Soul Train themed dance party. Beneath an archway of the show's distinctive logo, dressed in threads that'd make the Ohio Players' Sugarfoot smile approvingly, Izabella cranked out beautifully executed covers of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," Michael's "Billy Jean," Brother Marvin's "Sexual Healing," Stevie Wonder's "Boogie On Reggae Woman," Chic's immortal "Le Freak," Ginuwine's "Pony," Sly and the Family Stone's "I Want To Take You Higher" and even "Rapper's Delight." What doubly impressed was how they put their own pleasantly noodle-y stamp on these established classics. Each guy has such personality as players that even working well tread material their own spark still emerged. Izabella is nearly always a good time but this was a grand one, aided terrifically by the horny horns of the Monophonics.

Having freaked it pretty good in my '70s Elvis jumpsuit at Izabella's set, I felt the flame in my jack-o-lantern fizzle out. For me, Halloween was over and the distant sounds of giddy folks at the late night sets from Tea Leaf Green and Monophonics rocked me to sleep, secure others would dance in a new dawn whilst I snuggled beneath the covers, saturated with happy sounds and weary in the best of ways.

Continue reading for Saturday's coverage...

Saturday, 11.01.08

Wisebird - Tugas '08
Once again, I found myself knocked out by the programming of this fest as the weekend arrived. Just as Hot Buttered's welcoming simmer had perfectly set off Friday, the jet stream blast of San Diego funkateers On The One launched Saturday on exactly the right foot. Energies perhaps flagging a touch after two days, the people needed a shot of Vitamin E and On The One surely provided it. They played with the manic energy of the '71 James Brown band (check out Love Power Peace: Live at the Olympia, Paris 1971 to see what I mean), but not just one or two tunes but for the entire hour and change! I like a band that's dripping sweat by their second number. Featuring alumni of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe and Giant People, On The One betters those outfits with their hard-edged tenacity and clarity of stroke. Drummer John Staten, saxophonist Jesse Molloy, bassist Andy Irvine and guitarist Pete Lombardo played with genre reviving passion, doing their ancestors like Lou Donaldson, Blue Mitchell, early Kool and the Gang, The Meters and other heavyweights proud. That they don't fully bow to tradition, throwing in curves like a Daft Punk tune sandwiched inside one of their originals, makes them all the more interesting.

Perhaps juiced by On The One, Melvin Seals' JGB played tough and soulful. Already armed with the nostalgia power of the Dead/Garcia catalog, they expanded past their usual pleasure buttons (of which there are many) to mine the organ chomp of Lonnie Smith and blues that brought one back to Topanga Canyon in the early '70s – gently psychedelic but still full of bite. Everyone in this group sings and plays with such natural oomph that when taken together it's like a tonic for whatever ails you. Dancing till my hair was damp, surrounded by smiling faces, I knew (and yes, I'm aware it's a cliché) that somewhere Jerry was smiling at how what he'd begun was evolving and continuing to delight Mother Earth's children.

In keeping with the night's "Naughty By Nature" theme, Wisebird performed in Tuolumne Hall wearing just underwear, dog tags and shoes. Lean, hairy honkies all, they strutted with the same toughness they had in their fatigues a few nights earlier but this time made room for some primo slow burners worthy of early Black Crowes. Dave Meservy has a rough croon akin to young Robert Palmer, lesser-known U.K. soul-blues-rock great Frankie Miller or even Ronnie Van Zant in "Simple Man" mode. Thus, it was the ballads that tore you up this time, even though they got folks reelin' and rockin', too. Playing in front of a backdrop of an arched back black cat set against a full moon (just one of the many thoughtful, lovely decorations around Las Tortugas this year; again, the work of many invisible hands that produced a fantastically layered experience), Wisebird mingled Chuck Berry with T Bone Walker, Savoy Brown with the Crowes, producing a tight shuffle that was never self-indulgent or stiff. This is rock 'n' roll you feel in your bones and I left this festival a genuine fan of what this Austin band does.

Torphy & Lebowitz - Big Light
In The Tavern Big Light played with thickness and purpose. Their wholly winning brand of pop-jam is mutable enough to adapt to different surroundings and Fred Torphy and his boys continue to show their acumen at reading a crowd. A stuffed bar on a Saturday night after Halloween? They played "Heavy" and kept it there in the red, pushing extra muscle out of every note, playing hard enough to get everyone - even that guy in the back of the room who started their set frowning - off. And good. They are so anxious to please that you'd have to be a big ol' grump to refuse their leap into your arms, and they were especially puppy-like in their shambling enthusiasm this evening.

Over at Tuolumne at the same time, Underground Orchestra had stilled the room to such a level that I wondered if they were actually playing. What I soon discovered was one of the finest cover executions of the weekend, namely a nice chunk of Pink Floyd's Animals bookended (of course) by the solo acoustic guitar of "Pigs On The Wing." Like some slow rolling railcar, Underground Orchestra found their place within the iconic material, furrowing out sunshine with a lightness of touch that truly impressed. It was something akin to hearing Dickey Betts jam with Gilmour, Waters, et al. Next to me, a Kermit puppet that I'd partied with the previous night sported a Yoda costume and bobbed his head as stonily as the rest of us in the room. After a few days one acclimated to the sight of human-banana hybrids, Muppets, Wonder Woman, bizarro Uncle Sams, Mae West look-alikes and more, more, more. It became one's norm and made me sigh a little upon leaving that the world outside Evergreen Lodge wasn't quite as colorful or loose.

Blue Turtle Seduction encapsulated the general largeness of the night in one of the most passionate, baldly emotional sets I've ever witnessed by them. Whatever was stoking their engine on Saturday, it produced an incredible intensity, especially in Jay Seals and mandolin/violin player Christian Zupancic, who both played with the clarity and flow of early Carlos Santana. And swept up in their onrush, the rest of the band dug out something deep and real from within, and then offered it to us without hesitation. The tunes were jam heavy, expansive and adventurous. One felt taken elsewhere if they surrendered to their music. Ritual as much as concert, this set stands as one of their best and a fine sign that one should never put too fine a point on any expectations with this band.

The rest of the night for me is a fine blur produced by ALO and Tea Leaf Green, who played back-to-back sets on the main stage. While it may seem a cop out to speak of these performances in generalities, sometimes one has to just to let the music take them, and each band, in their own way, expertly mixed top flight songwriting with unbelievably high musicianship and a willingness to go wherever each tune opened up to. Both groups were in best form and anxious to jam in the finest ways; picking up on newly revealed pockets within the familiar, teasing out all the goodness within their compositions and then finding themselves surprised at fresh avenues opening up in the moment. Parsing such live experiences is an exercise for critics and I, like most gathered at this festival, am a music lover of the first order. TLG and ALO gave us two barrels of the good stuff right in the kisser, potent audio buckshot that pierced us, knocked us back and reminded us why both bands have such apostolic followings. Well done, guys.

Continue reading for Sunday's coverage...

Sunday, 11.02.08

Trevor Garrod - Las Tortugas '08
Home beckoning, I packed up and settled in at the buffet, bacon and biscuits piled high, to pour coffee and the oh-so-swell string band sounds of Victor Barnes and company into my aching bod. There's a point one reaches at festivals where no matter how great it's been, they are topped off, full to the brim with pleasures. Listening to Barnes and his gifted pickers run through Albert E. Brumley's immortal "Turn The Radio On," I knew my tank was close to overflowing.

If some of what I've related seems too idyllic, too good to be true, well, it isn't. I'm just reporting what I found at this emerging festival. If they can keep the scale close to this year (around a 1000 folks all-in with crew, bands, guests, ticket holders), if they just refine what they've already laid out, then this is gonna be a total keeper. Put even more bluntly, if I could do only one festival each year then I'd choose Las Tortugas, which embodies everything that first drew me to the jam scene (diversity, open-mindedness, high level musicianship and song craft, a hippie-like spirit) and none of the elements that currently repel me (insular groupies, rejection of new musical forms, non-critical fanship, a seeming need to crap on anything unfamiliar or just not to one's taste). Being amongst Tortugans, I felt at home-on-the-road in ways that reminded me of my first forays onto the touring highway with the Grateful Dead and Black Crowes. Our people, the ones that vibrate on our own strange frequency, don't always live next door, and we must seek them on the byways and hollers of this land. Over this Halloween weekend I felt positively buried in my sort of folks and I'll gladly dive into their bosom again a year hence.

My parting musical dose came courtesy of a mostly solo set by Tea Leaf's Trevor Garrod. Announcing that he "slept through Sunday" because he'd found God on Saturday night, Garrod in his pure, unique voice sliced a little hole in the sky and let us glad hand the Lord, picked up by his honey tone and ten fingered piano attack. Bright originals full of pretty birds eating all the ugly bugs mingled with well-chosen covers like a plaintive reading of John Lennon's "Instant Karma." Garrod is a different animal outside TLG, one where the gnarled Randy Newman within him emerges from his young frame. Aided in spots by a number of friends including Lebo and charming gal singer Lael, Garrod was the ideal send off towards the real world, bits of dreams and prayers and love songs to pull from my pockets as bumps and hardships emerged in my path. Like everything that'd preceded him, it was almost too nice but I suppose it's alright to be so blessed once in a while.

As I walked towards my car I heard Tistrya welcome everyone to the church of music, and then found myself grounded for a couple songs that unfurled with such country rock touched loveliness that I could not take a step. Music for music's sake. Music for the people's sake. Music for the sheer fucking joy, pleasure and beauty of it. That's what Las Tortugas – Dance of the Dead is about. What more could you ask of a festival?

Continue reading for more images of Las Tortugas – Dance of the Dead...

Paul Hoaglin - The Mother Hips
Allie Kral - Cornmeal
Steve Adams - ALO, Big Light
Zach Gill - ALO
Delta Nove
Trevor Garrod - Tea Leaf Green
Trevor Garrod & friend
Melvin Seals & JGB
Jesse Molloy - On The One
Tim Bluhm - The Mother Hips
The Mother Hips
Greg Loiacono & Paul Hoaglin - The Mother Hips
John Hofer - The Mother Hips
Aaron Redner - Hot Buttered Rum
Hot Buttered Rum
Erik Yates - Hot Buttered Rum
Josh Clark - Tea Leaf Green, Guitarmageddon
Josh Clark & Steve Adams
Jay Seals - Blue Turtle Seduction
Dennis Cook - your Tugas scribe and JamBase's Associate Editor
Josh Clark and friend

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PooDolla Mon 11/10/2008 02:53PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I should have gone. Damn I hate saying that.

phreak89 starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/10/2008 03:13PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


That looks like it was a lot of fun, Cornmeal is tearing it up lately! I saw them at Hodi's in Ft. Collins last month, they tore it up! From good fun traditional bluegrass to a crazy awesome cover Pink Floyd's "Sheep", so much fun!

jalew Mon 11/10/2008 03:47PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


nice review & great pics. thanks.

schofizzl Mon 11/10/2008 04:08PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i agree cornmeal is a great band. they have a set from moe.down in iclips right now, for anybody who's interested. tight bluegrassy jams down to spooky reggaeish stuff with bluegrass instruments, they're combining the old grass world with the future of what can be done on bluegrass instruments. i don't think i even have to mention the obvious appeal of the lovely Allie Kral, who is made only more smokin' by her ability to tear that fiddle a new one night after night. i really love tea leaf green as well, but i would like to see them expand their horizons a bit. i have a feeling they will only get more interesting as the years roll on, though. this fest looks like a blast.

Natey starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/10/2008 04:17PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Great Pics....everyone had a blast!!! The buildings were packed on Fri./Sat. with so much great energy...twice as good every year. I am little apprehensive for next year....the Rangers were more of a presence (especially for the wookies posting up for a week). I hope the wookies' lack of respect for all doesn't reflect on those who make this festival one of the best....It seems that law enforcement strives to stop these types of events. I cannot believe the amount of trash that some left in the forest. Saddening. Respect and consideration should be able to keep this event going for years to come!!! By the way, Wisebird was my "discovered" band for the weekend (didn't know about 'em)....they kick ass with soul.

gmoo Mon 11/10/2008 04:31PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Great review and pics. Always dig DC's write-ups.

Natey Mon 11/10/2008 04:37PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


P.S. That is Bobby from Delta Nove, not Underground Orchestra

BoboJeffie starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/10/2008 04:56PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

HAVE YOU LOST YOUR TORTUGAS? Good! Onward to the land of!! Did you find a Lost tortilla? If you did, it was probably soggy....and not too intact....a little crumbled and found out....VIVA!!

Dennis Cook, I wish we could of met because your writing is close to my heart, always, and now more than ever! Big cheers and thanks for being here to write these kinds of words for what I think might be my favorite fest now as well.

High Sierra or Torts? BOTH....but being a big Blue Turtle fan that I am, there is something truly magical and fullfilling when I get to see one of my fave bands do it up 4 nights in a row, and this year VERY EXCELLENT....nice job BTS!! 'Tiache' on night one in the Tuolomne Hall was a highlight, as well as Roll 99 and Changing Lanes in the Big Top. I agree, Saturday night was their best set of the fest, and one of the top 3 I have ever seen them do. Sunday they closed the festival with miraculous sit ins with Hot Butterd Rum as they did Nat Keefe's "Honkey tonk Tequila". Allie from Cornmeal played fiddle for Ignition Remix as did Ken from Victor Barnes play his acoustic G, and Lebo and Zach Gill did a whoppin Turtle sit in for Stripper Song (gentlemans club) which peaked the fest as Zach sang in his Satanic Inferno "Lassss TortUUUGAAAAASSS!!!" In a melody that Christian announced we would have in our heads as we drove home tomorrow. Sure enough, Zach Gills devilish festivalllllll call rang in my head as I drove up 99 to sac the next day. Now that I think about it, maybe Zach is to Tortugas as Vince Herman is to High Sierra....laas torttUUUUGAAAAASSSS!!!

Cornmeal was awesome and it was so perfect to have their debut in CA be High Sierra and TOrtugas. I really felt their Salmonesque Cheesey grooves in the Tuolomne Hall set on saturday night. Their Paul Simon "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" cover on Sunday got everyone in a New Era mode....

I know Dennis cant be everywhere, but its too bad he missed what I thought was the BEST part of the festival all the way around: Allie Kral of Cornmeal sitting in with Tea Leaf Green on Saturday night. WOW. TLG makes one sassy and dirty anyhow, the MOJO in the room was just on fiya in the TORRENTIAL RAIN, the sensual world was at its TOP PEAK, and Allie comes out and just gnarls it up so gracefully and magically, I knew it was to be my highlight. If I get to hear that on disc again someday I will be most grateful.

Underground Orchestra impressed me with some song they were singing "Remember...! Remember...!" all funked up.....while some of their music was a tad janky for my tastes, it all warmed up with a SWEEET cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom"

Montana Slim sported some super sexy bluegrass....I never really enjoyed Monophonics til this round and boy were they fun....classy stuff.

It was so great to see Butter again, Desert Rat waws another highlight for me, and Return Someday conjured up the spirit of Missy Baron RIP who is one of HBR's biggest fan, and came with me to the first Yosemite hallowen in 2005, HBR's "Harvest Meltdown". This ones for you, Missy. HBR's "Hugs not Handshakes" the next day envoked her full spirit as we know how much it wanted to be there in the flesh.

Although the rain dampened the usual Tortugas rituals of campfire pit jams and sol vista serenades, the toughness of one thing led to more of another. I saw much more music with the rain going than I normally do at this fest and there was a Krazy Koziness that unfurled in pitchfork fervor thruout the weekend that torked melencholy into the festyval spirit in a beautiful way.

My only complaint were the asshole ghetto lot wookies that made their way to the forests and kind of took a big dump on the usual comfort level I have at Evergreen. My friend had put her burger down on a picnic table and without even taking her eyes off it, some shit ball takes it and eats it. They also trashed the rec hall, making the staff have to take the internet away by Sunday. They left their kinds unattended: the usual suspects and crap you have to deal with when the gangsta hippies come in. Hopefully Vegoose or something else will be back next year to catch their attention.

One thing they did prove, was that we can have an amazing All Time High Festy full of strength in the community and Super Awesome Magic Luv Parade of Consciousness and Comaraderie out shine any tag along undesirable energy. Its hard to judge, but in this case, these people were the symbol of judgement and how sometimes you just cant help but to do so.

Back by the soundboard haystacks was a consistent Tortuga parade of friends and family, I met a guy named Joe, or was it Slash, or was it a Jehovah Witness? Whoever you are, I had an amazing time dancing with you all those nights and am sad I never got your contact info. Sometimes the moment outlives us all. To quote Morcheeba of what I chant to myself after Las Tortugas,

"With the moonlight to guide you

feel the joy of being alive

the day that you stop running

is the day that you arrive.

And the might that you got locked in

was the time you realized

Stop chasing shadows

just enjoy the ride"

Hope we can meet again soon and be friends!!

Nice photos, I especially love the one of Tistrya Hamilton as a Marilyn Monroe oh so classy!! Her spirit IS Tortugas and it wood not bee the same without her voice and song.

Big love to the festival promoters who are on the page in the process and feelin everyone and freakin their own free, sharing it with this community!

This one was probably my toughtest to come down from, I think due to rains and time change...Ive had it easier after Burning Man....hahaha but Tortugas took a solid WEEK to get over metally physically and spritually. My house finally seems normal.

From the air horns of LOUD CAMP to the tavern jigs, sweating in the Tuolomne, dancing in the drops and kickin rocks...Great friends and ponderosa blocks.....Emotions are advocated and people fested OUT of open heart and mind surgery, tequila flowed like water Sunday night, my dreams are forever agave'd.

RedHeaven starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/10/2008 05:00PM
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AAAHHHHH THAT BOBOJEFFIE POST WAS FROM ME!!! now you all know my secret Jambase name. Wooops!

Anyways, I will take credit for that post!! (and now have to come up with a new secret jambase name....uh-oh)

~samsa B

RedHeaven Mon 11/10/2008 05:06PM
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"the Rangers were more of a presence (especially for the wookies posting up for a week). I hope the wookies' lack of respect for all doesn't reflect on those who make this festival one of the best....It seems that law enforcement strives to stop these types of events. I cannot believe the amount of trash that some left in the forest. Saddening. Respect and consideration should be able to keep this event going for years to come!!"

It is sad and something has got to be done. They were shooting off guns, thats dangerous and can really wreck a vibe. Somethings gotta get worked out for next year to not be like that....ugh

I knew it was a little wierd when I saw a rugged sing on the way in that said "Shakedown street" that there was going to be some problems. Wookies go away!!!!

misujerr Mon 11/10/2008 06:31PM
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Great writing, thanks! Really described the feel of the fest. What a great time, despite the weather.

That's funny, when I read "BoboJeffie"s review, I thought, hmm, this sounds like Red Heaven :):)

Agreed on the wookies, not too bad inside but walking down the road a few times - yikes!

There was really 1000 people there? Didn't seem like it, although the hall was waaay too packed every night. Also agreed on Cornmeal. They seriously rock it! Buncha show on, check it out!

Nice pic of LBunny :)

BoboJeffie Mon 11/10/2008 07:08PM
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Yeah its great to see the pic of Lud Bunny, and also Jean, Brendan and Zeke inside the hoop! Great pics all around tho Im a bit dissapointed that a handful of them have the kitchen and storage room as a backdrop. WTF? Plenty of better places to take the one of the goofy couple by the haystacks, thats what I remember. I mean, a flourescent lit kitchen w/dish slats doesnt really give me the feel of Tortugas, ya know? Sorry I just have to be a little bit of a critic, I do enough gushing and stoking. ;)

~Bobo the Clown

bubbarock starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/10/2008 07:40PM
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I was so close to going to this...I'm so bummed I missed out. Definitely going next year...and I hope I get some of that !@#$ they had!!

phunguy starstarstarstar Mon 11/10/2008 08:50PM
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Great Pics!!

ryanboyle13 Mon 11/10/2008 10:25PM
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Josh.....Amazing pictures man. Once again I believe to have capture the entire weekend, but not ever being there.


moephishH2O starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/11/2008 08:30AM
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Heard it was a fantastic time this year! So glad my friends had a good time :-) Great writing, Dennis. You never disappoint!

RedHeaven starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/11/2008 10:10AM
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HEY TORTOOGS: Post your pic links! Would love to see more, especially from this photographer if he so kindly has a website, I know theres a lot more to see.....I didnt bust my camera out til Sat eve!! More pics, please? And how about that Foto guy taking all of the promesque pics, hoping to get that email soon!

bsclowds starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/11/2008 12:09PM
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haha!! RedHeaven has a secret JamBase alias - don't we all?!

Great fest, tons of fun. ALO Saturday night was quite a late night reunion for the band, amazing tunes! Wookies really dampened the spirit out in the campgrounds and in the rec room. The fest needs more security if it will continue.

Teabagger starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/11/2008 12:55PM
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Such a cool festival. Hiking in Yosemite, awesome young bands, small easily accessible site, what's not to love? The rain was relentless, so I feel lucky to have been in a cabin. Not sure if it would have been as much fun in a tent, but it was a blast. And costumes every night! Halloween festivals are such a great idea. It was hard to not have a smile on your face the whole weekend.

Runde starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/11/2008 04:48PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


one of the greatest music fests of my life. thanks hafty and crew! and thanks to dennis and josh for the review and pics!

Sueshi starstarstarstarstar Wed 11/12/2008 05:29PM
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Nice pics, Josh and a great review, Dennis. Las Tortugas is a really fun festival. Sorry I missed it this year.

snausages starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/18/2008 05:49AM
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LORD i need another festival!!!!!!

Hafty starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/18/2008 02:08PM
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Thank you all so so much for your kind words and support! It is a true joy putting the event on for all of you. And rest assured that the issues in the forest will be corrected for next year.

Casey Jones starstarstarstarstar Sun 12/7/2008 10:52AM
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Casey Jones

such a fun time, i cant wait till next year!

tony perez starstarstarstarstar Thu 12/11/2008 10:38AM
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Hi, I have added some videos on youtube from the festival... Thanks to all who assisted in putting this together and for all the great music throughout the weekend...



PS, my girl and I fell in love on this trip....