High Sierra Music Festival: 07.01-07.04 | California

Aaron Kayce's High Sierra 2010 Highlights

WSP's John Bell by Susan J. Weiand
1. Widespread Panic - Main Stage - Friday
Festivals aren't always the best place to get one's Panic on. Time constraints, questionable sound systems and a mixed bag of fans can often clip the band's wings, as was the case the last time WSP appeared at High Sierra in 1999. But the festival's 20th anniversary sparked an inspired two set affair that left hardcores fully satisfied. Taking advantage of the stacked lineup Panic welcomed a number of special guests including guitarist Eric McFadden on a dirty, sexy "Bowlegged Woman" that found bassist Dave Schools deep in a P-Funk inspired romp, guitarist/vocalist Jerry Joseph on his own "Light Is Like Water," saxophonist Karl Denson on an extended psych-funk workout of J.J. Cale's "Ride Me High," and percussionist Wally Ingram on "Drums" and the second half of "Surprise Valley." When the band closed the show with an emotionally saturated take on the Talking Heads' "Heaven" it was not only a reminder of Widespread Panic's power, but a nod to just how amazing the High Sierra Music Festival truly is.

2. Dr. Dog - Funk'n Jamhouse - Saturday Late Night
Dr. Dog's Saturday late night set proved to be a huge slab of dark, psychedelic rock that had a packed house of fans freaking out and dancing wildly until 3 in the morning. Leaning heavily on material from their latest release Shame, Shame, the show highlighted the band's remarkable evolution from lo-fi indie-pop to gigantic, confident rock. Though the new songs showcased Dr. Dog's amazing songwriting, it didn't seem to matter what part of the catalog they pulled from, everything was performed with razor sharp intensity and executed to perfection. From note one the band was locked in; every change was dramatic and full of force, every harmony soaring, and the jams thick with friction. For this writer, the band's HSMF late night show elevated the Dog from a really good band with serious potential to one of the best live acts on the circuit. It shouldn't be long until we see Dr. Dog headlining festivals.

3. Surprise Me Mr. Davis - Camp Harry - Sunday Late Night
For many High Sierra patrons, including a number of artists such as The Mother Hips' Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacano, Nicki Bluhm, Wally Ingram and several others, there was no better way to end the weekend than with Surprise Me Mr. Davis at Camp Harry on Sunday night. Set up guerilla-style between two RVs, this annual tradition has turned into one of the most highly anticipated sets of the weekend for fans of Mr. Davis, The Slip and Nathan Moore (Surprise Me Mr. Davis being The Slip plus Nathan Moore). The defining moment of the night came when Davis took on The Beatles and created the very appropriate "High Sierra's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (The Slip celebrated their 12th consecutive HSMF this year) with shout-outs to High Sierra co-founder and close friend Dave Margulies in place of "Billy Shears." With fans passing bottles and funny cigarettes to each other and the band, the two hour set felt more like a summer camp send-off than the conclusion of a major music festival.

Susan J. Weiand's High Sierra 2010 Highlights

Carolyn Wonderland by Susan J. Weiand
1. Carolyn Wonderland - Vaudeville – Sunday Late Night
CW has played High Sierra three years now, but her closing set on Sunday night finally cemented her place as HS royalty. Fans were driven to tears and smiles by her ballsy playing and soulful singing. She held the capacity crowd in the palm of her hand. Many new Carolyn Wonderland fans were converted this evening.

2. Vince Herman's Great American Taxi- Big Meadow - Thursday
The self-proclaimed Mayor of High Sierra is a festie staple and to me, represents all things High Sierra. He and his Taxi bandmates kicked things into high gear with his "4:20 for 20 years" jam played at precisely 4:20 pm, of course.

3. The New Mastersounds - Camp Happiness - Friday at 4:20
Camp Happiness always throws a great happy hour party with crab cakes, gumbo, cocktails and great people. The New Mastersounds have played this annual party in the past and returned this year for a get-down funk-athon. With bandmate Joe Tatton playing a borrowed kid's keyboard (with the notes conveniently written on the keys), the band delivered the funky goods. Mega dance party!

Honorable mentions: Rads late night; the Funkify Your Life, Horns a Plenty, Rads Pre War Blues, Marco Benevento Trio, and Allmond Bros Clan playshops; Kate Gaffney main stage; Orgone Big Meadow; Poor Man's Whiskey doing Dark Side of the Moonshine.

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[Published on: 7/9/10]

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