WORDS: SuperDee, The Kayceman, Forrest Reda, Susan J. Weiand, Jonathan Zwickel, Monica Way

PHOTOS: Susan J. Weiand, Jeffrey Smith, Casey Flanigan, James Martin, The Kayceman, SuperDee

One of many hoopers by Casey Flanigan

The High Sierra Music Festival is the ultimate jolt of inspiration that holds you over until at least Rocktober. High Sierra might not have a fancy onsite wireless internet network or the hottest lineup that attracts tens of thousands of people but what it does have is priceless: complete intimacy with the artists and everyone around you. High Sierra has a plethora of entertainment and enjoyment for such a wide variety of tastes that fans are truly satiated each and every year.

The magic of High Sierra unfolds as you watch bands cross-pollinate before your very eyes. You can see the small degrees of separation dissolve as band members flow from stage to stage. You realize that this festival is not only a playground for festival-goers but very much for the musicians too--a utopia for all music lovers.

The Grandstand vending was top notch with exquisite festival shopping and community organizations like Rock The Earth and HeadCount--both of which will be traveling the festival circuit this summer. It seemed as though almost every artist made a point to stress the importance of voter registration. While it may seem as though they were preaching to the choir, the message must be relayed not only to everyone that was there but also to ALL OF YOU. Please visit headcount.org and see what you can do to let your voice be heard this November!

So here it is: The JamBase Highlights Reel of High Sierra 2004. Yes, we may have missed [insert your favorite band here] but hopefully this will give you a glimpse of the wonderment that was the 14th Annual High Sierra Music Festival.

HSMF 2004 MVP: SKERIK (duh)

Skerik by Jeffrey Smith
OK, this is a really big shocker but c'mon... the guy absolutely rocks! As described on the Critters Buggin website and the High Sierra program, "Skerik roams festivals and ruins other bands gigs!" Skerik was High Sierra's "Artist at Large" this year which meant that he had free range to wander onto pretty much anyone's stage and eff shit up - which of course he did. Playing with nearly everyone under the sun (and stars), he rocked with Galactic, Anders Osborne, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Benevento/Russo Duo, and Hairy Apes BMX, to name a few, as well as the amazing "Around the Horn" workshop. Long live the Skerik Roamin' and Ruinin' Summer Tour 2004!

- SuperDee

Spoonfed Tribe by Susan J. Weiand

Busting out of Texas, this group of multi-instrumental percussionists and horn players provided a musical treat in the Vaudeville Tent. Towards the end of the set, members of Delta Nove were invited on stage for some spur-of-the-moment improvisation. The music flowed like the magic that is everywhere at High Sierra, and some new music was made. The band closed it out Ozomatli style, with a march through the crowd and a group drum circle that brought the energy all the way back. Spoonfed Tribe was another unexpected pleasure at the Vaudeville Tent.

- Forrest Reda

Oakland's Hyim & The Fat Foakland Orchestra continued their ascent to the major leagues with a Main Stage gig that highlighted the four-piece band's newer material. Last year's Let Out a Little Peace was easily one of the best debuts from this side of the map, a brilliant, emotional mix of calypso, jazz, hip-hop, Latin, and funk all bound by Hyim's soulful vocals and warm positivity. The band's energized, early afternoon set featured many songs I didn't recognize but that left a deep, lasting impression. And while Hyim is certainly a masterful keys player and charismatic front man, his band is perfectly able to keep the beat sweet behind his freewheeling b-boy antics. The connection between drummer Michael Faiella and bassist Mark Calderon was almost extrasensory—they’re a couple young guys but it’s clear they’ve been laying down the funk for years. Keep an eye out for this band—they'll blindside you with the goodness if you don't.

- Jonathan Zwickel

Xavier Rudd by Susan J. Weiand

Xavier Rudd was another artist I had heard about but had yet to check out. What better place than High Sierra to see some new acoustic talent? Rudd hails from Australia, and with his multi-instrumental approach it's impossible to not think of a Keller Williams from Down Under. While Keller uses pedals to create the swirling wall of sound, Rudd does it barefoot with a stomp box, guitars, multiple didgeridoos, and amazing vocal work. Rudd has Australia all over him--he sounds like his homeland--but anyone who listens can relate as he sings of social justice over hip-shaking rhythms. Watching him sit behind the slew of instruments while pounding his footboard and wrapping sound around the crowd, it was impossible to not be blown away. If you haven't seen him, you will... Keep your eyes open; Xavier Rudd is one artist who should rise to the top.

- The Kayceman

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