HIGH SIERRA MUSIC FEST: BETTER EVERY YEAR

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

SPOONFED TRIBE: VAUDEVILLE
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


HYIM & THE FAT FOAKLAND ORCHESTRA
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
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

BOCKMAN'S EUPHIO


Sean Canan by SuperDee
I was innocently walking by the Big Meadow stage when I heard a guitar wailing through the air. I was immediately filled with delight, glee. When I walked closer, I realized I was feeling the effects of the Euphio. No, it wasn't Dr. Bockman's invention in Kurt Vonnegut's short story "The Euphio Question." It was a band inspired by this invention--a mysterious void in space that gave off powerful radio signals to transmit feelings of happiness - called, appropriately, Bockman's Euphio.

Hailing from St. Louis, MO, I had heard the name but never glanced twice at what seemed to be yet another (*gasp*) jam band from the Midwest. But whoa, don't judge a book by its cover and all that. I was filled with euphoria at the personal discovery of a new rock band to follow. Bockman's also played the Americana stage where they did an exhilarating cover of "Wig In A Box" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Great to watch four boys sing out loud, "I put on some make-up/and turn up the tape deck/and pull the wig down on my head/suddenly I'm Miss Midwest/Midnight Checkout Queen/until I head home/and put myself to bed." Bockman's Euphio is my new band to watch this year.

- SuperDee



Patrice Pike by Susan J. Weiand

PATRICE PIKE
At last year's High Sierra, there was a new female force that took the fest by storm in the Vaudeville Tent--Patrice Pike and the Blackbox Rebellion. This year, Patrice came back with a new band put together just a few weeks before the trek out to the West Coast. A longtime Patrice devotee, I have seen her perform with Little Sister, Sister Seven, and a couple incarnations of the Blackbox Rebellion. This current band--Brad Houser (of Critters Buggin fame) on bass and bari sax, Steve Weidemeyer on guitar, and Elderidge Goins on drums--is the best I've seen her play with in years. For only being together a couple of weeks, they jelled perfectly. My favorite moment was during her Big Meadow stage set on Thursday night (she also had a superb afternoon set on the main stage on Saturday) when she was swapping her trademark scatting with Brad Houser's saxophone squawking.

- SuperDee


CHRIS ROBINSON & THE NEW EARTH MUD: LATENIGHT
I was absolutely ecstatic at the prospect of seeing Chris Robinson, one of my original musical heroes, with his new project, but I had also solemnly accepted the possibility of tragic disappointment. How could Robinson’s solo material measure up to the seminal work of the Black Crowes, one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of the last decade? Truth is, he did it, and he made it seem easy. The New Earth Mud were pretty much fledgling Crowes, their major difference mainly a matter of duration. That is, where the Crowes would’ve taken a song out for a six-minute spin, these guys stretched it into ten. Each gorgeous, psych-blues jam pivoted around the core of a powerful song, and for this particular crowd, at this particular festival, the music was perfect.


Chris Robinson and Audley Freed - Late Night - by SuperDee

Most obvious, beyond the old Crowes influence, was a very vivid touch of grey. Maybe it was Rob Barracco, whose keys were up in the mix, lending a sparkling, early-80s Brent Mydland vibe. More likely it was Robinson himself, and his deep, soulful Pigpenisms—not so much in sound as in manner. A masterful showman and an old soul haunted by crossroads-bargaining ghosts, Robinson channeled all those long-departed bluesmen whose music was their only salvation. With the trademark rock ‘n’ rasp, he crooned poetic lyrics with heated delivery, visceral and intellectual at the same time. Honestly, it was like an electrical charge just to so close to his presence; his humility and surrender to the music elevated my respect even more.

- Jonathan Zwickel

CHRIS ROBINSON: GRANDSTAND STAGE


Chris Robinson by Jeffrey Smith
I didn't get enough of Chris at the latenight so I headed over to the main stage to see his late afternoon set. When I got to the front of the stage, they were about to start a new song when someone yelled out, "Play the Crowes!" Chris said nothing, looked down, tuned his guitar, looked up and said, "Why don't you go and yell at a jukebox? You'll get the same response." Then they ripped the new (soon-to-be) hit off of This Magnificent Distance, "40 Days." Other highlights were "…If You See California" and "Train Robbers" (also off the new album) and "Ride" from the original New Earth Mud debut album. We were particularly entranced this set by the frightening yet calming performance of guitarist Audley Freed. The early-80s Brent Mydland vibe that Zwickel was talking about became further apparent with a great version of "I Know You Rider." Yep, Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud are the real deal. I cannot wait to see them again!

- SuperDee


Sunset over High Sierra with New Earth Mud by Kayceman

Note from SuperDee: If anyone's listening, I'd really love to see a "story tellers" tour featuring Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud with Patrice Pike. Thanks.


Zach Gill by Casey Flanigan

David Brogan by Casey Flanigan

ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra): WEEKEND
ALO is now a bona fide High Sierra darling. Whether providing a perfect start to the day Saturday on the main-stage, getting funky at the band's late-night costume ball or jamming acoustic for the Santa Barbara campers, ALO participation helps make the weekend one to remember. In addition to playing, every member of the band took part in playshops over the weekend; showcasing guitarist Dan Lebowitz's chops, Zach Gill's songwriting and Steve Adams versatility, as he was the sole bassist at Josh Clark's Guitarmageddon. With tight grooves and tighter playing, ALO creates a warm experience and is one of the best festival bands on tour this summer.

- Forrest Reda

ALO: GRANDSTAND
Damn was I not expecting this set to blow me away at 11 a.m.! I sauntered over to the Main Stage, dripping with enthusiasm at my first full day at High Sierra. Iced coffee in hand, I was tractor-beamed towards the stage and within moments, and with help from Renault the inflatable Buddha rising up behind the stage, the early morning clouds parted and the four boys of ALO led us all into a frenzy with a fantastic rendition of keyboardist's Zach Gill's tribute to his wife and daughter, "Waiting for Jaden." This was followed up by my giddy favorite, "Mashed Potatoes." Hula hoops, Frisbees, and poi were scattered about the grass as the festival goers from the lawn suddenly swarmed the stage. They closed out the set with "Girl, I Wanna Lay You Down," with a stunned, hungover crowd begging for more. As always, the boys from ALO can be counted on to liberate your inner animal! And this was only their first of three sets throughout the weekend... Man, were we in store for some fun.

- Monica Way


Dan Lebowitz by Casey Flanigan

Steve Adams by Casey Flanigan

SNAKE OIL MEDICINE SHOW: AMERICANA STAGE


Caroline Pond
by Susan J. Weiand
Hot baking sun at the Americana Stage was the perfect place to witness the Snake Oil Medicine Show on Friday morning (morning being relative of course). This incredibly talented, truly unique four-piece plays some type of tripped-out bluegrass, rung through 1920s vaudeville stylings. Although the band is led by bassist and songwriter George Pond, both Caroline Pond (vocals/hypnotic violin), and Andy Pond (banjo) share stage and musical responsibilities. It's Caroline's voice that seems to separate Snake Oil from the pack as she leads the crowd through a constant foot-stomping good time. This band is full of bubbling light, infectious string work and a generous helping of positive energy, definitely a band worthy of attention.

- The Kayceman



Garrin Benfield by Susan J. Weiand

GARRIN BENFIELD BAND
Garrin Benfield, a talented singer/songwriter from San Francisco, proved he possesses not only a powerful voice and quick hand on the guitar, but some savvy marketing skills as well. His Americana Stage set was excellent—a blend of moody, understated folk rock and tender ballads that rolled through shifting musical landscapes like a tight-winding byway. During a far ranging, reggae-tinged version of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer,” someone from his crew handed out red egg-shaped noisemakers—plastic rattles with “Garrin Benfield Band” printed on them—to everyone in the crowd. Benfield finished up the song, and before his next number, got everyone shaking along to the beat. The result was a barrage of crispy percussion coming from the crowd, the perfect backbeat to the band's vibrant playing.

- Jonathan Zwickel


SONiA: BIG MEADOW
Maybe you were one of the one million women who traveled to Washington D.C. this April to take part in the March for Women's Lives. If you were, you probably would have seen a rockin' SONiA (also of Disappear Fear) on stage with her belting yet tender voice, hammering away on a guitar and chanting words of love, choice, and political freedom. I wasn't at the March, but I did have the pleasure of encountering SONiA's midday set at the Big Meadow stage. It was a lazy afternoon and yet as things picked up and SONiA bounced from piano to acoustic to electric guitar, her wise words and rhythm began drawing in the crowds from the mist of tents and RVs, and before we knew it the vibe blended into a body-twirling blend of joy and enthusiasm. SONiA is currently on tour promoting her newest, and in my opinion greatest album, "no bomb is smart" and all of the songs she performed during her set displayed the assured musicianship and tenderness she is known for.

- Monica Way

THE RADIATORS: BIG MEADOW


Dave Malone
By Susan J. Weiand
New Orleans's homeboys the Radiators have played the High Sierra Music Fest more than any other band. Besides Leftover Salmon, when you go to HSMF you gotta see the Rads! Celebrating their 25th year together, their late afternoon performance on the Big Meadow stage on Friday, July 2 was, as usual, a rollicking good time. Their shows are always solid start to finish. Opening with Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" the festival veterans ran through many of their upbeat tunes including the closer "Little Sadie" and had the crowd on their feet dancing. The guest appearances by Fareed Haque on "City of Refuge" and Anders Osborne and George Porter Jr. on "Chevrolet" really brought the energy level up to a fevered pitch; Anders in particular smoked on his solo here. They also played an awesome late night set on Thursday night.

- Susan J. Weiand



Johnny Vidacovich by Susan J. Weiand

ANDERS OSBORNE, GEORGE PORTER JR., JOHNNY VIDACOVICH
Funky, funky, funky! This set at the Big Meadow stage was the sleeper hit for me. High Sierra 2004 was chock-full o' Nawlins music this year. Johnny Vidacovich is an absolute genius and he's so fun to watch--he brings everyone into his world when he plays and sings (or raps). George kept booties shakin' with the heavy low end as Anders Osborne played his warped rock-blues-funk guitar. Skerik came aboard halfway through the set and it became one of the hottest things I'd seen all weekend.

- SuperDee


Anders Osborne by Jeffrey Smith

Anders Osborne & George Porter Jr.
By Jeffrey Smith

KERMIT RUFFINS & THE BARBECUE SWINGERS


Kermit Ruffins by SuperDee
Kermit Ruffins brought some New Orleans Soul and energy to High Sierra. His set in the Vaudeville tent was pure Cajun excitement, catching the ears of everyone near the tent and drawing them in with joyous horns and party-starting rhythms that seized control of your body and didn't stop until "all the females" were invited on stage for the finale. Finishing up things with a call and repeat chant of "shake it like a Polaroid picture," Ruffins and his band represented New Orleans and brought Jazzfest out west.

- Forrest Reda


Hunter Brown by Casey Flanigan

SOUND TRIBE SECTOR 9: LATE NIGHT AND GRANDSTAND
Sound Tribe Sector 9 at High Sierra has become somewhat of an institution. Their late night set on Thursday evening was the first chance to really get loose up in the mountains, and the peeps were letting it fly as usual when hanging with the Tribe. It seems that STS9 has taken great strides in what appears to be their goal of making everything "sound" exactly as they desire. In focusing on the overall production and quality of the end result one is forced to let some of the experimental and improvisational aspects slide to the side. This isn't to say that STS9 are not still way out there, it's just that their vision has grown in massive leaps since their inception and they are pushing things in a different manner than perhaps back in 2001. Equipped with two encores and heaps of dance heavy-beats, the late night set touched on "Mischief of a Sleepwalker" and "Water Song" in the first set and blew things open with "Frequency 2" > "Frequency 3" > "Kabuki" and "Dance" to close Set II. After a somewhat predictable but strong "Moonsockets" to close the entire evening a satiated crowd slid out into the cool evening touching down on earth once again.


Dave Phipps by Casey Flanigan

STS9's main stage performance sounded great, perhaps even better in terms of overall achievement when compared to the late night set, but a bit less edgy or experimental, as a main stage show should be. Just as they did last year, the band brought a crew of immensely talented fire dancers on stage as the centerpiece of the evening. While it was very similar to last years main stage gig (mostly due to the fire dancers) it was executed far better with the music maintaining its integrity throughout the fire show. It was a wonderful set; one would simply hope that they will switch it up next year. As the HSMF emcee said, the Sound Tribe truly unites all in attendance and it was a joy to be a part of it all once again.

- The Kayceman


Dave Murphy by Casey Flanigan

PERPETUAL GROOVE


Brock Butler by SuperDee
I'm mad at PGroove--they're such tormentors! Coming out to the West Coast only once a year… pft! Well, they've "got a plan" and I can respect that but they are so irresistible that I just want more, more, and more! They blew people's heads off at their late night set in the Tulsa E. Scott building, highlighted by a frenzied "Sledgehammer" (yep, Peter Gabriel) and a PGroove original "Sundog" with Caroline Pond of Snake Oil Medicine Show on violin. These guys were fired up--Caroline and Brock [Butler, guitarist] were trading the fastest licks in the West! PG also played a late afternoon set on the Americana Stage where they were joined towards the end of the set by Steve Molitz (Particle, keyboards) and Scott Baston (Moonshine Still) on vocals for "I'll Take You There." Scott stayed on stage to perform "Sweet Oblivious Antidote" (my favorite song) as it is on the album. Perpetual Groove has a new studio album coming out this fall called All This Everything--it's sure to be smokin'!

- SuperDee


TEA LEAF GREEN: LATE NIGHT


Josh Clark
By Susan J. Weiand
Tea Leaf Green just keeps getting better and better. Tea Leaf's late night set before moe. featured a dressed-up band with more attitude and polish then a year ago when the band electrified the Vaudeville stage. These boys are fast becoming men. Trevor Garrod fixated the audience with a delicate voice and presence that catches the eyes and ears of the audience. His songwriting was highlighted on songs like "Midnight on the Reservoir" and "Earth & Sky." Josh Clark has established himself as one of the scene's top axe-man and hosted a workshop called "Guitarmageddon" over the weekend. Late night, he took things to the stratosphere more then once. Add Scott Rager keeping time and a spiffed and spliffed up Ben Chambers on bass or rapping and you have a band that's about to get huge.

- Forrest Reda



Ben Ellman by Casey Flanigan

GALACTIC


Skerik & Stanton Moore by Jeffrey Smith
The return of the G-Men to High Sierra was a welcome sound, and continued in the New Orleans theme of this year's festival. Some West coast fans called the shows "the best Galactic in three years." High Sierra's "musician at large" Skerik sat in with the band on several songs as things got rolling on Thursday night on the main stage and the band responded by kicking it old school. Will Bernard and Corey Henry also made appearances in a set that set the tone for the weekend (along with Tea Leaf Green's main stage slot). Rock 'n' roll mixed with New Orleans funk. Things got really crazy late night. Like the original version of Bonnaroo, both moe. and Galactic played late night sets and like that evening, both were the place to be. Many fans without tickets mulled in the intersection listening to both. Fortunately, one could run back and forth between the two and hear the music. The best festival gets even better. The absence of Houseman was muted by the plethora of guests such as JJ Grey and George Sluppick from MOFRO, Robert Walter and Cheme from the 20th Congress, Joe Russo and Marco Benevento, and Fareed Haque. The rendition of "Sympathy for the Devil" was WAY better than Bonnaroo--Galactic always performs well after midnight.

- Forrest Reda


Latrice Barnett by Casey Flanigan

Rich Vogel by Casey Flanigan

JACOB FRED JAZZ ODYSSEY: LATE NIGHT
Late night Friday evening I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I knew I would check out at least some the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey's free show in the Vaudeville tent, but wasn't sure if that would be all I did. I'll tell ya what, I'm damn glad I didn't leave before the shit went down towards the end of the set. Packed on stage were Brian Haas on Rhodes, Reed Mathis on outbound bass, Jason Smart on drums, Skerik on freak sax, another saxophonist, Benevento/Russo Duo (Marco Benevento on keys and Joe Russo on drums), Jeffree Lerner (STS9) on tabla, and this tall slender woman. The 15-20 minute excursion was unlike anything I've really ever seen these people pull off. To be honest, I'm not even really sure what happened. All I remember is insanely deep grooves being pushed sky high by this woman singing, but she wasn't exactly singing. Turns out the lady in question rocks with P-Funk and she was NASTY! Just hitting notes and working with the sax this was a truly unique moment that one only gets to see at festivals of this nature. It's loose moments like these where it's late enough to not really consider "how good it will comes off" and musicians are simply on hand, ready to roll and willing to really take chances. Who knew that P-Funk was in the house... just one of those nice lil' bonuses of hanging with Fred.

- The Kayceman


JFJO on Grandstand Stage by SuperDee


Aphrodesia in Vaudeville Tent by Susan J. Weiand

APHRODESIA
Sex appeal clearly has a lot to do with an artist's success—if that weren't the case talentless hardbodies like lil’ miss Britney would never make the megabucks. Taking this truism to heart, the 11 clever members of Aphrodesia showed up to their Meadow Stage performance dressed down in revealing beachwear. But this is a mixed band, not some mall-ready group of pinups. Even as the three hot-pantsed female vocalists randied up the crowd, their allure was oddly balanced by the shameless dudes in the rhythm section, all of whom were also sporting teeny-weenie bikinis. It was almost as if they nullified each other, or more accurately amplified each other, giving everyone in the audience some eye candy to chew on.

Far less bare was their phenomenal set of heavy-swinging Afrobeat, culled from original arrangements of traditional African folk and pop, Fela Kuti covers, and a few odds and ends thrown in. One song in particular, with lead singer Lara Maykovich settling into a sweet melody on mbira (African thumb piano), brought welcomed rhythmic variety to Aphrodesia's upbeat party vibe, and showed these guys are more than a bunch of pretty faces.

- Jonathan Zwickel


Aphrodesia in Vaudeville Tent by Susan J. Weiand


KAKI KING: BIG MEADOW


Kaki King by SuperDee
Believe it or not, I'd never heard of Kaki King before her set. How I managed to miss out on this phenomenon is a mystery to me, but in hindsight, I'm almost glad I'd never heard of her because it made her set that much more enchanting. What she does with a single Ovation guitar many four-piece bands can only dream of accomplishing. She slaps the guitar with her palm to create beats and then has multiple bass lines going underneath these hypnotic melodies. As I inched my way to the front, awe silencing the packed field, this 24 year-old acoustic goddess gifted us beautiful renditions of some of her new material off her soon to be released album Legs To Make Us Longer. Truth be told, while she was playing, I couldn't help but daydream about what would happen if she and Keller Williams had children.

- Monica Way


Dan Bern by The Kayceman

DAN BERN: VAUDEVILLE TENT
"I am the Messiah." -Dan Bern. Damn right! At his midday Vaudeville set on Saturday everything came together. Sure his Big Meadow set on Sunday was good, but it was dwarfed by the connection he made with the tight knit crowd under the Vaudeville Tent. I can't remember the last time I really cried in public. But when Dan Bern speaks the gospel, and when it's really working, emotions take over and to be honest, I didn't care, not one bit. Bern very well may be the greatest lyricist we have, and his politics couldn't be more poignant and on spot. And it wasn't just me. As I looked around people had tears in their eyes as they smiled at the stage. Next to The Slip melting my late night, this was the pinnacle of High Sierra for me. Songs like "Jerusalem" (do yourself a favor and read the lyrics), "Alaskan Highway," Estelle," and the duet he pulled off with Chris Chandler reading poetry from his little black notebook were inspirational, emotional, and beautiful. His storytelling, both in song and between compositions, is as good as any you will find. The manner in which he draws each and every person into his world is a gift that only the greatest performers are capable of. I could see Dan Bern every night and never get sick of learning from him. Dan Bern is the Messiah, don't forget it.

- The Kayceman


Mike Dillon and JJ "Jungle" Richards by Susan J. Weiand

HAIRY APES BMX
Just in case you haven't been paying attention, Mike Dillon is a freak. And I mean that in the best possible way. His band Hairy Apes BMX is the perfect vehicle for Dillon to just let it ALL hang out. With a heavy punk ethos and downright nasty instrumental capabilities, the Apes are an energetic bunch that fears nothing on stage. With Dillon doing his best Iggy Pop contortion moves and eventually diving off the top speaker into the crowd, this had to be one of the most insane sets of the weekend. But it's not all shtick or show, this band can play. When Dillon brought out the tabla and welcomed three horns (Skerik, Houser, Cheme), and a few percussionists (Jeffree Lerner, Joe Russo) to the mix the crowd was thumping with some type of world Beastie Boys sound. Going from Eastern drum-led excursions to D.C. go-go beats and more, this is one band that escapes classification. If you think you can handle some serious heat and aggression, go move your ass with Hairy Apes.

- The Kayceman


Cheme, Skerik, Brad Houser, and Joe Russo with HABMX by SuperDee

MOFRO


JJ Grey by Susan J. Weiand
MOFRO seems to be red hot as of late. I see their name more and more, and with good reason: they have a new album Lochloosa due soon, and they are damn good. Living up to their self proclaimed "Front porch soul" moniker, it was a joy to soak in the sun while front man JJ Grey led the band through a strong set at the Big Meadow Stage. Hampered by a broken piano, Grey was forced to head into "uncharted waters" as he stuck with the guitar. Not having JJ's regular equipment at his disposal certainly affected the show, but like a true professional, Grey was able to overcome and dish out some of that gritty soul music that is pushing this band into the limelight. The duo of Grey and guitar/dobro man Daryl Hance is a relationship that spans close to 20 years. This connection is what makes MOFRO a band that will succeed. Hance never says a word. I mean never. He just sits there and lets his slide bleed as Grey mans the mic. As the band continues to add more music to their repertoire there's a good chance that America will find itself longing for some of that deep Florida sound that MOFRO is serving up.

- The Kayceman


THE JENNIFER HARTSWICK BAND


Jen Hartswick by Jeffrey Smith
The Jennifer Hartswick Band from Vermont's Northeast Kingdom reminded me of the band from The School of Rock because of the youth of the members, and their brilliance. With poise that belies their years, Hartswick and company got the party rocking before closing with a smoking version of Pat Benetar's "Heartbreaker." The group of ten friends is having a blast on the festival circuit this summer, throwing it down with youthful abandon, with David Grippo and summer tour "veteran" Andy Moroz along to chaperone. Jennifer Hartswick is having quite a year, with powerhouse performances at Bonnaroo with the Trey Anastasio Band, and post-show parties in Vegas and showcase slots at High Sierra with her own band.

- Forrest Reda



Steve Earle by Susan J. Weiand

STEVE EARLE: GRANDSTAND STAGE
Steve Earle is guy who has had some hard knocks. With early success in 1988 with "Copperhead Road", this time the troubadour, a native of Schertz, Texas, assembled a top notch band for his Bluegrass Dukes, including Tim O'Brien on mandolin, for his afternoon main stage set on Saturday. The band sang around one mic like the old-timey guys did, and Earle still has the stage presence and gritty songwriting ability to please the masses. A darling of Nashville in the mid '80s, Earle has had his share of ups and downs in the business, including failed marriages, legal woes, and a stint in rehab. He just released his first CD in six years. His musical style is direct from the Heartland, more Americana than country; he writes on subjects with moral, political, and social significance. One must note however, that Earle has played the exact same set the last few times out, including the same political barbs and jokes.

- Susan J. Weiand


MOE.
moe. performed two extremely different sets that fit the context of each show. Late night moe. featured one set of impossibly long jams and segues that melted and swished through the High Sierra Hall. The band detoured into cow-funk space for parts of the late night set, which featured a marathon segue of "Akimbo" > "Recreational Chemistry" > "Brent Black" > "Californ IA" > "Tailspin." Although at times things might have meandered a little bit, it was a welcome dose of moe. for the band's West coast faithful.


Chuck Garvey

Rob Derhak

Al Schnier

Sunday's set on the main stage was comprised of the band's "singles" like "Okayalright," "Gone," and "Spine of the Dog" but the band jammed out the second half of the set before finishing with a stellar "Plane Crash." Acknowledging how special the weekend was, moe. trotted out The Band's epic "The Weight" for a full treatment, with an unexpected cameo from Leftover Salmon's Vince Herman on vocals for the last verse.

- Forrest Reda



Andrew Barr by James Martin

THE SLIP & SURPRISE ME MR. DAVIS: LATE NIGHT
The Slip late night in the Tulsa E. Scott Center was the unquestionable highlight of High Sierra for yours truly. While I knew The Slip would blow it open the big surprise was Surprise Me Mr. Davis. My good friend and Slip confidant heavily impressed upon me that I could not miss the Mr. Davis set, so I got there in plenty of time and was beyond blown away. Surprise Me Mr. Davis is The Slip's alter ego backing singer Nathan Moore. Someone whispered the words David Bowie in my ear as Nathan was staring over the crowd with glassy eyes, and the similarity to Ziggy Stardust was striking. The music these four cats laid down was full of life, full of love and lust, it was soft but not weak... it was beyond a surprise, it was damn near magical. The two moments that continue to stick out in my mind are when they moved through the song "Summer of My Fall" with the lyrics, "I opened the window, I opened the door, she came through the wall," and the set closing move that brought the crowd on stage. As the band played and Nathan continued singing he reached down and began pulling whomever would take his hand on stage, and by the end of their set the stage was full of people dancing, hugging, singing, and it worked. It was a moment of unity and beauty, one of those moments you can't really explain and only seems cheapened when trying.


Brad Barr by James Martin
After a quick wardrobe and mentality change the three men of The Slip came back for a raging set that went well past their curfew. The Slip continues to be one of the rare bands that truly get better every time I see them. Traveling as one cohesive unit Brad Barr led his trio through a marvelous set starting with fan favorite, "Children Of December." Other highlights were surly found in the indie sounds of "Soft Machine" the touching, emotional, cathartic "Sometimes True To Nothing" and the freaky, funky, hip-breaking, affects-laden, "Get Me With Fuji." While it was clearly a dance party The Slip tend to keep one finger on the heart strings, and when they busted out Elvis Costello's, "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love & Understanding" I found myself once again overrun by emotion. Something about Brad's honest, real voice singing these words was enough for me to both loose and gain faith in all we are, and all that is to come...

As I walk through/This wicked world/Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself/Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside,
There's one thing I wanna know:
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

- The Kayceman

HAMSA LILA: VAUDEVILLE
Hamsa Lila has been recognized as being one of San Francisco's best live bands and High Sierra was treated to several sets of healing sounds that will remain with anyone who witnessed the band. M.J. Greenmountain and Vir McCoy combine their ancient instruments and voices to create an intoxicating tribal rhythm, and your body moves. When Nikila Badua, Sasha Butterfly, and Deja start singing and dancing, your eyes are caught between the demands of both your body and heart. You can't stop dancing, but are transfixed by their beauty of voice and person. Hamsa Lila's set was more like an experience than a concert and the band attracted many new friends over the weekend.

- Forrest Reda



Fareed Haque by Susan J. Weiand

GARAJ MAHAL: LATENIGHT
Garaj Mahal presented another late night throwdown for the ages on Saturday night in the Funkin' Jam House. (GM also closed out the Big Meadow stage on Friday July 2.) The band came on at 2 a.m. and played one long set until 6. Firing all on funky cylinders, the GM guys played some of their popular originals including "Junct," "Stoked on Rasaki," "Hindi Gumbo," and "The Shadow." Their music is danceable stew of African, Middle Eastern, Indian, funk, fusion and jazz influenced tunes, played with high intensity by guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque, bass fusion legend Kai Eckhardt, drum monster Alan Hertz, and keys wizard Eric Levy. Later they were joined on stage by Cochemea "Cheme" Gastelum on sax, Arlan Schierbaum from Mamasutra on keys, and Dave on didgeridoo for Mose Davis' "Jan Jan", and "Be Dope." Not stopping there, they played another four songs, including "Tomorrow Never Knows," "Massive," "The Palladin" and closed with their speed-grass version of Princes' "Kiss." The weary, sweat-soaked audience poured out into the early morning stillness.

- Susan J. Weiand



Drew Emmitt by Jeffrey Smith

Vince Herman by Casey Flanigan

LEFTOVER SALMON: GRANDSTAND STAGE
Leftover Salmon's festival-closing set on the main stage on Sunday was bittersweet one. The band has announced they too will be taking a hiatus at the end of the year to work on solo projects and regroup after the departure of their most recent banjo player, Naom Pikelny, who left to join John Cowan's band. With the death of original banjo player Mark Vann in 2002, the loss of his playing and spirit is still felt. This night Matt Flinner did an admirable job filling the spot left vacant by Noam's departure. A HSMF crowd favorite, the band delivered a rousing set of many new tunes off of their latest CD simply titled Leftover Salmon such as "Woody Guthrie" and "Just Keep Walkin'" along with some of their old time favorites including "High on a Mountain Top" and "Dance on Your Head." Gone are the crazy antics of High Sierra past, they simply played their hearts out, though the band seemed a bit tired or simply overwhelmed by the finality of this performance or the huge reception they got. When they welcomed singer/songwriter Jim Page and Peter Grant on pedal steel to the stage for Page's talking blues "Talkin' High Sierra" and "Naked Underneath Your Clothes" it was quite fitting. Later with Sharon Gilchrist from Mary and Mars on mandolin and Dennis Ludiker, the fiddle player from South Austin Jug Band, for the last song, "Down in the Hollow," it was like they were passing the baton to the younger players. A poignant way to end High Sierra 2004. Festival!!!

- Susan J. Weiand


Sharon Gilchrist from Mary and Mars with Vince Herman by Susan J. Weiand


PARTING PLAYSHOP SHOTS:

Around the Horn Playshop

by SuperDee

Give the Drummer Some Playshop

Stanton Moore & Marco Benevento
By Susan J. Weiand

Stanton & Johnny Vidacovich
By SuperDee

CREDITS:

Thanks to Dave, Roy, Rebecca, Debbie, Margaret, Molly, etc etc etc for making yet another memorable year! Also, thanks to everyone who came by the JamBase booth to say hi... you guys rock!

And very special thanks to the JamBasers "on the scene" at the festival this year:

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

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

Until next year's High Sierra...

-SuperDee


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