HIGH SIERRA MUSIC FEST: BETTER EVERY YEAR

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


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