HIGH SIERRA MUSIC FEST: THE BEST IN THE WEST
With so many festivals and tours yet so little time and money, one must choose wisely when planning out the summer fun. There are arguments to be made for almost every fest and any tour. Bonnaroo offers the biggest bands and most expansive lineup, Wakarusa and 10KLF give new demographics huge stages and massive names, Panic is on tour, and BIG appears to be going off without a hitch. But none of these, actually no festival we've found, offers the down-home vibe, ease of logistics and all-around relaxing good time that the High Sierra Music Festival has been providing for a decade-and-a-half. For their Fifteenth Anniversary, High Sierra didn't do anything particularly special, instead they did what they've always done: crafted a solid line-up and brought together some of the nicest folks in one of the greatest sites imaginable. What follows is not meant to be an all inclusive review. We're well aware that some of the best bands didn't receive proper treatment. We're not here to tell the whole tale, but rather to spread the good word on why High Sierra continues to be one of the few events we hit each and every year. We gathered words and images from our staff and friends and even poked around 'the biz' to bring you the Top 3 from HSMF. We hope you enjoy our little walk back to Quincy. After reading up on some of our favorite moments, we hope you'll save some pennies for the 16th Annual High Sierra next summer. We guarantee you won't be disappointed.
HSMF 2005 by Dave Vann
SURPRISINGLY EMOTIONAL: THE SLIP & DAVIS
Music is emotional. Music is life and love, pain, passion, heartbreak, exuberance, and every other color we feel. Music can explain what we have no words for. It can make sense of the senseless and give us hope when we have none. Music is a release, and it can often be as critical to one's survival (or sanity) as air and water. There are a handful of bands, perhaps even less, that can evoke these emotions, and few do it better than The Slip. Standing in front of the Barr Brothers (Brad - guitar, Andrew - drums) and Marc Friedman (bass) as they tore through their Late Nite set on Friday, emotions ran deep reaching climactic proportions during "Proud." When Benevento and Russo of The Duo joined in for the instrumental "Happy Snails," everything seemed to be right, even if just for a moment. High Sierra would simply not be High Sierra without The Slip. They embody the essence of the festival: an Americana band that can improvise wildly, touching on a myriad of genres yet always maintaining their identity. Ya, they're that good.
Andrew Barr - The Slip
HSMF 2005 by Jon Bahr
As I fought tears at the Surprise Me Mr. Davis double-slot (the band scheduled after them canceled, thus giving Mr. Davis three hours to play), I was reminded of the emotional qualities inherent in music. I remembered why I started buying tapes and sitting in my room when I was a wee one. Listening to Nathan Moore (ThaMuseMeant) tell the tale of how he was arrested on his way to the festival forced a sense of unity on the crowd. We were connected to Nathan and his Slip backing band, some of us (those who may have woken up in jail) perhaps a bit more than others. Regardless of one's back history with The Slip, Mr. Davis, or jail, it was impossible to deny the songs these boys played. In particular, "Summer of my Fall" may be one of the greatest songs you don't know (listen here). For anyone who digs honest songs, gut-wrenching delivery, and mind-boggling instrumental abilities (I was even reminded of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of The Mars Volta during one of Brad Barr's heavily processed guitar intros), don't let Surprise Me Mr. Davis escape you.
B. Barr & N. Moore :: Surprise Me Mr. Davis
HSMF 2005 by Grace Dunn
TWO FOR ME, & TWO FOR YOU: THE DUO & TWO GALLANTS
You used to need three or four members to start a band, but that no longer holds true. In 2005 all you need is two. Bands like The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Death From Above 1979, The Benevento/Russo Duo, and Two Gallants (amongst others) have made it abundantly clear that you can do away with the extraneous instruments and strip it down to just two members. At both their Big Meadow set and their Sunday Late Nite the Benevento/Russo Duo (sans Gordo) continued their domination of the scene. Pulling off instrumental covers of both Radiohead and Elliot Smith, not to mention a slew of impressive originals, Marco and Joe proved without a doubt that they simply have no need for a bass player. As these two good time fellas continue to create massive walls of sound equipped with mind-eating monsters, jazzy improvs, impressive electronics, and a keen ear for detail, there appears to be nothing standing in their way.
M. Benevento - The Duo :: HSMF 2005 by Dave Vann
Following suit, the Two Gallants made their first High Sierra appearance to small but enthralled crowds. Covering lead, rhythm, and bass duties on his guitar, Adam Stephens not only wowed with his hands but moved with his words. The Two Gallants sat slightly outside the regular sounds and usual suspects at High Sierra, but that's exactly what made it so fun. Songs of death and murder, heavy drinking, and blood-soaked love made their performance at the Vaudeville Tent absolutely breath-taking. It was nice to see High Sierra take a chance on a young band that does not fit the peaceful easy vibe. With a new album coming out on Conor Oberst's (Bright Eyes) Saddle Creek record label and appearances at both the Reading and Leeds music festivals in England, the Two Gs are one hot duo. Keep an eye on the Two Gallants; they're making major moves.
A. Stephens - Two Gallants :: HSMF 2005 by Grace Dunn
RISE OUT OF THE WATER: JERRY JOSEPH
Just as the Two Gallants write dark songs of twisted people, so does Jerry Joseph. Jerry's been known to tell the audience, "You know what I hate? Hippies telling me 'It's all good.' It's not all good. It's not supposed to be all good." And while he didn't open up that can at High Sierra's Main Stage, he did launch into spirited versions of "Good Sunday" and "Light Is Like Water." As the fierce sun beat down on the faithful fans of rock, Jerry laid on the wah-wah pedal, assaulting his guitar and mangling our ears. Jerry's brand of sloppy (and that's a compliment here), emotionally charged rock is his calling card, but his songwriting is what sets him apart and what will be his legacy. As Jerry spoke of the Feather River that surrounds Quincy, California, he sang songs of water. As the words to the set-closing "Climb To Safety" rang over the heads of High Sierra, it was clear that inspiration comes in many forms. "Look around your room you find the paint is peelin' / Your reflective skin is fallin' off your bones / Well, I must admit I know just how you're feelin' / We must grab each other's collar, we must rise out of the water / And you know as well as I do it's no fun to die alone / Climb to safety /
After all that I've been through, you're the only one that matters / Climb to safety."
J. Joseph & B. Rosen - Jackmormons
HSMF 2005 by Grace Dunn
SURPRISE OF THE WEEKEND: AL HOWARD & THE K23 ORCHESTRA
What can I say, I've known Al Howard for years, and I've seen him play several times. But I ain't never seen him do what he did at the Vaudeville Tent late Saturday night. I can't be sure what the catalyst was: maybe the mass of people or maybe the fact that it was Saturday night High Sierra Party People. Maybe it was the sweaty tent versus the cool mountain air. I'm not sure, but whatever happened led to an inspirational set of music by Dr. Howard and his K23 crew. Al is always an energetic band leader, and he's always giving it his all, but one thing that set this evening apart was the expansive, borderline psychedelic groove music his band was creating. When not sharing his rapid-fire words of wisdom, Al was slamming on a tambourine and flopping all over the stage. As the crowd went nuts, Al matched their intensity and raised it a notch. This is what we mean when we talk about the crowd/band dynamic - each one serving the other and making something far greater than words can express. When speaking with Al the next day near the noodle shack, he showed me blisters from the tambourine and told me it was the best show they've ever had. Al Howard and the K23 Orchestra are on the rise. Be sure to tap in.
Benevento & Al Howard :: HSMF 2005 by Grace Dunn
HIGH IN THE SIERRAS WE TASTE THE GOOD LIFE
-By Dennis Cook
It was during the JP Cutler Band's Thursday afternoon performance that a major difference between High Sierra and other music festivals became apparent. Folks reclined on the lawn and really listened in a deep way to the extended Eastern-leaning interlude that opened Cutler's set. His sound - a heady descendent of Ritchie Havens and cult folkie Exuma - requires an attentive space to fully blossom, and he got it. Throughout the weekend, this kept happening. The braying and hooting that usually competes with the music at other festivals was nearly always at a bare minimum here. It allowed us to drink in the delicate dance of Chris Thile and Mike Marshall's mandolin duo, the majestic interplay of the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, and the often hushed and haunted Two Gallants. In no small way, this respectful attitude expanded the experience for both audience and performer, providing a crucible for many hugely affecting musical journeys impossible amongst the usual hubbub.
Marshall & Thile :: HSMF 2005 by Dave Vann
THE NESTING INSTINCT
Everywhere the eye falls at High Sierra, there are little shantytowns amongst the cow piles and grassy knolls. Decked out with twinkling Christmas lights and elaborate tapestries, there's a homey quality to the campgrounds that intertwine with the stages. One is surrounded by archetypal images like mermaids, urban Bodhisattvas, fairies, and smiling Buddhas. A great deal of care goes into the fairground decorations, and that attention to detail extends to the attendees' encampments. There's a roughhewn beauty to these temporary abodes, which adds to the general magic loose in the high mountain air. Instead of just traipsing through and leaving a pile of empty bottles and potato chip wrappers, there is the feeling of something more tangible to the temporary habitats erected here. This is a lifestyle for thousands, and the gypsy prettiness of so many camps announced the undisguised pleasure many feel in being present for this joyous celebration. Even with so much music to enjoy, you could still find people relaxing in the shade of their RV's, caught up in daydreams and animated conversation, freed from the bustle of their normal routine, able to engage with the NOW in a profound way.
HSMF 2005 by Grace Dunn
BILL FRISELL BAND
Is this jazz? That's the genre you'll usually find Frisell filed under, but listening to the layered textural fog he conjured up with his stellar band, all I could think was, "These are the essential ingredients that make music a gift of the gods. Frisell borrowed freely from country, rock, ambient freefalls, and plugged-in jazz to create some of the most gorgeous, emotionally resonate music many of us had ever heard. Joining his always fascinating and dynamic electric guitar were Jenny Scheinman (violin), Greg Leisz (lap and pedal steel), Viktor Krauss (bass), and Matt Chamberlain (drums). Collectively these master musicians have played with Critters Buggin, Alison Krauss, Carla Bozulich, Neal Casal, and many more. Each brings a wealth of unique experience from their extensive studio work. What emerged in both their Friday Late Nite and Saturday afternoon sets was a hallmark of High Sierra – sound beyond classification but saturated with feeling. Their set-closing rendition of Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" brought more than a few of us to tears, serving as both a reminder of the "damp dirty prisons" of the world and a celebration of our temporary "home in the valley." It was tremendous in every sense.
Bill Frisell :: HSMF 2005 by Grace Dunn
HATS OFF TO JESSICA LURIE
Whether doing James Brown proud with the UK's New Mastersounds or stompin' a brass hole in the sky with Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet, saxophonist Jessica Lurie, this year's Artist at Large, lived up to her stated goal of creating "joyful music chaos." Whenever Lurie popped on stage, things jumped to the proverbial next level. Physically petite but possessing a big, bold sound, she blows with a seemingly endless inspiration that recalls Joe Henderson with the flexibility of Wayne Shorter. She can find her way in every type of music, which she exhibited in her lusty, Studio 54-esque romp with the Dead Kenny Gs and later that same day in a hypnotic late night groove with Les Claypool. This audio wanderer clearly inspired her compatriots all weekend long. Look forward to even more new horizons when her latest album, Licorice And Smoke, arrives later this summer. In it, she demonstrates her growing skill as a vocalist alongside her saxophone talents.
Jessica Lurie with Meltone :: HSMF 2005 by J. Bahr
Acoustic music has a strong presence at High Sierra. Unfurled in a tintinnabulous range, the plucked and the bowed gave these days a smiling sway. Highlights included the Hot Buttered Rum String Band's barn-burning Saturday night gig with luminaries like Peter Rowan and Chris Thile, the down-home "oomph" of Larry Keel and Natural Bridge that lit up Thursday evening, and both of ThaMuseMeant's fantastic morning sets, where their vagabond reveries defused abuses of power with humor and feeling that set our hearts flying like a little pretty bird. There's a palpable charm to music that can be made anywhere, anytime that spread from the stages into the campsites, where folks picked and grinned over acoustic guitars and battle-scarred fiddles. The performers this year did double duty – entertaining us with their skill and passion AND inspiring us to pick up our own instruments.
Late Nite Pickathon :: HSMF 2005 by J. Bahr
SUPER DEE CHOOSES THREE
PERPETUAL GROOVE: ALL NIGHT LONG
The PGroove boys came to High Sierra and they brought it! Their first of two sets was the Late Nite in the Tulsa E. Scott building where they "opened" for Tea Leaf Green. When I arrived (second song) they were heavy in the middle of "Get Down Tonight" by KC & The Sunshine Band. It was the perfect late night set: a short, five-song setlist with enormous "get down" jams that sent people out into the night sweaty and tying to catch their breath. PG's second High Sierra set came the next night in the Vaudeville Tent in a nice 10:15 p.m. slot that proved to be the place to be all weekend. As a PG enthusiast, this was a ridiculous set of music with a "Sundog" opener and an inspired "Long Past Settled In," which led into a frenetic "Digging in the Dirt" – a signature PGroove cover of the angry Peter Gabriel classic. The absolute kicker, though, was when the crowd ROARED for more, and the band came back with a mind-blowing cover of Lionel Richie's "All Night Long." What a perfect cover for a festival with lyrics like "Life is good wild and sweet" and "Feel it in your heart and feel it in your soul." The entire tent was on FIRE! No, YOU give it up for Perpetual Groove!
Brock Butler - Perpetual Groove :: HSMF 2005 by J. Miller
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN JAPANESE KIDS GROW UP ON JAM?
Meltone is a four-piece band – guitar, keys, drums, and bass – that plays quirky jam music. Sound familiar? It should because Meltone is a band that is doing nothing new... that is, if they were coming from American soil. Meltone comes to us from Japan. This is a band from the other side of the world that has watched our American Jam culture grow, picking out elements that spoke to them and mirroring them back to us. Watching and hearing them proved the theory that music is THE universal language. Musician at large, Jessica Lurie, sat in for a stretch, and the entire crowd was all smiles as they listened to music they've heard a hundred times over yet it was somehow refreshing again. It was a truly heartwarming High Sierra moment when bassist Takuya Fukano asked the crowd, in his literal English, "Please let us come back." They went straight from the Vaudeville Tent to the roof of their RV to rock for the masses some more. Arigato!
Meltone :: HSMF 2005 by Dave Vann
What would a High Sierra review be without a mention of the man, the legend, the freaker, Skerik? Skerik was a member of at least three bands at the festival this year - Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet, Les Claypool, and The Dead Kenny G's. The DKG's – also featuring Skerik's partner in mayhem Mike Dillon and Jacob Fred's Brian Haas - had an absurdly early set one afternoon where they screamed at us with their music for an hour. Skerik made sure to tell everyone that they are not necessarily suggesting that we go out and kill Kenny G, "but... if something were to happen," they were there to help. To be honest, the two Les Claypool sets did very little for me as most of the jams seemed pointless and uninspired. The real Skerik treat of the weekend was The Taint – an innovative 7-piece horn/wind band accompanied by Joe Doria on keys and John Wick on drums. There are a good number of "punk-jazz" originals (which can be found on their 2003 ropeadope release), but what I love the most are the thoughtful arrangements of old goodies like "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and "Close To You (They Long to Be)" by The Carpenters. All in all, while it was a quick visit to Quincy for Skerik this year, he accomplished what he needed to do: fill the minds and souls of music lovers with the truthful and non-commercial music they deserve.
Skerik with Dead Kenny G's :: HSMF 2005 by G. Dunn
BRITS CAN DO IT TOO: THE NEW MASTERSOUNDS
-By Robyn Rubinstein
What is it about British bands that make them so effective at co-opting American music forms? Maybe it's something in the tea, but from John Lennon to Mick Jagger to Dave Holland, Brits have been taking American music styles and adjusting them to sonic perfection. Add to that list The New Mastersounds. Comprised of virtuoso guitarist Eddie Roberts, Hammond and Rhodes player Bob Birch, bassist Pete Shand and drummer Simon Allen, The New Mastersounds are the funk band of the future. When this unassuming quartet takes the stage, the groove is relentless and the funk is undeniable. Shand's bass lines are thick, palpable, and well complemented by Allen's dexterous drumming, creating a solid foundation for Birch's inspired keyboard work and Roberts' intuitive, biting guitar sound. When the four combine, NMS is a funk-laden force to be reckoned with. They take the hardest-hitting aspects of soul-jazz and combine it with shades of deep house music, creating a unique sound and an epic dance party. These lads from across the pond are skilled musicians and visceral players who are breathing new life into the funk band paradigm. To miss this band live would be a disservice to any true funk fan.
The New Mastersounds :: HSMF 2005 by Susan J. Weiand
ALO: ON TO HIGHER GROUND
-By Tanner Wyer
The four members of ALO most certainly added to the party that was High Sierra this year. Their musical voyage started on Friday night, as they headlined the Funk 'N Jam House for a "Freaky Tiki Funkhouse" party to a sold out, and more importantly, blissed-out frenzy of costume-wearing, liberated animals. Jumping right into a fierce "Kolomana" and never looking back, the band continued to pound the high energy funk grooves all evening. Things turned into serious business when guitar guru Fareed Haque joined the band for the first of his two appearances that morning. After playing a blistering "Hot Tub > Michael Was A Man" that seemed like it would never stop raging, Fareed left the stage only to return for the face-melting encore of "Busy Killing Time > Once In a Life Time." The crowd filtered out at 5:30 a.m., exhausted yet completely elated. The band had never even bothered with a set break.
Zach Gill - ALO :: HSMF 2005 by J. Miller
Things picked right back up on Sunday as ALO took the main stage to deliver a set that was absolutely on fire. Fans had set up trampolines in the middle of the Music Meadow, sending them to even higher heights as ALO brought the heat song after song. Joined by Renault Rising (stilt walkers), Al Howard, and Jordan Feinstein, ALO plowed through some of their more well-known songs like "Shapeshifter," "Plastic Bubble," and "Wasting Time." They closed with a rocking version of "Walls of Jericho." As the masses bounced on the trampolines, it really did appear as though everything truly was alright. With superstar Jack Johnson both appearing on their album and granting them an opening slot on his summer shed tour, ALO is headed for higher ground.
PEELING BACK THE LAYERS WITH TEA LEAF GREEN
-By Andy Gadiel
The members of Tea Leaf Green are no strangers to High Sierra. Their inaugural 2001 Showcase set was an introduction for many as they quadrupled their fan base in just over an hour. Having attended the festival every summer since, they were poised to take this year by storm.
Josh Clark - Tea Leaf Green
HSMF 2005 by J. Bahr
Thursday's Late Nite set was, by many fan accounts, one of their finest performances to date as they blazed through classic fist-pumpers like "Sex in the 70s," "Hot Dog," and the stony "Planet of Green Love" along with a rare and mythic "Garden Suite." Evening collaborators included Sean Leahy (London Street, Four Year Bender), Jordan Feinstein (The Ritual), Eric McFadden, and Grace Potter. The set clocked in at over two-and-a-half hours, lasting until just before the morning light.
Only a few hours later, keyboardist Trevor Garrod joined Grace Potter and Zach Gill (ALO) for a morning troubadour session that showcased each artist's unique songwriting abilities while the others joined along in harmony.
Later that day, TLG hopped on top of a Winnebago for one of the most unique sets of the festival. Teetering upon the edge of the roof, the band played to a crowd of about one hundred onlookers and many shocked passers-by. The set hit a peak during Garrod's ironic anthem "Ride Together" as my friend turned and aptly asked, "Is this heaven?"
Tea Leaf's Main Stage Saturday afternoon performance was a classic example of their ability to rise to the occasion and weave together a set combining high-energy rockers and melodic ballads. Including an on-stage, silent fan reading along with a celebratory Sasquatch sighting, the band showed how they can have a good time while winning over many musical hearts and minds.
Later that afternoon, Josh and Trevor joined Matt Butler from The Everyone Orchestra and Jamie Janover for a four-song impromptu sit-in at the Vaudeville Tent. This short set showcased more of Trevor Garrod's beautiful writing style and vocal harmonies while giving Josh Clark an opportunity to show off a more sensitive side to his typical shready guitar style.
For the testosterone-starved, Sunday afternoon's Guitarmageddon was a highlight as Josh Clark (TLG), Dan Lebowitz (ALO), Sean Leahy and Ryan Smith (Four Year Bender), and Daria and Jen (London Street) put on a clinic of guitar onslaught mayhem. Special guests included Fareed Haque, Brock Butler (Perpetual Groove), and Jordan Feinstein (The Ritual) as the ensemble delivered a rowdy rendition of guitar classics including "Crossroads," "One Way Out," and a roof-raising "Whole Lotta Love."
Clark & Garrod - Playshop HSMF 2005 by J. Bahr
Rounding out their 2005 representation, Trevor Garrod contributed to both of Sunday's Everyone Orchestra performances including the Tulsa E. Scott playshop and the Late Nite Funk 'N JamHouse closer. A varying collaborative experience including members of various groups led by drummer Matt Butler, EO has come into its own over the last few years and awakened to be a true representation of "everyone" as audience participation melds with musicianship and improvisation takes center stage.
If there's anything that TLG has learned in their five-year tenure in Quincy, it's that quality and quantity can go hand-in-hand when you're in the magical wonderland of High Sierra.
HSMF 2005 MVP: BRAD BARR of THE SLIP & SURPRISE ME MR. DAVIS
This years HSMF MVP was a tough call. Jessica Lurie was certainly a candidate as she was blowing hard everywhere we looked. Marco Benevento was all over town lending a hand and busting some heads. Al Howard left quite an impression, as did Nathan Moore who spent some time in The Clink on his way to High Sierra. But after looking over notes and thinking back on the weekend, JamBase gives the nod to Brad Barr. The road-weary Barr not only battled some type of stomach flu (which was passed on to brother Andrew) but was still reeling from an overwhelming case of vertigo. In fact, Brad was so ill he even missed one of his sets at the fest. But did that stop him? No way! Not only did Brad bring tears to the eyes and music to the mind, he made a righteous Late Nite return by mounting a speaker cabinet during The Benevento/Russo Duo's Sunday night blow out. Give it up for Brad Barr, JamBase's 2005 HSMF MVP.
Brad Barr Stepping It Up with The Duo
HSMF 2005 by Dave Vann
Well folks, thanks for playing, and don't forget to "Continue Reading" for the TOP 3 FROM HSMF. Once again High Sierra was all we could have hoped for and maybe even a little more. Don't forget to start saving and get planning. High Sierra only happens once a year, and we're already looking forward to packing up and heading back to the mountains. See ya there.
JamBase | Quincy, CA
Go See Live Music!
TOP 3 FROM THE HSMF
Skerik :: Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, Syncopated Taint, Dead Kenny Gs, Critters Buggin, Crack Sabbath - Saxophone
1) James Blood Ulmer
2) Jamaaladeen Tacuma
3) G. Calvin Weston
(Editor's Note: All of the above performed as Man vs. Machine)
Michael Franti :: Spearhead - Leader/Guitar/Vocals
1) Chet Helms - R.I.P.
2) Bret Dennen
3) SageMan Drum Tent
Eric McFadden :: EMT, Stockholm Syndrome, P-Funk - Guitar/Vocals
1) Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express. Great songwriter and guitarist, awesome band too.
2) James Blood Uhlmer Man vs. Machine
3) Bill Frisell. This man is a treasure indeed. No one plays guitar like Bill Frisell. The beauty and dissonance...
I found it a difficult task picking only three seeing as how there were several more equally impassive acts. For example, Les Claypool. What can I say about ole Les and the crew? And how 'bout our pal Skerik, Aphrodesia, Jacob Fred etc etc...
Marco Benevento :: The Duo - Keys
1) Fire Dancing
2) Jamie Janover
3) Jamie Janover
Bronco :: The Duo - Road Manager
1) Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet at the Vaudeville on Friday. First time seeing this project of Skerik's. Have loved the CD and was blown away live.
2) Russo being announced as the new Biscuits drummer at the Conspirator set on Big Meadow Stage.
3) New Mastersounds Late Nite before Karl - My new discovery of the weekend.
Marc Friedman :: The Slip - Bass
1) Bill Frisell
2) Les Claypool in an ape mask and tuxedo
3) A man getting detained by 7 police officers for tripping out too hard. Whoops!
Brian Haas :: JFJO, Dead Kenny Gs - Keyboards
1) The Slip opening up for McFadden Late Nite. The Slip is still one of the best bands on earth............. take a deep breath and dig how much musical ground they cover on accident every second they are on stage.
2) Marco Benevento on the Thelonious Monk sessions. I was sitting about two feet away from this freak (playing Fender Rhodes) and his left hand Hammond organ shit combined with his right hand lines were absolutely stupid, fluid, effortless jazz perfection. This guy is a fucking genius. Someday I hope to be in a quartet with Marco, Myself and both members of Hella.
3) The Dead Kenny Gs. These guys are ego-maniacal Zen Buddhists from Broken Arrow OK; shitty music, but great conversationalists, all three of 'em. The best talk I've ever had about one-dimensional, 4d control of the weather using the power and truth of Wilhelm Reich.
Reed Mathis :: JFJO, SKB - Bass
1) Bill Frisell Quintet - with Matt Chamberlain on drums and Victor Krauss on bass. Unbelievable beauty and cosmic improvising... a huge thrill to see this band anywhere, let alone at HSMF!
2) The Slip - every set of theirs I've ever seen
3) Bela Fleck/Trilok Gurtu - Banjo Raga Playshop
Steve Adams :: ALO - Bass
1) Tea Leaf Green jamming on top of an RV.
2) Camping with Hot Buttered Rum String Band and catching their rippin' psychedelic hoedown Sunday late night in the Music Hall.
3) Everyone Orchestra Sunday late night Funk 'n Jamhouse - Nathan Moore coming up on stage with megahorn sirens, ballading the story of his High Sierra mishap; Jamie Janover conducting like a ninja.
My ALO Highlight:
Being surrounded by phreaks on trampolines (audience), High Sierra stilt walkers (on stage) and a roaming Mike Gordon (backstage) at the Grandstand ALO set Sunday Evening.
Dan Lebowitz :: ALO - Guitar
1) Bret Dennen - troubadour session. I had never heard of him and was totally blown away. So unassuming. His whole vibe was really inviting. Great voice, great lyrics, and great songs. I want to hear more!
2) Kinky - Late Nite. Our late night set was on Friday night and the opener was Kinky. I had not heard them yet but was hearing a lot about them. I made sure that I got there early enough to check them out and was glad that I did. They had this high energy wall of sound that got me super pumped. Keep an eye out for these guys.
3) Benevento/Russo Duo - Big Meadow & Late Night. I love to watch the way these guys interact on stage. I feel like they must have a lot of love for each other and each others playing and it really comes through in the music that they make. They get some really interesting sounds and I find their compositions to be really inventive.
Jenna Lebowitz :: ALO - Manager / Jenstar Productions
1) The Saratoga Boys sunrise set = ALO acoustic Trevor Garrod and Rob Binkley at Campa Barbara on the 4th of July
2) Jamie Janover and friends on the Realms Mobile - always a High Sierra favorite
3) Benevento Russo Duo - deep, emotional and beautiful
Brock Butler :: Perpetual Groove - Guitar
1) Benevento & Russo w/The Slip (Late Nite)
3) Kinky Late Nite
Matt McDonald :: Perpetual Groove - Keyboards
1) The Soul Rebels
3) Benevento Russo... The Duo
Albert Suttle:: Perpetual Groove - Drums
1) The Duo
3) The Soul Rebels
Al Howard :: K23 Orchestra - Leader/Vocalist
1) Benevento/Russo Late Nite killed it. I stood in the front completely mesmerized by their unique manipulation of sound. They lock in on so many rhythms and ideas during the improv parts of their songs, it is really inspiring. I got to meet them this weekend and I'm pretty sure I drooled and made an ass of myself, Joe Russo made our keyboardist fall off his skateboard.
2) Both Jacob Fred sets blew me away. It was like going to band class for a few hours. Their unique takes on familiar songs like Bjork's "Isobel" and the Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun" had such a vintage Fred approach that at first I had no idea what songs they were. Plus the well sculpted cacophony of their own songs provide a beautiful madness no one else is really putting out there. They are on fire right now and have so much control over their improvisation that it borders on uncanny.
3) This is probably kind of lame because I happen to be in the band. But the K23 Orchestra set at the Vaudeville was the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on. I've been coming to the High Sierra Fest for four years and it is hands down my favorite. To get to play a rockin' set for the most energetic fans, as well as amongst the top bands on the scene extends slightly beyond an honor. This weekend was amazing.
Margaret Pitcher: High Sierra Music Marketing Manager
1) Bands that stretched the musical format of High Sierra and added a fresh element to our line-up. The Bill Frisell Band, Mexico's Kinky and especially Two Gallants from San Francisco might seem like a departure for High Sierra, yet their performances went over well with scrutinizing music fans seeking something outside the twang and jam worlds. Props to my friends in Surrounded By Ninjas and the JP Cutler Band, two first-time High Sierra showcase bands that offered a different sound, put their hearts into their performances, and made me proud.
2) Rare moments when I could relax and appreciate the music. Bill Frisell Band Late Nite in the Vaudeville Tent: The way these musicians connected with each other and the audience exemplifies High Sierra in many ways. A smiling Frisell blew me away and his band (Greg Leisz, Viktor Krauss, Jenny Scheinman and Matt Chamberlain) was amazing. Watching Leo and Mike and percussionist Neil Symonette on the Grandstand Stage felt more like enjoying an intimate performance in someone's living room. An even more intimate moment was early Sunday at my friends' campsite with Brock Butler from Perpetual Groove playing Allman Brothers and Pink Floyd songs on acoustic guitar into the wee morning hours.
3) Positive feedback on the festival from all of you. Throughout the weekend I heard incredible comments from friends and strangers – giving me a much-needed perspective on High Sierra. We get so mired in production and minutiae that we need to step outside of it to realize why High Sierra is so meaningful to many people. It's a bit deflating when the festival ends but everyone's feedback is helping me stay focused on and excited for next year's event.
Aaron Benor :: Relix Advertising Account Executive
1) Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - What an amazing set of pipes! This chick can wail with the best of 'em and with a solid band backing her up, she's destined for big things.
2) Conspirator – Aron, Marc and Chris really nailed it. Deep grooves, fantastic peaks and great guest sit-ins (Brock Butler, Joe Russo, Kim Manning) blew me away. They get better each time they play.
3) Alfred Howard and the K23 Orchestra – Why haven't more people layered hip-hop over jam music? Keep it coming, Al!
Ami Heinrich :: Tsunami Publicity, LLC
1) KINKY! - Completely amazed me live and their CD is equally exciting and refreshing
2) Bill Frisell - Just like making love to melody
3) Surprise Me Mr. Davis - Nathan Moore + the Slip = New Frontiers in Poetry and Music
Adam Haft :: New Monsoon, Morgan Heritage - Manager
1) Spearhead - Michael Franti has an uncanny ability to inspire, and the band was smoking.
2) Hot Buttered Rum String Band - This is one of my favorite bands, and their performance at HSMF only reaffirmed that.
3) ALO - Another of my favorites, they stepped it up big. And I loved Dan Lebowitz sitting in with Samantha and the Ritual (who were great, also).
3a) Ty Towry's margaritas and bloody marys. Yummy good.
Eric Gerber :: JFJO, Dead Kenny Gs, Hairy Apes BMX - Manager
1) Bill Frisell Band at the Vaudeville Tent. Pure artistry with sound. Bill and band created a soundscape of notes that weaved together into some of the most beautiful tones and rhythms I have ever heard, delightful. For 90 minutes, the music turned the HSMF paradise into heaven.
2) Dead Kenny Gs at the Vaudeville Tent. Good thing that this show was at noon. If it had been in the dark I think the energy from the packed house would have lit the tent on fire.
3) The D'Addario workshop with Fareed Haque and Steve Kimock. Two masters with two distinct styles playing together to create something entirely unique. This was my son's first HSMF Playshop, what a treat.
J. Gibson :: reapandsow Director of Operations
1) Al Howard and the K23 Orchestra blowing up the Vaudeville Tent
2) The Slip Late Nite - Constructing an Art Piece made of sound
3) Benevento and Russo Late Nite - Continuing that art piece of sound
3(a) JFJO - Big Meadow
Melissa Adair :: InHouse Ticketing - Marketing Coordinator
1) Everyone Orchestra Late Nite Sunday. At least 20 of the best musicians at HSMF joined forces to create the ultimate late night. Orchestrated by Jamie Janover and Matt Butler the EO was funkier than ever.
2) ALO Grandstand Sunday. With some of the sweetest summer jams to go along with four awesome musicians, trampolines, and a crowd handing out free tiki coladas this was definitely a lifelong highlight.
3) Benevento/Russo Duo Big Meadow Saturday. Jaw dropping two-piece that rocked my world.
Andy Gadiel :: JamBase CEO
1) High Sierra – The festival itself makes my Top 3 this year – the whole thing is set up perfectly so you can flow from one stage to another, stop by to see your friends at their campsites and catch some shade and a refresher and then back out into the seemingly never-ending array of musical choices. The scene, the vibe, the music, the people -- It all really lives up to the "Best Fest" claims by fans year in and year out.
2) Grace Potter - wow
3) Meltone – the Japanese rock band crafting inspired original melodies from completely authentic American influenced music.
Super Dee :: JamBase - Director of Content & Production
1) "Summer Of My Fall" by Surprise Me Mr. Davis
2) "All Night Long" by Perpetual Groove
3) Meltone from Japan
Andrew Warren :: JamBase - Minister of Information
1) The Slip's High Sierra Music Hall Late Nite performance's of "Proud," "Wolof" and "Happy Snails" (with The Duo).
2) Surprise Me Mr. Davis' two set show in the Vaudeville tent with stellar performances of "I Hate Love," "Red Sky" and "Summer of My Fall."
3) Brock Butler (Perpetual Groove) and Deanne Herman (JamBase) on "All This Everything (Part 1)" at the RV before the Late Nite Benevento/Russo throwdown.
Adam Kaye :: JamBase - Copy Editor
1) Kai Eckhardt's smile while his 9 year-old son Danilo was trading licks with his daddy and Alan Hertz on his little drum set toward the end of Garaj Mahal's Main Stage set Friday afternoon. He wasn't good for a 9 year-old. He was good.
2) Everything Nathan Moore touched, particularly the stillness surrounding his new song "If I Should Be in Jail Tonight" Saturday morning at the Americana Stage. He wrote it in the holding tank in Quincy the previous night, and while he sang, the wind flowing through the trees seemed to slow just a bit.
3) A tie between the end of Yonder's first set late Thursday night ("Ramblin' In The Rambler" > "Reuben & Cherise" > "Ramblin' In The Rambler") and the beginning of their second set ("Stairway To Watchtower," "Natural Woman," and "Kentucky Mandolin" - all featuring Keller Williams).
Tanner Wyer :: JamBase Employee
1) ALO – As if their Late Nite was not a fun enough party, their Main Stage set on Sunday will be something to remember for a long time. Complete with trampolines and a portable mini bar, they truly brought out the animal in everyone.
2) Perpetual Groove – Their sound has developed so much since the first time I heard them several years ago. Such a fun band to watch play, as you just wait for them to absolutely explode. When they do, it still catches you by surprise. One of my new favorite bands without a doubt.
3) The New Mastersounds – What the funk. Seriously, these guys were blowing the roof off the place. Such a treat to see a band I had heard so much about really come through. Come back to America... right now!
Michael Ryan :: JamBase - Intern
1) Yonder Mountain String Band with Keller, and then the army of mandolins, and battalion of banjos
2) Hot Buttered Rum String Band with Peter Rowan, Shannon Gilchrist, Mike Marshall, and Chris Thile
3) Meltone - Japanese jam band on top of RV
Ted Kartzman :: JamBase Rhapsody Blog Maintainer
1) "Red sky, yellow line, apple pie, friends of mine...this time, this war, we don't belong here..." - Surprise Me Mr. Davis, emotionally and with very poetic imagery of what was happening to both Nathan and our country in the super two set suite of Surprise Sunday songs.
2) The strength that Joe Russo had to muster up to play the Sunday Late Nite after being whored out on like a dozen stages all weekend, bringing classic The Duo crescendos of "9x9" and "My Pet Goat" to epic proportions.
3) After huge crowd roar in the Vaudeville Tent, the nice little fellow from Meltone spoke with very deliberate word choice, "Please help us get back here!"
Dennis Cook :: JamBase Primary Contributor and Freelance Journalistic Monkey
1) Surprise Me Mr. Davis (Sunday afternoon) - The combination of ThaMuseMent's Nathan Moore and the good men of The Slip proved a heady, nicely nuanced pop-rock explosion, with more than a few touches reminiscent of Rolling Thunder-era Bob Dylan. Far different from either of their regular gigs, Mr. Davis uses the same raw ingredients as Wilco and beats them at their game by writing better songs. Outside of a mini-set at last year's festival this was their West Coast debut, and we can only hope they bring this vital, extra catchy comes back for more soon.
2) The Dead Kenny G's (Friday afternoon) - Skerik, Mike Dillon and JFJO's Brian Haas tore the tops of our heads off and stirred our brains like so much fruity yogurt. Mid-show Skerik screamed, "We're here to free you from the tyranny and commercial oppression of your ears!" Scathing, cleansing, exhilarating.
3) Bill Frisell Band (Friday Late Nite and Saturday afternoon) - The very music the trees and rivers around us would have requested if they had a voice. Such stirring beauty and sublime interaction that both sets brought me to happy tears.
Robyn Rubinstein :: JamBase Writer
1) New Mastersounds - Unadulterated funk.
2) Kinky - Raucous Latin tinged electronica funk meets rock and deep house. Highly danceable and HIGHLY recommended.
3) Lotus - Finally, an electronica styled band that has eliminated the B-grade trance sound and sticks to the all-important business of making you get down.
Susan J. Weiand :: Photographer
1) Garaj Mahal Late Nite - What can you say about these guys and their legendary late nite throwdowns. This one lasted well past 5 a.m. with sit-ins from Jessica Lurie, Reggie Watts, Al Howard and a sleepy little Nina Narachi. Also Kai Eckhardt's 9 year old son Danilo played a drum kit during their main stage set and also participated in the Everyone's Drumming and Karl Denson playshops. The talented kid is a rock star in training!
2) Carolyn Wonderland - Vaudeville stage - Soulful blues from Texas, her voice a cross between a young Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin with a little Susan Tedeschi thrown in, this woman had the killer pipes and guitar chops. In the same vein, Grace Porter and the Nocturnals, another young 21 year old bluesy mama with B3 chops and a great voice and stage presence.
3) Meltone - Vaudeville Tent - a Japanese jam band, their second time playing in the US, sounding like Phish or even a bit like Particle and oh so appreciative of the American crowd's adoration. They also did a RV set and an Americana set, after which the buzz spread they were one band not to miss on Sunday.
Dave Vann :: Photographer
1) The Benevento/Russo Duo - Sunday Late Mite set - Funk 'N Jamhouse. All of the High Sierra Late Nites were the bomb. The Duo's Late Nite set in the Funk 'N Jamhouse in particular was amazing. The whole set was very emotive and The Duo definitely had the packed audience under their hypnotic spell. They also played two sublime covers of Radiohead's "Myxomatosis" from Hail to the Thief and Elliot Smith's "Waltz #1" from XO that were very moving.
2) Electric Apricot - Artist Playshop with Les Claypool & Friends - Saturday Afternoon - Tulsa E. Scott Building. Part of the uniqueness of High Sierra comes with the intimate performances and interactions that you can have with the artists. The playshops which happen every day in the Tulsa E. Scott Building are a perfect example. This very phunny parody performance was a band lead by Les Claypool as his alter ego Lapland "Lapdog" Miclovik (happy-go-lucky, technical marvel drummer/percussionist/singer/songwriter) and three of his friends shifting between heavy brooding jams and cliché shiny happy hippy melodies. Les was in full hippie regalia with long black wig, groovy John Lennon Shades and Rolling Stones "Lips" shirt. He played the drums, sang, as well as played the wind chimes and cow bells. The rest of the band also took a few moments to "Enlighten the world through music" - by throwing actual dried apricot's out to the audience. The funniest part about the whole thing is that some people in the crowd didn't even realize that it was a joke.
3) Conspirator - Sunday Evening - Big Meadow Stage. The newest Disco Biscuit side project featuring Aron Magner on keys, Marc Brownstein on bass and DJ Omen from Final Phaze NYC on turntables definitely was a highlight. Their sound was ambient, brooding and driving all at the same time. Their evening set on the Big Meadow Stage drew a full enthusiastic audience dancing hard to the heavy electro-trance beats. They also had some help from friends to fill out their sound including sit-ins from Brock Butler from PGroove, Kim Manning (P-Funk) on vocals and the Duo's Joe Russo. Look for more Conspirator on the road later this summer -- www.conspirator.org.
Jon Bahr: ASCAP - Marketing / Photographer / The Slip - Manager
1) Just being at High Sierra! The pace is a couple steps slower than a festival like Bonnaroo. There is less urgency in seeing everything and more of a focus on the overall enjoyment of the weekend, however you want your pace to be. This is partially because some of the bands are smaller and everyone plays at least twice, which is a huge bonus. This is a huge plus that leads to much more hanging at the campsite (big ups to the JamBase homestead) and more interactions with the good, good people of the West Coast.
2) The saga of The Slip and their good friends. It was a bizarre week in California for sure. With the week beginning with Brad Barr of The Slip being struck with a case of Vertigo just hours before his first Cali solo show (a great show nonetheless), it got even more atypical. The Slip's 8th straight High Sierra was a strange string of ups and downs beginning with an incident that made for a good story and an even better song. Following this, Brad was struck by a sudden illness after the Late Nite set (causing him to miss the Saturday Slip set) and then the illness hit Andrew Barr (who fought through fatigue and nausea for two fantastic sets of Surprise Me Mr. Davis). Luckily The Slip have many friends at HSMF who came to their need as Marco Benevento filled in with the help of Al Howard and Nathan Moore while Brad was ill and getting ready to be hooked up to an IV.
3) Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. They keep doing it. The latest evolution of the Fred is pure magic. With a set mostly comprised of tributes (not covers), a host of songs by musicians that have influenced them including The Beatles, Brian Wilson, Bjork and Neil Young, JFJO has advance their greatness to new heights. The new album, due out in the fall with many of these songs on it, looks to be a gem.
Josh Miller :: Photographer
1) Tea Leaf Green - Perpetual Groove Late Night in Tulsa. What a great way to start off my High Sierra! I'd never seen Perpetual Groove live and they surely delivered the goods. TLG is a favorite of mine and I enjoyed the guest appearances of Eric McFadden, Sean Leahy, Jordan Feinstein and Grace Potter... pure High Sierra all the way! Always rockin' and what a great band to photograph.
2) I had the opportunity to see both of The Mother Hips sets. I love this American Rock n Roll band! Tim is one the best front men in the business and The Hips just flat out rock!
3) ALO's mainstage appearance. This band is getting better and better by the day. They really know how to put on a show that puts smiles on all the faces in the crowd. Every time I looked back at the crowd I saw nothing but wide grins!
Grace Dunn :: JamBase Photographer
1) Surprise Me Mr. Davis
2) Al Howard (Late Nite Vaudeville Tent)
3) Close tie between The Duo on the Big Meadow and YMSB on Main Stage
Aaron Kayce (Kayceman) :: JamBase - Editor, Senior Writer
1) Watching my fiancé "get back to her roots" at YMSB's Main Stage Performance. Cheesy? Yes. But without question the highlight of my weekend.
2) Surprise Me Mr. Davis at the Vaudeville Tent. Nathan Moore proves to be one of the most under-appreciated song writers and story tellers of our day. Backed by The Slip, this band is a sure thing.
3) The Slip Late Nite. What can I say--I gotta major soft spot for The Slip. In fact, I'd be more than happy to argue that they are one of the greatest bands that can't seem to get over that proverbial hump. From instrumental madness to song-writing genius The Slip remains one of my favorite bands of all time. If there was but a shred of justice in the music biz The Slip would be leaking out of your radio.
I gotta throw an "Honorable Mention" out there for my boy Al Howard's inspirational Late Nite set in the Vaudeville. Check him out.
Don't forget to check out Susan J. Weiand's HSMF Photo Gallery for more images.
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