-By Robyn Rubinstein

The New Mastersounds :: HSMF 2005 by Susan J. Weiand
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.

-By Tanner Wyer

Zach Gill - ALO :: HSMF 2005 by J. Miller
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.

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.

-By Andy Gadiel

Josh Clark - Tea Leaf Green
HSMF 2005 by J. Bahr
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.

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.

Clark & Garrod - Playshop HSMF 2005 by J. Bahr
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."

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.


Brad Barr Stepping It Up with The Duo
HSMF 2005 by Dave Vann
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.

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
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