High Sierra Music Festival :: 07.02.09 – 07.05.09 :: Quincy, CA
HSMF 2009 by Krolick
The High Sierra Music Festival is a festival put on for the people by the people. I have heard nothing but great things about the small festival nestled in the Plumas National Forest on the fairgrounds in the town of Quincy, California. But it wasn’t until I was meandering around the grounds on Thursday with one of the festival locals that it really hit me how intimate and amazing this fest truly is. I may have been born in the East, but my heart lies in the West. You might as well toss the tough exterior attitude out the cabin door high over the Rockies because it’s not welcome in the western world. In the kingdom of High Sierra the one thing that does reign supreme is fun, and boy do those good times roll. Apparently all the creative types who received their pro-status in doing a festival proper have transplanted out west. I’m not talking about your everyday run of the mill music fan, no, I’m talking about throw caution to the wind, costume wearing, cocktail party having, bring the 20-foot inflatable pool with all the trimmings festival fanatics, each whom would give you the car they drove in with if they just thought you would have a better time at their party.
The community that surrounds High Sierra is one tight knit crew made up of musicians, staff and attendees, but the lines between those distinctions blur continuously and you’re left wondering, “Who really runs the HSMF festival and makes it so great?” Certainly you can start with the music, but I saw equally as much great music away from any of the official stages featuring official and unofficial performers. Take the sunset shows like Tracorum tearing it up on top of an RV running down the road behind the yoga, tightrope and kickball field. How about Saturday evening’s late night lineup at Camp Harry with Big Light, Nathan Moore, and Surprise Me Mr. Davis? The performance was dreamlike and left many questioning if it really happened or had they imagined such an amazing time. If there was ever a summer camp for adults then the High Sierra Music Festival is it!
The camps were barely camps, more intimate villages of color and convenience, each with a vibrant and distinct personality. These home away from home settings were what you may imagine in your dreams, full of flowing flags, airy spaces of shade, neat nooks containing fresh colorful foods, drinks, lazy chairs, hammocks and toys. You could walk from one side of the festival grounds to the other in 20 minutes; yep it’s that small, and so well laid out. Want to meet your favorite artist playing at High Sierra? Man, it’s hard not to run right into them! They camp right in the center of the grounds as an invitation to come hang out, no barriers or fences here. You run into them in line for coffee, in the playshops, dancing in the late night barn, at one of the many showers, or perhaps at the morning kick ball game. Yes, it’s official: my heart has a new love and I am absolutely infatuated with the High Sierra Music Festival. (Krolick)
The High Sierra Music Festival celebrated its 19th anniversary this year. The Slip has been a part of the past 12 installments. In fact, the Boston-bred trio hold the record for most consecutive appearances at the fest, and for many they are the band we most look forward to seeing in the Sierras. I am from that tribe. Put Marc Friedman, Andrew and Brad Barr on the bill and I will show up – I don’t even care who else gets booked. Part of this blind devotion is based on the fact that these guys just don’t really tour anymore. These shows over 4th of July weekend have essentially become the only chance many of us get to see The Slip all year. The last time I saw them was at High Sierra 2008 and the time before that was High Sierra 2007. So, when I say that The Slip is the heart of High Sierra it is not hyperbole. They are the constant, the beat that pushes us forward, whether we know it or not. Their one job each year is to come out west and flood our systems with enough fuel to make it through another trip around the sun.
Over the course of two sets (9:15-10:45 in the Vaudeville on Saturday night and the 7:15-8:45 “sundown set” on Sunday) fans were treated to songs from across the band’s vast career, but there was a clear focus on new material. Uncorking five brand new originals one couldn’t help but hope for another Slip album and proper tour in the year ahead. All of the new stuff sounded incredible, with “Give The Devil Back Its Heart” taking a distinct African feel featuring both Brad and Friedman weaving lead guitar lines (Friedman generally plays bass) into intricate patterns as Andrew went tribal-rock. Other new songs found Brad on acoustic pushing a subtle gospel vibe and singing about “keeping the faith” or laying down huge chunks of distorted guitar. The new material was expansive with lots of room to blow out the jams, but they were also often far more focused with a keen pop eye that previous work may have lacked (at times). And adding to the enjoyment thoroughly were the several points over the weekend that The Slip sounded like The Who circa 1973.
HSMF 2009 by Krolick
Along with the sharp new songs, what perhaps impressed this forever Slip fan most was the guitar playing. We’ve long known Friedman is unquestionably one of the most talented bass players on the scene, but to see him crush the six-string was a joy. But perhaps even more than Marc, Brad had me captivated. He’s always been a stellar guitarist, but this weekend I really noticed how refined, rich and just advanced Brad’s technique is. He coaxes an ungodly array of varying sounds from his big green Guild jazz hollow body, shifting from clean spikes to messy guttural distortion and pedal stomping. Standing a few feet from the stage, I was overwhelmed with the notion that I’d put B. Barr up against any guitarist alive right now. Where you at Jack White! (I said I’d put him up, I didn’t say he’d win).
While it wasn’t all perfect – the first “Get Me With Fuji” fell flat (but the second one more than made up for it) and Brad’s voice hit a few rough patches come Sunday (being up late Saturday night will do that) – but The Slip at High Sierra sure as hell packed the emotional punch only The Slip can do. And that’s a big thing. There are places The Slip can only go as a trio. Spacey, crazy, deep instrumental areas, only accessible when a band operates on 15-plus years of mental telepathy. Whether we were soaring to “Airplane/Primitive,” rocking to the new version of “Weight of Solomon,” getting teary-eyed during “If One Of Us Should Fall” or almost starting a mosh-pit (a loving one, of course) with Nathan Moore during “Children Of December,” The Slip once again seeped into the soil of High Sierra. (Kayce)
So, we don’t get to see The Slip much anymore, but we do get to see their alter ego, Surprise Me Mr. Davis featuring Nathan Moore on vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar and the occasional magic trick. Moore is a long lost Barr brother and he fits like your favorite pair of worn down jeans. Fans in the know were treated to three sets of Davis: late night Friday, main stage Saturday and a super late Saturday night secret blow out at Camp Harry. The general assumption amongst die-hard Slip fans is that they’re too smart for their own good, flying over the heads of most. Slice down some of the more daring instrumental passages and let Moore take over on vocals for Brad and Davis seems primed to break through to the masses. Songs like “I Hate Love,” “Sisyphus,” “Sleepy Head,” “One Sick Knave” and “Summer Of My Fall” (featuring the line: “I opened the door, I opened the window/ she came through the wall/ it was the winter of my spring, the summer of my fall”) are genuinely some of the best songs written this decade.
During their Funk’n Jam House late night set something happened that I’d never witnessed and it shook me hard. Coming out of “I Want To Get To Heaven Before I Die,” the tempo was brought way down and The Slip started creating a strange canopy of digital noise and atmospheric buzz. Moore came to the mic and started talking over the haze, almost giving a speech that had me seeing visions of a new type of political leader. He spoke of taking back the government, of making it ours, urging us to realize it is OURS – we are the government, we are the country, WE ARE AMERICA. If you don’t like it, change it. Pulling this type of thing off is incredibly hard and often falls flat and feels preachy. Here it filled us with inspiration.
Also of note were a few new Davis songs, one that felt like The Beach Boys if they kept eating acid and the other felt like “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” with Jimmy Page playing guitar. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t make mention of Trevor Garrod (Tea Leaf Green) sitting in on Rhodes for the Camp Harry set. With an official High Sierra sound guy doing the Camp Harry boards, this was the best Camp Harry party ever. Big Light into Nathan Moore into Surprise Me Mr. Davis at the super-intimate Harry jam was the stuff of legends. I stopped taking notes and let the love train run me over. (Kayce)
There was no better introduction to this festival than a hungry Bay Area band. Capturing the opening spot on the main stage, San Francisco’s Big Light opened Thursday with “Rainbow Eyes” as meandering beats and blasts of guitar reverberation echoed out over the fairgrounds. This was the second time that Big Light had “officially” played HSMF. The folk-rock band features Fred Torphy (lead vocals), Bradley Bifulco (drums), Steve Adams (bass), Dan Hurley (keyboard) and new, sonically gifted shredder Jeremy Korpas (guitar). As Korpas (aka Swordfish) destroyed “Heavy” you could just tell that the band had been playing a bunch as they waxed out a poetic set. These soon-to-be indie darlings stretched their legs on their latest tour with Nathan Moore. The next day their Friday set was also intriguing and featured a “Caution” that was filled with Torphy’s Jeff Tweedy-esque vocal styling. Bifulco’s punchy playing snuck up on us as we took in their music at the Big Meadow stage. It’s the ease and grace that Big Light plays their own material with which separates these guys from the pack and makes you realize that not enough younger bands try to cultivate that comfort level. Torphy, along with Adams, Korpas, Bifulco and Moore have created a small side project called The Dun-Four, showing that they have depth beyond anything you could imagine. Late night Saturday after a strong opening set by Big Light at Camp Harry, The Dun-Four busted out two tracks, “One Beautiful Girl,” a charming a cappella style song style that has yet to leave my brain, and the just as catchy “Mañana.” This was one of those rare and wonderful moments that make small festivals like High Sierra so special. (Krolick)
The Benevento Trio’s Thursday afternoon set met my expectations and then some. Their slot started a few minutes late due to Marco Benevento having to rush from Reno, NV to make his 4:30 p.m. stage call. The music was striking; all draped in eccentric keyboard work and covers galore from the Trio’s new album, Me Not Me (JamBase review here). They opened with “Bus Ride” and let the crowd warm to their free-range jazz jams. Reed Mathis‘ smile was as widespread as the High Sierra pines were tall. Mathis is such an amazing bass player that many are quick to simply say he killed it, but with the Marco Benevento Trio it’s a bit different. Mathis had his moments, but it’s what he holds back that is the magic of his selflessness. He allowed Andrew Barr and Benevento the freedom to slaughter the jam out of the “Real Morning Party” that ended just like the Brooklyn CD release parties version with a monstrous saloon style jam that shook the main stage and led into a rhythm heavy version of My Morning Jacket‘s “Golden.” Again Mathis sat back and let Barr place in all the subtle flourishes as Benevento did his dainty finger surgery. He removed note after note and placed them out in the world all shimmery and drenched in sunlight for us to enjoy. The Knife‘s “Heartbeats” started as fragments of smoke and free jazz as the crash of cymbals stirred up swirls of dust from the edges of the stage. Deerhoof‘s “Twin Killers” brought out the fun center cut jam of Disney’s “Pink Elephants on Parade” before the Trio ended by tearing through a deconstructed version of Led Zeppelin‘s “Friends” with the force of a can opener. My main highlights of the following day’s Vaudeville tent show were all based around Marco’s two-year-old daughter. She danced on stage, next to Mathis for a while as he thumped away and then ran across the front of the stage to daddy’s side. After Skerik finished sitting in she even offered him her too-tiny-for-an-adult chair to rest. The interaction between her and the band was priceless. (Krolick)
Umphrey’s McGee is not one of my favorite bands. I honestly don’t know how someone could put them in their top five category – or even their top ten. Their awkward song arrangements and quirky instrumentation, the staple of their sound, is a bit too abstract for a band that could ever think about breaking into the mainstream. But every time I see the Umph I am literally blown away by the musical talent members of the band display. The dueling guitar battles of Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss and the amazing talent of drummer Kris Myers (in contention for Best Drummer at High Sierra 2009) is undeniable. They’re a strange band whose unique sound is really unmatched by any other out there. Their sheer talent is what has bolstered their notoriety in the jam scene and led them to be hailed as the heir apparent for the jam thrown. After taking a three-year absence from High Sierra, the members of Umphrey’s were visibly giddy with excitement when they played both their late night and headlining day sets. Arriving on a stage that was already burning hot from Pretty Lights‘ intense set, Umphrey’s went into an odd choice for their first song – “Bright Lights, Big City.” Seeing that the High Sierra grounds are nowhere near a city or any sort of urban sprawl, the song seemed slightly out of place. Maybe irony is what the members were trying to get across by playing the song. A few tunes in, the band busted into crowd favorite “The Triple Wide,” which was an obvious good choice for Umphrey’s to bring out of their song arsenal. The trance-like melodies of the track diffidently helped individuals who were still recovering from Pretty Lights’ set. When the boys ripped into the obscure Police classic “When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” it seemed to fit the mood of the evening, especially seeing that it was nearly 3 a.m. and there was no foreseeable end time for the music. As Umphrey’s progressed through their late night gig it seemed like the band was not playing as tight as they could have. The solos were not as mind-jarring and the vocals seemed lackluster. As the clock ticked on, the band closed out their second set with “Cemetery Walk II” then a strong encore of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.” The crowd and band were obviously worn out as the show ended at nearly 5 a.m. With no more music happening festival-goers were forced to walk back to their tents as the sun started to rise over the mountains in the distance.
All the pre-conceptions I’d held about Umphrey’s not hitting their mark at High Sierra, as indicated by the band’s late night performance, were smashed by their headlining day slot on Friday. Picking up where they left off the previous evening with “Cemetery Walk,” the band got things started with one of the best cuts off their most recent album, Mantis. Next came “Miss Tinkle’s Overture,” a staple of UM’s live shows. While the song is not one of my favorites it seems to sum up what the Chicago six-piece represents – dizzying guitar virtuosity, unrelenting cymbal and tom work and well crafted bass arrangements. The hits kept coming as the band busted out seasoned classics like “Bridgeless,” “The Bottom Half” and covers like a super dirty and sexy reading of the Motown great “Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Looking back, Umphrey’s McGee’s two shows at High Sierra did not do much to change my opinion about them. In fact, their performances further cemented my thoughts about the band. They’re still strange, almost impossible to categorize in musical sense, but amazing musicians nonetheless. (Gillett)
So, if you’re a Disco Biscuits fan you’ve probably already heard about the massive sound problems plaguing the late night show, but quite honestly it only led the Philadelphia band to perform one of the wildest sets of music I’ve heard from them in quite some time. The show started with a jaw-dropping transition from Orchard Lounge‘s set directly into “Run Like Hell.” From there the show was a free-for-all of unexpected moments, some good while others just fell flat. After a short break around 4:00 a.m., Marc Brownstein emerged holding a small scrap of paper and said that the curfew was dropped and so they played until about 5:15 a.m. The last section early Sunday morning was very sinister, dirty Disco Biscuits that featured some severe vocal samples and a wild Aron Magner playing intensely on the keys. The band filled the early morning with lots of interesting jams and heaps of risks. Some earlier portions of the show were just bizarre, like the transition into “Svenghali.” Some of the later risks paid off with huge rewards like the “Digital Buddha” > “Orch Theme” > “Digital Buddha” sandwich. During the peak of “Digital Buddha” they even managed to slide in some “SexyBack” samples that made the floor quake with delight. This combined with the quadraphonic sound and a killer version of “Astronaut,” plus working lights, and you had yourself one wild finish to an eventful yet weird Disco Biscuits show. Overall, Sunday’s main stage closing set was a solid showing; a quintessential Disco Biscuits festival set that probably even won over some new fans. It was interesting hearing four new songs to open the set. “I-Man” and “The Great Abyss” were my highlights of the night, each filled with liveliness. It was a wonderful experience seeing firsthand the love that is shown to The Disco Biscuits on the West Coast, and I’d recommend that any East Coast fan trek out west to catch them in a whole different light. (Krolick)
The first late night shows of High Sierra are always electric. People are amped up as the weekend is just getting under way (and just getting weird) and the energy takes on a physical element, wrapping around your legs and torso and shooting straight into your skull. Walking into the Funk’n Jam House for Dr. Dog’s set (opening for Tea Leaf Green), I bumped into TLG guitarist Josh Clark. Speaking of electric, homeboy’s eyes were aglow and we shared a moment as he proclaimed, “I’m just excited to play a bill with these guys!” The Dog came to play and wasted no time, instantly tossing us down a well, where guitars were swirlin’ and whirlin’ like Dervishes. Every time I see Dr. Dog they are bigger, badder and better. Thursday night at High Sierra was perhaps the best I’ve seen (the electric excitement thing definitely didn’t hurt). People were going nuts to “Old News,” “The Arc” and everything else they dished out. After the late night Thursday set, Dr. Dog was the talk of the town.
Carrying the momentum straight into their Friday Big Meadow set there was a bigger crowd and they delivered just as big a show. With Beatles structures and harmonies but with nastier guitars, whatever Dr. Dog is smoking, I want some. With all the brilliant, red-faced screaming of bassist/vocalist Toby Leaman and perfect counter-point/tasty lead guitar of Scott McMicken, the religious undertones could perhaps get lost in the psychedelic roots hoe-down, but don’t be fooled – they carry God’s word. And certainly not in some lame-ass preachy manner, I mean the real God’s word delivered with open-ended spiritual rockers that not only allow you to be set free, but make you believe in something bigger. Sitting atop an RV with some of my closest friends just 50 yards from the stage I closed my eyes and felt the perfect breeze blow my troubles away. The sun was beginning to set, I was surrounded by mountains and trees, Dr. Dog was playing “Hang On” and I knew this was one of those special moments I wanted to lock away and remember forever… or at least until tomorrow. Life simply does not get much better. (Kayce)
It’s no wonder Neil Young signed these cats to his label. Earnest, deep, shit-kicking rock & roll with a soft side that’ll make you weep, Everest is a no-brainer for Vapor Records. When it was time to bleed they’d circle the troops center stage like Crazy Horse and let it rip, but when frontman/guitarist Russell Pollard peals it back he can also burn you slow with his smoky voice. Rock of this type requires a serious rhythm section, and these dudes crush it. Elijah Thomson‘s pile-driver bass was way up in the mix for both sets (just the way it should be) and drummer Davey Latter was relentless, rolling off thunder fills with effortless cool. In addition to Neil, there are trace elements of Band of Horses, The Mother Hips, Black Crowes and there’s something about the acoustic/electric dynamic that made me think of Wilco (though way grittier), but it never sounds derivative, just inspired. Showing remarkable restraint and control of tempos, Everest would stretch things out, always paying attention to space. It felt right to hear this music outside amongst the trees. Of particular note during both sets was the cry of, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” Deep within a drawn out beauty full of delays and reverb, Pollard repeated this phrase over and over, eyes closed, taken over by the moment. It wound down until a spark set the whole thing off and the set came crashing down in full rock pomp. (Kayce)
For lots of bands High Sierra seems like home. It’s the closest “jam friendly” music festival to San Francisco, so many bands that call S.F. home often feel like their band is a part of the annual festival. ALO hasn’t performed 12 times (like The Slip has) at High Sierra but their performances this year clearly indicated their love of playing to this crowd. All the members of ALO have individual side projects and many of those side projects played at High Sierra, but the music that was created between the four members of ALO was far superior to any of the side gigs. Having just recorded a new album in Hawaii, ALO treated the High Sierra crowd to many new songs that still seemed a bit unorganized and in need of more road testing. The seeds for amazing songs and jams where already evident and with more time these songs will no doubt become fan favorites. One of the things that’s always interested me about ALO is how accessible the band and their music is. The songs they play are unabashed pop tunes, which, I’ll be the first to admit, can turn some listeners off. The lyrics are up-beat and cheery (Lebo sang on Thursday, “We got to try just a little bit harder/ And let it shine just a little bit brighter/ We got to walk just a little bit taller”) which almost seems to act as a disadvantage to the band. They rarely get serious with their lyrics and their vocal styles – it’s Jam-Lite. There’s nothing wrong with being happy all the time but if you’re constantly laughing, smiling and singing about how good life can be there’s really no room for the seriousness that’s required if a band wants to be a well respected act that consistently manages to churn out well made albums and interesting live shows. One thing that I will say about ALO is that they have always managed to impress me with their jam abilities. For a band that is known for their pop tendencies and studio refined sound, the ALO guys really can crank out some crunchy jams. At High Sierra, they felt comfortable with the crowd, which let them stretch out and explore new musical territory. For a band to be able to reach a high point with their free form jams the group really needs to trust the crowd. And as evidenced by ALO’s sets at High Sierra, the band is comfortable and seems to treat the gathering as a sort of hometown festival. (Gillett)
Trevor Garrod, Josh Clark, Scott Rager, and Reed Mathis were so massively influential, not to mention busy, at the 2009 High Sierra Music Festival, they made me tired just watching them play. It felt like they were part of every band, and they almost were. These princes of the festival kicked things off with their own band, Tea Leaf Green, in the Funk’n Jam House during the second half of Thursday’s late night show. They primed us for a few hours of dreamland by getting intensely sinister and deeply funky. Guest guitarist Sean Leahy jumped into jam on a killer “Sex in the 70s” that was a spacey and psychedelic homage to the mother ship. Then, they unleashed the highlight of their set, a “Panspermic De-Evolution” > “The Invasion Sandwich” that was en fuego from the get-go. Clark was doing his nasty lower lip snarl all evening, and as he snarled he’d dig into the guitar and make it howl like a real rock ‘n’ roller should. Clark even jumped on keys for a few minutes as Garrod got a jam started on harmonica. Tea Leaf Green backed that funky bus right over the screaming crowd and a grooving, moving mass of raging bodies bounced around, dragged along by the music.
Their Friday Big Meadow set wasn’t nearly as dirty, but it had a great pace and made a few believers out of those unfamiliar with their music. The “Standing Still” opener was a very charming tune, and nice way to start off. They played a great “Garden 1” > “Garden 3,” and Mathis was all “O” faces as he dropped bass bombs that worked the magic sauce into “Red Ribbons,” featuring crowd participation from some clever folks who tossed streamers. And if that didn’t win ya over, their stunning cover of CSN’s “Wooden Ships” had to seal the deal.
Mathis should perhaps win the High Sierra MVP for most appearances all weekend playing with Steve Kimock Crazy Engine, the Benevento Trio, Tea Leaf Green, and at least two other sit-ins, but my favorite incarnations of him were defiantly with Tea Leaf Green. Garrod could also be found sitting in on keys on top of the back road RV with Sean Leahy & Friends, as well as at the Troubadour Sessions and a couple late night guest spots with The Travelin’ McCourys and much of Camp Harry’s Surprise Me Mr. Davis set. To the best of my knowledge Clark had only one other spot at the HSMF during Guitarmageddon, where he sported a flowery green muumuu and some classic Ronald McDonald red Chucks. This now infamous gathering of High Sierra shredders featured a revolving lineup including Clark, Leahy, Dan Lebowitz, Jeff Pevar, Steve Adams, Dave Brogan and at points, Reed Mathis, Jason Smart, Simon Kurth and Jeremy Korpas. The Guitarmageddon set included a huge array of music including a 9-minute version of Nirvana’s classic “Breed,” a version of Ween’s “Roses Are Free,” Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” and finally finishing with a relentless version of Iron Maiden’s “Aces High.” If you missed this I feel badly for you. (Krolick)
Harley Prechtel-Cortez – Red Cortez :: HSMF 2009 by Law
Trying to guess which band will be the next to “make it” is a fool’s game. Wise journalists never get involved in such ridiculousness. Lucky for us, one thing I am not is wise, so I have no problem telling you I think Red Cortez will indeed “make it.” And it’s not just because I personally really dig their blend of jangly, post-punk, soul-on-fire, tent revival rock; there are several obvious factors that play into “making it.” First, you gotta have good material and you gotta want it – and these dudes burn it down every freakin’ time. Then, you gotta have the songwriting – spend some time with their music and you’ll hear the best of every generation from the ’60s straight through to 2009. Next, and perhaps most important for the glossy mag covers, you gotta have the right guy to sing the songs. Switching from guitar to piano, Harley Prechtel-Cortez has a fantastic voice and is one of the most captivating frontmen around, plus he’s got that crazy look in his eye. And then there’s that intangible rock vibe, which these guys have coming out from under their dark eyes and leather jackets for sure. When they rolled through campsites late at night guys stopped and stared and girls started to whisper to one another. But you probably don’t care about all that. You here on JamBase are here for one thing and one thing alone – the music – and these fellas play some seriously great music. Flailing across the stage barefoot, Harley sang about “original sin,” quoted Walt Whitman and urged us to create our own freedom while searing guitars and primal drum slaps burned through our bodies. Later in the set, they dared us to wake up and live as the entire band screamed, “I’m not dead/ You’re not dead/ Oh no.” Of particular note was the old school War-era U2 aspect to much of the new material, just one more reason to believe the big time isn’t far off for Red Cortez. (Kayce)
These United States & Red Cortez :: HSMF 2009 by Law
If it’s 4th of July and there’s a band called These United States playing you obviously go see them. But, what I learned on this particular 4th was that it actually doesn’t matter what the date is; if These United States have a show, you go. A rootsy, foot-stomping blend of well-crafted American rock, it went down easier than a burger and Budweiser. The slower, tense moments were often built upon a soaring pedal steel, and the big, swinging ball rockers were ushered in by the thick rhythm section. Three-part harmonies over acoustic guitar rubbed up against burning electric guitar solos or crying slide work. As impressive as the instrumental interaction was, one was brought back time and again to the songwriting and delivery of frontman/brainchild Jesse Elliot. During standout selections “Six Fast Bullets” and “Honor Amongst Thieves” there was a touch of honky-tonk and something made me think of Okkervil River, but before I could figure out why I was spinning around on my heels, kicking up dust and thinking about how timeless it all felt. Truly a marvelous way to begin one’s Independence Day. (Kayce)
Skerik was this year’s artist at large as well as playing two shows of his own with varying personal styles. His first appearance was as one half of the “In the Kitchen” playshop, where Benevento and Skerik got weird in the early afternoon. The duo warmed up for the day of music by running us through the zaniest stew of mountain sounds hatched out of pinecones dropping in the woods – it was all over the place and the odd just grew and grew and grew. At one point Skerik sang, “I like to frolic with the hippies,” and followed it up with a bong-sized hit on his sax before working the honk into a version of Benevento’s “Real Morning Party.” Skerik popped up latter in the day at Bonerama‘s afternoon set to add his NOLA spirit for “Shake Your Regulator” and an amazing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” Hand’s down my favorite incarnation of Skerik was McTuff. The band started by Hammond organist Joe Doria and featuring Andy Coe on guitar and drum stud D’Vonne Lewis delivered their own incredibly funky takes on classic works from Jimmy Smith and Captain Jack McDuff. Between 5:30 and 6:30 Saturday afternoon there was no other place I’d rather have been as the Vaudeville Tent filled with some of the grooviest surreal funk played by some seriously heavy-hitting cats. At one point Skerik stepped back to admire the scene as McTuff tossed it out trio style. They finished their set with a classic from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America World Police. Yes, they covered “America, Fuck Yeah” and it was easily another of my highlight’s from the festival. (Krolick)
HSMF’s small layout is so amazing that you can get a taste of just about everything. Case in point, I was fully prepped and ready for Bonerama as the sizzling Friday sun burned at my shoulders. Over by the Vaudeville Tent a sprinkler wagged its water tail cooling all in the vicinity. As I approached to get some wet relief I was struck by the ass-shake going on under the tent, where MC Serch look-alike Pretty Lights, aka DJ Derek Vincent Smith, was laying it down hot and heavy accompanied by drummer, Cory Eberhard. Together these two were stimulating the potpourri of hippies, freaks, players, sprayers and girls wearing nothing but stickers and fruit into a frenzy. The front row was passing around a clear skin filled with pinkish jungle juice that was being freely chugged as the raucous dance party blew up. The spirit of Dionysus blew through the tent as the DJ and drummer tapped into something primal and quite nasty, like the score to a particularly dirty porno one watches curiously from a distance. It was dance madness, ecstasy and indulgence at its best and worst. (Krolick)
Trombones are awesome! Perhaps it’s just that this instrument can speak as well as any guitar, but it’s way more then that. It’s just such an expressive instrument in its movements. It was just so great to watch trombone players Mark Mullins and Craig Klein flick their wrists and push that glistening, telescopic slide out into the space in front of them on Friday afternoon! Mullins and Klein are the founders of Bonerama. One thing that has pushed Bonerama’s reputation is their use of multiple trombones and other brass instruments to play rock riffs. Mullins is all business and doesn’t miss a note. It’s no wonder because he’s been playing trombone since he was 13. Klein resembles a character out of some endless summer rather than a funkateer, but he can play a trombone with the best of them. This brass funk band from New Orleans helped to transport a little more NOLA love our way by doing an evening set on Thursday (I heard I missed a “War Pigs” encore) and a playshop with the Pimps of Joytime earlier on Friday. Friday afternoon they offered a 10 song set featuring guests, trombone dance moves, stage antics and some insane ‘bone moments. The first came during “Hard Times” as the frontline just wailed away, each man pumping hard with their eyes closed. Skerik joined them as their first guest and the crowd went nuts. I watched dancing road construction workers, flying monkeys and plenty of kids riding shoulders. Marco Benevento followed Skerik, jumping in on organ for “When My Dreamboat Comes Home.” The interplay between Klein and Benevento was spirited as Klein encouraged him to bust out a jam on keys during “There’s A Certain Girl.” Bonerama concluded with a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic,” complete with the trombones running through sets of wah-wah pedals. In my next life I’d truly enjoy being a trombone player. (Krolick)
The Del McCoury Band’s set in the afternoon at the grandstand was delightful. A lesser-known moment from that session actually came before it started. The McCoury family sat before the set next to an old Model T Ford that was parked behind the main stage. Ronnie McCoury and Rob McCoury warmed up on mandolin and banjo with a bit of “Nashville Cats.” Del walked up and inspected the car. The camaraderie he has with his sons was unashamed and it’s no wonder that their music is so insanely grand and timeless. It struck me a lot like that old Model T Ford, which I saw putting around the fairgrounds all weekend, bringing smiles wherever it went. Their music, similar to the car, continues to truck forward making new generations happy. This was the third year that the Del McCoury Band had played the HSMF and Del’s Carolina-infused vocals, slow handed kindness and gentle eyes captivated the Friday crowd, showing them once again why they are legendary in the bluegrass world. (Krolick)
There was significant buzz around Cornmeal and since I had yet to see them I was intrigued. Allie Kral lived up to her hype, not only as a striking and spirited fiddle player but as a serious songstress, a siren among scruffy men. I was bouncing back and forth between their late night set and The Disco Biscuits and caught Vince Herman‘s sit in on “Get No Better.” However, the highlight of what I caught was “When the World’s Got You Down,” featuring a feverish ripping of the bow across the fiddle strings by Kral and Kris Nowak‘s spirited fingers on guitar. If this music didn’t get your heels kicking then nothing would. They never seemed to take a break and I later found out that the late night set lasted three hours with no stops. Hot damn! Cornmeal offers some serious pickin’ and obviously I’ll need to further investigate this band later in July when they are back East. (Krolick)
Herman & Moore – Sunrise Kickball – HSMF 2009 by Krolick
If performers like Skerik and Reed Mathis are princes of the festival then Vince Herman is the king. After enjoying years of Leftover Salmon their main stage show did not disappoint. The vibe was loose and the festival spirit on Saturday July 4th was in full force. The afternoon set was a quieter down-tempo Salmon performance, but we had figured they would still have some Cajun funk slam leftover from their late night show. The highlights of an all around splendid show were mostly off of Salmon’s Ask The Fish live album. “Bend in the River” included a nice bit of finger picking by all involved. A 15-plus minute “Lonesome Road” featured some great vocals and just really made me miss Mark Vann. At one point Vince Herman said that they should have the kids of the band play and he brought out his son, Silas Herman. The moments they shared together on stage were quite special as Herman smiled over at his son and encouraged him with proud glances. Their movements and mannerisms are really quite uncanny. Drew Emmitt was a bit understated during this show, but as always just amazed the crowd with his subtle mandolin acrobatics; it’s just too bad he never really got a chance to let loose and slice the strings to shreds. The set was filled with poignancy as Herman told a story about their late friend Sandy Alexander, who had snatched up his headphones, found some sunshine and got one little dance in. “Woody Guthrie” made a great statement with the lyrics, “The big dogs are back at the door.” This band is ready for a substantial tour and with some new blood joining them on stage one wonders if we will see them take on more tour dates. Personally, I miss seeing more of these Colorado legends. Like in days gone by, Leftover Salmon managed to jerk the heartstrings and make us chuckle.
Little did we know that during our early Saturday morning kickball game Herman and Emmitt would lead a small army of musicians, including Nathan Moore, Brad Barr, Steve Adams, Anders Beck and Silas Herman, running across the field with instruments in hand and grins on their faces. Hey, it’s High Sierra so not many batted an eyelash until the ragtag crew of merry tricksters start playing. Sure, they started slow with a “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” but as soon as Herman started in on a homemade kickball song that questioned why Mr. Davis was still in suits many of us stopped playing and joined the sideline party. The sing-along ended in a two-minute chant of “kickball, kickball, kickball, kickball.” It was another amazing High Sierra memory for the record books. (Krolick)
Leftover Salmon (Late Night)
HSMF 2009 by Krolick
One of the few bands that I can really appreciate for their no-nonsense jovial take on music is Leftover Salmon. They refer to their music as “Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass” for Chrissake! They’re not afraid to do what they feel works, regardless if people accept it or not. On stage they’re six goofy looking guys (Vince Herman accidentally tucked his jeans into one of his socks) that are able to craft some of the most jam-intensive music ever. Their sound is able to conjure images of their native country – Colorado (watching these guys I almost felt like I was at a mid-mountain hoe-down in some backwoods cabin in the Rockies). Their late night set was the first time I’d seen the boys live and they were in top form, playing their hearts out and rocking like they were in their prime back in the mid-90s. While many of the members have their respective side projects, (Vince Herman with Great American Taxi and Drew Emmitt with the Emmit-Nershi Band) taking time off from performing as Leftover, the boys’ late night set Friday saw the group playing like they’d never left each other’s sides. While the music was superb, Leftover Salmon’s stage show was a bit dull. As mentioned earlier, the goofiness factor played its part, but the crowd never seemed fully engaged in the stage movement of any member of the band. With the exception of Vince Herman, who was sporting a perma-grin the entire show, none of the musicians seemed to move at all. Banjoist Matt Flinner was like a bluegrass shoegazer. He hardly moved at all, let alone looked up from his speedy, pickin’ fingers. Hearing the classic “Mama Boulet” off their breakthrough Euphoria was something I’d been waiting for since I was a young lad grappling with understanding why someone would devote their life to following some obscure band around the country. Leftover Salmon’s performances at High Sierra, while far from career defining, were still enjoyable and fun. It was good to see the aging jammers, visibly road worn, hold down a groove with ease while maintaining their signature sense of humor. (Gillett)
Knowing little to nothing about DeVotchKa before I arrived at High Sierra, except that they opened up for David Byrne on his most recent tour, I was more than pleasantly surprised with their set on the main stage Saturday. It could have been the drastic temperature decrease as the sun started to set, it could have been the Eastern European song orchestrations, it could have been the scarcity of dancing wookies, but regardless of the factors, DeVotchKa played one of my favorite sets all weekend. Their sound is an interesting mix of gypsy looseness combined with a chamber pop adherence to song structure and musicianship. The Denver four-piece were one of the most unique acts to be featured at High Sierra – one of the most foreign sounding at least – and their set was a nice relief from the jam intensive sound that permeated the four day festival. Frontman Nick Urata made good use of his Theremin and added an eerie element to the music that furthered the group’s unique sound. The band seamlessly transitioned between several genres including Americana, folk, polka and punk, all while keeping a unified sound that held tight in the confines of the lush songs. (Gillett)
J Boogie’s Dubtronic Science was combustible enough to almost fill the Vaudeville Tent Thursday eve. The white awning glowed under the moon while all the dancing California Freaks shook it to J Boogie. His dub music was set off by an extraordinary horn section called the Jazz Mafia. As they blasted out the notes, Rene Flores would slather them up with his Afro-Latin percussion. Singer Aima the Dreamer had nowhere near the flow of today’s great female hip-hop artists. Her rapping was less than smooth, but when she sat back on the beats and just sang it worked much better. Their reggae-flavored cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” was her redeeming factor and it held my attention a few minutes longer before skipping out to catch Greensky Bluegrass doing a blue-grassed out cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” (Krolick)
After riding my Dirty Projectors kick for far too long, along came Paper Bird and it appeared that I’m once again hopelessly smitten with the vocals of a band featuring a trio of ladies. Sisters Esme and Genevieve Patterson and Sarah Anderson have the harmonies of something otherworldly, or at least almost forgotten about until bands like the Fleet Foxes pulled out hymnal songs and made it popular to enjoy vocal harmonies again. However, don’t roll those eyes. This Colorado-based group is all folksy Americana and their musicianship is just as fine as the vocals. The trombone (Tyler Archuletta), guitar (Paul DeHaven), banjo (Caleb Summeril) and bass (Macon Terry) all help add to the trio’s harmonies. Paper Bird’s afternoon set on the Vaudeville stage set my heart fluttering as they performed “Livin’ Lucky.” This dainty ditty trucked along with a pluck of banjo and soft blasts of trombone as the singers’ harmonies soared. There was an interesting dynamic between Esme Patterson and red-haired Anderson. During the afternoon set, Patterson was very angelic and at any moment I thought she might curtsy to the crowd, while Anderson was fire to Patterson’s ice as she tossed vulgarities and sassy looks freely. Put the two together and toss Genevieve into the mix and you had a fascinating group to watch as well as listen to. Their dynamic changed on Sunday during the gospel sessions, especially when Dre Anders joined the mix. Their harmonies and Anders just didn’t fit and the look of discomfort on their faces was pretty obvious. From what I caught of their playshop the crowd ate them up as they encouraged the group to each take a portion and sing a round. This Colorado band is one to watch over the next few years. (Krolick)
Named after legendary Appalachian songwriter Ola Belle Reed, Ollabelle is a rootsy five-piece playing old timey songs that touch on the gamut of American music – folk, blues, gospel, jazz, bluegrass, country and rock – and they play it all with effortless joy and big smiles painted across their faces. Featuring Levon Helm’s daughter Amy on mandolin and vocals, Ollabelle certainly grew from The Band’s tree, though blossomed into a peaceful patch of flowers as opposed to the tortured, drug-fueled briars The Band found themselves wrapped up in. Everyone shared vocal duties and they swapped instruments frequently. The twin ladies out front, Fiona McBain joining Helm, made quite the team, but it was Glenn Patscha on soulful, funky keys who just about stole the show when he led the band through the Grateful Dead’s “Wharf Rat” and “Promised Land.” (Kayce)
Assembly of Dust has a new album landing at the end of July and it had been forever since I’d seen Reid Genauer and company play. Genauer is another guitar master on the same level with Brad Barr and Josh Clark. His fingers run the fretboard like a ferret chases its prey – fast and nimble with aggressive, cunning tendencies. Why he wasn’t involved with the Guitarmageddon jam I don’t know. Genauer performed three new songs from the upcoming album, Some Assembly Required, including “Cold Coffee,” “Arc of the Sun” and “Second Song.” The set was quick but fun, and I was disappointed to have missed his Troubadour Session, where apparently both Nathan Moore and Genauer had been hitting the sauce quite a bit and the banter went into some funny realms. It sounds like before the show Moore told Genauer that they were going to have a little competition on stage. If you know more please comment at the end of the story. (Krolick)
Gospel Sessions :: HSMF 2009 by Miller
Before these even started you could sense something special in the air as The Lee Boys, Zack Gill, Dan Lebowitz, Shane Theriot, Dre Anders of Dre’s Awakening, the Paper Birds, Dusty Rhodes and others warmed up behind the Big Meadow stage. The ladies of Paper Bird kept saying how amazing the experience was and they looked as if they would burst from excitement. During the warm-up, The Lee Boys basically led the group, asking if everyone knew this or that gospel song and the group would start to sing it and then move onto the next. They set the whole thing up about an hour beforehand, deciding which parts each person or group of people would sing and where they would take the session next. People would stop and watch them practice and it seemed that most of the fun was in seeing them work out the kinks and plan the arrangements. The session was steeped in traditional gospel songs, some well known and others that many had never heard before. Two that particularly stood out were Bob Dylan‘s “I Shall Be Released” and Albert Brumley’s “I’ll Fly Away,” which really got the crowd going. It was wonderful to see many folks come down to the Sunday service dressed to the nines in their suits and large sun hats. When the jams really dove into high gear, arms went up and some folks just testified to the heavens, while others shook their behinds feverishly and swung their partners around. The morning’s music was just the jolt needed to wake the entire festival and give them strength for the last day of festivities. (Krolick)
It’s Sunday and you’re tired. Music, parties, and sunshine have taken their toll. You just can’t seem to summons the energy, and then Dusty Rhodes and the River Band begin. Taking the stage directly after the Gospel Sessions, this was the ultimate one-two punch to shake off a weekend full of fun and slide us right into the final stretch. Wearing a sky blue jump suit and sporting his curly, wild white man ‘fro, Dusty (Dustin Apodaca) wouldn’t take no for an answer. At first the crowd was small and sitting 20 yards from the stage. He convinced us to get to our feet and slowly lured us forward. By the mid-point of the set it was an electric Holy Ghost revival. And boy howdy, Dusty truly gets taken over by the spirit. Easily the most animated bandleader of the weekend, when he wasn’t slaying the keyboard – even taking a full solo with it on his back! – or punishing the accordion, Dusty was roaming the stage like a crazed preacher on moonshine and mushrooms. Running through sing-along anthems like “Ghost Trails,” “First You Live,” “Street Fighter” and the psychedelic burner “Goodnight, Moonshine,” if the electric guitars didn’t spin you out then the soaring violin surely did. Also touching on new songs like the stunning “Davidians” off the brand new Palace and Stage album, it was really the giant set closer of CCR’s “Fortunate Son” that blew it open. Juiced up with gospel flavor and headed straight for sin, Dusty had us all kneeling way down low as he stared into the eyes of folks up front and said, “We can’t let the rich people tell us what to do,” before jumping to his feet and belting out the chorus once again, “I ain’t no fortunate one, no!” It all came crashing down beautifully and seemed like the right way to honor America. Before he walked off stage Dusty addressed the congregation one last time: “Thank you very much. We’re Dusty Rhodes and we’re gonna make the rich people pay!” (Kayce)
Having seen all of the other “big names” on the lineup, it was Mali star Vieux Farka Touré who I was most excited to see at this year’s HSMF. Like many other music freaks, Vieux’s legendary father, Ali Farka Touré (who died in 2006), was monumental in shaping my perception of music. By taking American blues back to the source in traditional African (in this case Malian) roots, Ali offered the west a door to a whole new world of never ending sound. Vieux has taken the torch and run with it. Still built on the foundation of traditional Malian music, Vieux dips even deeper into the rock landscape and pushes the conversation further, though there were times where it felt like Ali was coming straight through his son’s fluid fingers. The mid-tempo, foot-stomping rhythms, sharp sinewy guitar lines, heavy, healing bass and the deep wash of persistent vocals layered in as just another instrument created a hypnotic affect that put many in a trance. Bodies swayed left and right and before long people were getting their African dance fully on. And the five-piece band (bass, drums, traditional percussion, acoustic guitar and Touré on electric) was incredible, probably the tightest ensemble of the weekend. A few songs into the set, These United States guitar player Tom Hnatow appeared for a blazing guitar dual with Touré that found both men clearly inspired by the other. The more rock-oriented parts found Touré unleashing torrents of notes so fast and perfectly placed that it was difficult to even keep up, but it was the slower desert blues that were even more impressive. Patient acoustic guitar lines would wrap around Touré’s silver guitar progressions to form intricate tapestries that held the crowd afloat as the band snaked along in gorgeous jams that seemed to last forever. This set was one of the most special treats I’ve seen in my decade attending High Sierra. (Kayce)
We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: High Sierra is about the hang. We go to Bonnaroo, Coachella, Rothbury (if it weren’t the same weekend) and the like for their lineups, but we head to the High Sierra Music Festival each year to kick it. Of course the music is the center and that’s the setting for our hang, but we’ve stopped even looking at the lineup – many of us just know where we’re gonna be on 4th of July weekend. The weather is always great, but this year it was perfect, about ten degrees cooler in the day and five degrees warmer at night. And then there’s the Feather River, the epic sunrise kickball game, strangers – I mean new friends – bringing over homemade food to share, and this happens to be one of the very few festival I’d feel comfortable bringing a child to. There’s a family vibe and good-natured slant to everything at High Sierra, but that never seems to take away form the crazy, all night good times either. It’s a special place that seems to get better each year, and next year is the 20th Anniversary so you know it’s gonna be extra special. Like Nathan Moore sang from the stage during Surprise Me Mr. Davis, “Oh, what a home away/ oh, what a home away from home.” (Kayce)
HSMF 2009 by Krolick
Continue reading for our HSMF Top 3 list featuring artists, writers, staff and more…
Nathan Moore – Solo/Surprise Me Mr. Davis
Nathan Moore :: HSMF 2009 by Krolick
1. Dr. Dog – I was meant to hear this band on July 3, 2009. Wow. I’ll be sneaking into their homes while they’re sleeping. 2. Mike Farris and the Roseland Rhythm Revue – I loved his Sunday set on so many levels. I’m just so grateful and I’m still, and maybe will always be, dancing a little bit because of it. 3. The Slip – Saturday night The Slip showed me, once again, that they are simply one of the great bands. No one else plays music like they do.
Marco Benevento 1. Everest (Vaudeville Tent) 2. Surprise Me Mr. Davis (Grandstand) 3. Ani DiFranco
Reed Mathis – Tea Leaf Green/Steve Kimock Crazy Engine 1. The Slip / Surprise Me Mr. Davis 2. Stanton Moore’s Drum Playshop 3. Getting to play so many shows in one weekend with so many good friends!!!
Josh Clark – Tea Leaf Green
Garrod & Clark – TLG :: HSMF 2009 by Miller
1. Mike Farris and the Roseland Rhythm Revue 2. Pimps of Joytime 3. My muumuu
Dan Lebowitz – ALO/Lebo 1. These United States 2. Dr. Dog 3. Andy Gadiel’s Camp Harry Sunday Night sing-along (featuring Andy G., Brownie, The Barber, Lebo, Zach Gill, The Brothers Barr, Nathan Moore, Freddie Torphy, Swordfish, Trevor Garrod, and a whole bunch of other folks)
Steve Adams – ALO/Big Light 1. Dr. Dog, both sets! Great to finally see them live. I especially liked the “chill-out” portion of their set, where the band jammed low and the guitarist/pianist chatted it up with the crowd. I think I liked the citrus head joke, I think. 2. Saturday early morning minstrel jam on the kickball field with Vince from Leftover Salmon, Nathan and Brad from Surprise Me Mr. Davis, and assorted other characters. I liked the Frampton moment, “Do You Feel Like We Do!” 3. It’s a toss-up… Josh Clark leading Guitarmageddon on Iron Maiden’s “Aces High” was incredible, the Umphrey’s playshop on hand signals was great, The Slip and Dave Brogan Band sets at the Vaudeville Tent were sickle… But I’m gonna have to go with Dusty Rhodes and his overall vibe and dance moves during the Sunday morning Gospel Sessions, that alone pretty much made my day.
Bradly Bifulco – Big Light
Big Light at Camp Harry :: HSMF 2009 by Krolick
1. Dr. Dog 2. Surprise Me Mr. Davis 3. Playing with Big Light at Camp Harry late night!
Kayceman – JamBase Editor-in-Chief 1. Surprise Me Mr. Davis/The Slip 2. Dr. Dog 3. Vieux Farka Touré
Andy Gadiel – JamBase Founder 1. The Disco Biscuits Main Stage Sunday closer 2. Guitarmageddon (go Swordfish!) 3. Playing guitar for my musical heroes Sunday late night at Camp Harry
Deanne Herman – JamBase 1. The line “Why you think we need amazing grace just to tell it like it is” from Dr. Dog during both their late night and Big Meadow sets. Dr. Dog was the super special addition to HS this year! 2. The epic “Hot Air Balloon” sandwich from Bisco on the Main Stage Sunday. 3. High Sierra co-founder Dave Margulies’ heartfelt speech bringing The Slip back out for an encore after their sunset Sunday set on the Big Meadow stage.
Tanner Wyer – JamBase Sales
Galactic :: HSMF 2009 by Miller
1. Surprise Me Mr. Davis – I believe in the magic of music. 2. Dr. Dog! 3. Jeremy “Swordfish” Korpas – Big Light & Guitarmageddon shredder extraordinaire.
Patty Kaufman – JamBase Information Coordinator 1. Dr. Dog 2. Surprise Me Mr. Davis/The Slip/Big Light 3. Pretty Lights
Mason Blake – JamBase Lead Engineer 1. The Slip (Vaudeville Saturday night) 2. Nathan Moore (solo on the main stage) 3. Everest
Jake Krolick – JamBase Writer/Photographer 1. The tweener set by Nathan Moore and Big Light – It was quick but that “Mañana” was so sugary! 2. Surprise Me Mr. Davis – Nathan’s a long lost Barr Brother with some magician’s blood. 3. The Kick Ball Jam with Vince Herman tied with Paper Bird’s Saturday set.
Josh Miller – JamBase Photographer
Dr. Dog :: HSMF 2009 by Miller
1. Dr. Dog/Tea Leaf Green late night 2. Ali Farka Touré/Fareed Haque Music Hall 3. Big Light’s debut main stage at HSMF!
Benjy Eisen – AOL Music (Spinner.com)/Relix’s Cold Turkey 1. The Disco Biscuits (Sunday night, grandstand set) 2. Surprise Me Mr. Davis (Friday late night) 3. Pretty Lights – Vaudeville tent
Ted Kartzman – IODA/Digital Playa 1. Dr. Dog on Thursday night – The Dog kicked off the late night in the Funk’n Jam with a bang, opening for TLG, and bringing their Beatles/Beach Boys classic rock foundations to mix in with their game show theme rock, creating something wholly unique and tighter than a left lane exit on I-76 in Philly. “Hang On” is still the best song going. 2. The Disco Biscuits to close out the Main Stage on Sunday night. Reminiscing about ten years gone since ’99, we caught classics like “I-Man” and “Hot Air Balloon” mixed in with newer songs (and by newer, I mean slightly more recently than 10 years ago) like “Mirrors” and the addictive beep-boop of the “Great Abyss.” 3. Andy Gadiel serenading all his favorite bands and friends at the cast party for High Sierra: The Musical, featuring a duet with Brad Barr on “To Us, To Truth, Tonight, To You” and other Nathan Moore songs plus the set closer, a seven song A-D-E mash-up medley with members of Surprise Me Mr. Davis, ALO, Tea Leaf Green and The Disco Biscuits. Ten years in the making on this one, and I will never ever forget it. During “Twist and Shout” when Andrew Barr broke into “La Bamba” and Andy was right with him on the guitar. So classic.
J Gibson – reapandsow
HSMF 2009 by Krolick
1. Big Light opening set on the main stage/Dr. Dog late night 2. Surprise Me Mr. Davis/The Slip – Every single piece of music they did 3. Red Cortez – Vaudeville tent/Everest – Big Meadow tent
Susan J. Weiand – Photographer 1. ALO grandstand 2. Bonerama late night Vaudeville 3. Galactic grandstand
Marshall Lamm – Promotions & Public Relations 1. Dr. Dog 2. Marco Benevento Trio Thursday afternoon 3. Everest
Laurence Freedman – East End Management 1. Red Cortez 2. These United States 3. Tie – Dusty Rhodes And The River Band/Surprise Me Mr. Davis/Big Light jam at Camp Harry
Scott Samuelson – Camp Harry Captain 1. Big Light > Nathan Moore > Surprise Me Mr. Davis at Camp Harry – This party, like High Sierra itself, just gets better every year! 2. Red Cortez Vaudeville set – Harley drags his guitar and microphone stand into the audience for an old Mexican drinking song. A new legendary High Sierra moment. 3. Everest Big Meadow set – Beautiful California country-rock sounds during a perfect High Sierra sunset!