Over the past two years patrons of the HSMF have had reason to fear. In 2005 and 2006 we watched as police began to invade our little slice of utopia. These were difficult years for many festival goers, and because of this we witnessed a decrease in attendance. This year was different. As troubadour Nathan Moore said after the fest, “We won. We the people have scored a major victory at High Sierra, and this was my favorite year of the festival.” He was talking about how the Mayor and the people of Quincy came to our defense. They stood up and said that what the police were doing was wrong and they simply wouldn’t stand for it. This year I saw two police officers the entire time. I’m sure there were more, but what this meant was that the police were no longer roaming through campsites, looking in tents or harassing folks for simply having fun. In fact, not only was the police presence more than acceptable, there were teams of Quincy residents who would monitor the manner in which police patrolled the area and responded to calls. They would literally follow the police around and keep tabs on them. Yup, score one for the people!
Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
Feet on the ground, head in the sky
It’s ok I know nothing’s wrong
Home is where I want to be
But I guess I’m already there
Continue reading for more of JamBase’s HSMF 2007 coverage…
For those of us at JamBase, High Sierra is a family event. It’s a rare moment where we break free from our computers and share time in the woods. As we’ve done in the past, our coverage this year is broken up amongst several JamBase staffers and longtime writers. We realize not everything is covered (most notably the amazing string bands, from Yonder to Leftover and Thile to McCoury), but we didn’t even try to cover everything. Instead, we took the weekend off and simply followed our ears and let the festival show us where to go. What follows are highlights of High Sierra from your friends at JamBase.
THE SLIP: THE GOLDEN THREAD OF HIGH SIERRA
SURPRISE ME MR. DAVIS: NO FRAGILE FLOWER
The official Vaudeville show was one of the strongest outings this band has had. From the opening “Skull and Bones” with SCI/Zilla’s Michael Travis on percussive ladder through the set-closing cover of “19th Nervous Breakdown,” this was one show folks kept talking about all weekend. Tucked inside this magical performance were tearjerkers like “Sleepyhead,” “Summer Of My Fall” and “As Long As There’s One of Us Standing” stacked up against rollicking celebrations like “Rubber Ball,” “Holly Would,” “Everything Must Go” and a cover of the Raconteurs “Intimate Secretary.”
By Scott Galbraith
“As Long As There’s One of Us Standing” by Surprise Me Mr. Davis
Love is not some fragile flower
It’s one that breaks the sidewalk just to bloom
Even God said there is no higher power
Than the lily or the love inside of you
So if you’re out there looking for answers
Then you must know that you are the light in someone’s dark
DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: THE ART OF THE STORY
Bands don’t achieve legendary status for nothing, and watching the Truckers turn the gears and lay down the hammer from slow-burning patience to all out assault was head-splitting. The whole set was building towards the final moments. The subtle self-control exhibited by the band in the early stages was countered by the explosive ending. “Let There Be Rock” was an epic journey with Hood in prime storytelling form. But, it was the final 20 minutes of their set that was as good as anything I’ve heard this year. The dynamic tandem of “Buttholeville” and Bruce Springsteen “State Trooper” was creepy, inspired and mind-boggling. Hood was a man possessed. He laid down the guitar and leapt into Springsteen’s character behind the wheel with no license, no registration and that State Trooper riding behind. Hood is one of the best storytellers alive, and when he grabs hold of a tale like this time stands still. These final moments of Hood leading the Truckers to the end of their High Sierra set were pure magic and something I shall never forget.
Continue reading for more…
PAGE McCONNELL: HOLD ME CLOSE
With such an adored character onsite, High Sierra wisely asked McConnell to conduct one of the festival’s signature playshops. He gave a warm, shy smile to those assembled for this special show. He twinkled on the keys for a moment and said, “Any questions?” Everyone laughed and exhaled as he began to play Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Tears flowed as his sweet voice rang through the hall. During the Q&A portions, McConnell gave us insight on some of the practicing processes with Phish including something they called “filling the hey hole” – a round robin improvisational technique they made up to practice their musical communication (aka JAMMING). To the crowd’s delight, he granted requests to play old “phavorites” like “Strange Design” and the outro to “Squirming Coil.” A brick wall could not hold the memories from rushing back. McConnell himself got a little choked up as he sang “Velvet Sea,” which somehow validated our own mixed emotions. One audience member dared to ask how he felt about the topic of Phish ever getting back together. A hush fell as everyone in the room stared at Page. Then, the ever-self-regulating High Sierra crowd deemed that question null and void by booing in the questioner’s general direction and then quickly cheering at Page to play another song. At a place like High Sierra, it is overwhelmingly evident that the present moment is all that we have and it is worthy of being cherished for what it is. There’s hope for you yet, Page McConnell.
THE ONE, THE ONLY, THE DISCO BISCUITS
LOVE FOR THE CRESCENT CITY
Continue reading for more…
TEA LEAF GREEN: JUST LIKE WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE
As the sun went down on July 7, the grueling heat subsided and the moon rose above the Plumas fairgrounds while the clock struck half past nine and Tea Leaf Green took the stage. Launching into the poignant “If It Wasn’t For The Money,” they made their presence known. The evening quickly shined with an epic tint as the band soared through their original repertoire of body shaking rock tunes and soulful, heartfelt ballads. The set hit an early peak with the “Garden Pt 2,” which segued into its companion, “The Garden Pt 1” before settling into the newer fan favorite “Red Ribbons.”
Tea Leaf Green rounded out their Big Meadow appearance with the now classic sing-a-long “The Garden Pt 3,” thus completing the song cycle and rejoicing in the line, “Just like me, just like we’re supposed to be.”
Happy Birthday Plate!
Continue reading for more…
BOBBY PREVITE’S COALITION OF THE WILLING:
By Zack Smith
The band’s second set, Sunday on the Shady Grove Stage, was a bit freer – more casual and formless. That’s generally the pattern for bands with more than one daytime set – first time for the masses, second time for the fans. I enjoyed this set a bit more, but am at a loss to explain exactly why. It was more spacey, kind of out-there and less musically dense, and that palpable free experimentation is appealing to me. And I love checking out people’s reactions to Skerik’s sci-fi saxophonics. Late in the set, he knelt down in front of his rig and started whispering and clicking into his sax’s microphone. It sounded like Klingon pillow talk, and as he created loops and feedback he bestowed upon the intrigued, excited fans a massive Skerection. Mathis switched between guitar and bass with Coogan playing off both he and Skerik. Previte played a bit more aggressively, asserting that he and The Coalition of the Willing are a technically strong band comprised of consummate, curious musicians capable of reading the crowd and playing just what’s desired.
LES CLAYPOOL: KEEPIN’ IT FANCY
The two-hour set featured a number of tunes in high rotation, such as “Long In The Tooth,” popular closer “D’s Diner” and several from 2006’s Of Whales and Woe, which are prominently featured on the Fancy DVD. The jammed out, tease-heavy set included Primus‘ “Tommy the Cat” during “One Better,” “Southbound Pachyderm” during staple “David Makalaster,” and other interesting sandwiched tracks. One of the high points of the show was the drum break. Primal by nature, Baldi and Dillon’s twin drum solo had the crowd teetering on an orgy with their beats, and with the addition of Garaj Mahal‘s Alan Hertz I wouldn’t at all be surprised if children were conceived during this section. Though I’ll admit to having mixed feelings about multi-instrumentalist Gabby La La, she has stepped up and nurtured an edgier, more blistering sitar sound which rounded out the palate well.
Continue reading for JamBase HSMF Top 3…
Marc Brownstein – The Disco Biscuits
2. Discovering a new jam for “Bazaar Escape” after playing the song for eight years.
3. Hanging with the JamBase crew at Camp Harry and watching Harry Happen.
Nathan Moore – Surprise Me Mr. Davis/ThaMuseMeant
1. Brett Dennen. I listened to him for the first time on the way to High Sierra and then I was blown away by his Big Meadow show. Such comforting and fun music.
2. Leftover Salmon and Chris Thile. I had no idea! I mean sure, I’d seen them both many times, but I had no idea they were about to shoot the moon. The LOS set Sunday night was just plain kick ass. And Mr. Thile was the man all weekend. I like the left he’s taking.
3. Aimee Curl (ThaMuseMeant). I know how nervous she was for this one and I was so proud of her. She sounded great and she did one of her own songs! It made me happy to watch her rise to the occasion.
Reed Mathis – Coalition of Willing/JFJO
2. Zack Smith taking portraits against the RV, commenting insightfully on his environment in a Kesey-esque fashion and bubbling over with inspiration and ideas, and crippling me with continuous laughter. He was truly in rare form.
3. Sitting in on guitar with Tea Leaf Green. Definitely the high point of the event for me. I wasn’t super familiar with their music, and Dan Lebowitz had just brought us all to our tippi-toes with a very inspired lap steel sit-in, and then it was my turn. It’s hard to explain what happened. All I know is I took a deep breath and we made some real music. I mean, to me, it was an incredible moment of beauty. They are a fantastic band, and I was honored by their request to play with them. They definitely showed me a thing or two. Josh, you are the man!
Patterson Hood – Drive-By Truckers
First I have to say forgive me, but I spent all day with a terrible stomach ache, so I didn’t exactly get out there and twirl around in the heat.
1. Finding a fairly decent and not too foul port-o-let to dump in.
2. The nice catering lady who fixed me a plate “for later.”
3. The bouncers dragging that naked guy out of the pit. “If you have a dick, leave your pants on.”
Josh Clark – Tea Leaf Green
3. Bearing witness to the growth of the High Sierra musical and social community, and the sense of pride that comes with being a small part of it.
1. Les Claypool and Co. was phenomenal at the late night show. Had a great time playing and listening.
2. Hearing Mavis Staples from our camp and hanging in the shade with my peeps.
3. Doing the slide guitar clinic with Papa Mali and Tony Furtado was great fun and a great learning experience.
Eddie Roberts – New Mastersounds
2. Arriving to Camp Happiness. Being greeted by all of our Bay Area friends. There was gear set up for us to play. Tents were popped for us to sleep in. And there was plenty of food and alcohol to be had. What more could we ask for? Ahhhh…High Sierra!
3. Scaling the fence at 7 a.m. trying to make our way to the Guitar Hero bus for Sunday morning Bloody Marys. Once we made it over the fence, the bus was locked. So, instead, we went and watched the kickball game, which was something we hadn’t seen or played before. It was quite an interesting morning.
1. Jake Shimabukuro. Man, I haven’t seen anyone master an instrument like that since Edgar Meyer on his bass. Absolutely amazing. On a uke.
2. Brett Dennen. Les Claypool blew my face off and Toubab Krewe took me to another place, but this was the first time I’d seen Brett and singer-songwriters unite! Great vibe, great message.
3. The complete stranger who, after a few extremely kind words, started making out with me out of the blue. She was hot! That was definitely a first.
1. Impromptu sunrise sing-a-long set with Brad Barr and Nathan Moore near a giant Twister game on Saturday morning.
2. Befriending the New Mastersounds crew.
3. Camp Harry.
Debbie Crockett – HSMF Organizer
1. Best Use of Rider Liquor in a Grandstand Stage Setting: Drive-By Truckers, a band who has consistently been on my line-up wish list, swilling from their 1.75 of Jack like they meant it. Always one to embrace a theme, I can happily say that I did not at that point fall into the category of “Women Without Whiskey.”
2. Best “Aging Former Phish Nerd” Moment: Eric and I comparing, albeit a little sheepishly, simultaneous goose bumps during Page’s solo rendition of “Wading In The Velvet Sea” during his Sunday afternoon playshop. The fact that Page was gracious and a pleasure to work with only made it sweeter.
3. Sappiest “Man (sniffle) I Love You Guys” Moment: Drifting off to sleep at some point during the wee hours of Sunday morning next to my radio (ahem, yes, I realize that sounds rather pathetic), listening to our overnight crew so effectively holding it down and keeping the vibe steady during the unique and dynamic force that is the late night scene. An accolade that could similarly extend to any of our crews. Aw, shucks…
Deb gets four moments because she helps run the fest!
4. Returning home. Connecting with dear friends. Listening to them tell me what an amazing experience they had. Experiencing the festival through their eyes and knowing that the sentiment is sincere. Remembering in that instant exactly why I do this.
Zack Smith – Photographer/Rotary Downs
2. Bobby Previte, Reed Mathis, Skerik and Brian Coogan freaking out, and flipping the wigs of many a festgoer.
3. Finally getting to play a late night Camp Harry set with Brad Barr and Nathan Moore. If anyone has video, please send it because I don’t remember it. “Little Red Corvette” is about the only thing that sticks out. Oh wait, “Stand By Me” and “Snowed In” (with Aimee Curl!).
Dave Vann – Photographer
1. The Drive-By Truckers Main Stage Set – The whole show was amazing and they definitely held their own as headliners. Towards the end of the set I was taking photos of the band on the speaker stacks directly in front of the band when Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood walked out on to the stacks for solo’s – definitely a rock & roll moment I won’t soon forget.
2. Camp Harry Late Night’s – I was lucky enough to camp with Camp Harry this year and every night we had our own late night sets with Surprise Me Mr. Davis, Eddie Roberts’ Roughneck, impromptu jams with members of The Slip, ALO, Kanvas and the White Thighs (shredding Fred Torphy).
3. Page Playshop – The unannounced intimate playshop that Page McConnell gave on Sunday afternoon was truly amazing. Page told stories of writing and performing with Phish, played some beautiful songs, and answered some (sometimes silly) questions from fans. This kind of event is what makes High Sierra truly unique among festivals.
Susan J. Weiand – Photographer
2. Dumpstaphunk going off in the Vaudeville and Tony Hall channeling his best James Brown and jumping up onto the speaker stack.
3. Witnessing the huge Twister game played at dawn on Saturday morning, with some very twisted and hilarious participants.
Ted Kartzman – Rhapsody.com
1. The Slip outdoor Big Meadow set, the boys clad all in yellow, sun setting on their ten year run. “I swear I’ll join you in the sun.” Man, they sounded great. “So brand new, yet tired and broken down. But the forest is big, that’s why we need rangers.” Honestly, the most emotional I’ve ever been at the High Sierra. Margu’s speech about the boys had to set off the “Cumulus” fireworks and the waterworks. Lookin’ around, nothin’ but family, The Slip bring it all together for so many of us. For real, the soundtrack to our lives.
2. Stumbling back to my camp after Bisco late night was too hot to handle. Can’t dance with Lauren D and Benjy Eisen for more than ten minutes without needing a respite. Figured I’d make a whiskey drink and see who was up, and I find Brad Barr on bass, Nathan Moore on keys and Rotary Downs‘ Zack Smith on drums doing the full slow grind to “Little Red Corvette.” Prince never sounded so fresh and dirty. Tasty!
3. The anticipation before the SMMD set, everyone packed in there wanting the same thing, and when The Slip can be Nathan’s band, it’s the best backing band since The Band. The magic is just there. Bradford Barr turned into Jacky White Jr. during the set, bending over backwards to see the crowd while axe-shredding. The kid is possessed. Quite happy to watch the insanity unfold and sing “I …I…I opened the door!” at the top of my lungs.
Mike Greenhaus – Relix
1. Trying not to cry during Page’s Playshop set (and almost succeeding).
2. Riding the rail at a nine-nine (that’s ’99) Bisco show at High Sierra ’07.
Cole Boyle – Relix
2. Nathan Moore/Surprise Me Mr. Davis/The Slip/ThaMuseMeant: Any and all combinations involving any of these musicians was pretty much EPIC. You just don’t see musicians exercising a craft like that everyday. Nathan Moore + The Slip = PURE GENIUS.
3. THREE WORDS: Page McConnell’s Playshop. I would try to say more, but I get chills just thinking about it.
Adam Alperowicz – Relix
1. Returning my #2 pencil drawing friend Travoltordo to my brother from the other coast Tanner during ALO late night.
2. Watching the Disco Biscuits play a great festival set in front of a small crowd just after sunset and getting down with my boys.
3. Roaming grounds aimlessly on trips between the Relix booth, Camp Harry and Camp Sh*t F*ck, taking in a festival unlike any other I’ve ever been to. Seeing people making friends everywhere they went, doing their thing in peace and partying like rockstars, while still keeping everything safe, fun, and positive.
Court Scott – JamBase Scribe
2. The Disco Biscuit’s evening set at the Big Meadow stage was wicked fun – more accessible than their late night set, easier to find and settle into a groove. A Bisco-loving friend asserts that it was one of the best he’s ever heard and I don’t doubt it.
3. Ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro is understated but wonderful. He’s taken a traditional instrument of his native Hawaii and figured out a way to avail it to us. I especially liked the “Ave Maria” – perfect for getting going on a Saturday.
SuperDee – JamBase
1. Page McConnell performing “Tiny Dancer” in his solo playshop. Pass the tissues.
2. Dancing with NOLA friends to the Hot 8 Brass Band. Holla!
3. Brad Barr channeling Russell Hammond (aka the epitome of the rock guitar player with mystique) during the Surprise Me Mr. Davis Thursday night set.
Andrew Warren – JamBase
2. Ah the Antelope Complex fire. What a sight it was! I was so hung up on it that several people had the gall to snap and tell me “Enough about the Fire!” I like fires, sorry.
3. Surprising Andy Gadiel with his very own golf cart for the weekend. His stellar introductions at the Big Meadow Stage were even breezier and more relaxed knowing he could jet off to basket weaving afterwards and not miss a single kudzu vine, ribbed weave moment! Thanks for the quilt basket!
Tanner Wyer – JamBase
2. Getting Trav back.
3. All the other things that I can’t fit into a top three. High Sierra – thanks for continuing to step it up.
Patty Kaufman – JamBase
1. Biscuits Big Meadow set – loved the old school set list.
2. The Slip playing “Heartbreaker.”
3. Seeing Page up close and personal.
Mason Blake – JamBase
2. Carolyn Wonderland. Killer blues guitar player and singer, extremely solid band.
3. Martin Sexton at the Grandstand.
Andy Gadiel – JamBase
1. Surprise Me Harry.
2. Brad Barr sitting in with Tea Leaf Green.
3. Chris Thile picking in the flower garden.
Aaron Kayce (aka Kayceman) – JamBase
1. Remembering what it is that makes High Sierra so incredibly special.
2. Watching Brad Barr destroy any guitar he held throughout the weekend.
3. Drive-By Truckers doing “State Trooper.”
Use the Comments Section to tell us about YOUR Top 3 HSMF Moments…
JamBase | California
Go See Live Music!
Pleas continue reading for a memorial piece for Sarah Venning…
Sarah was the type of person who made each of her friends feel like they were her best friend. No matter how busy she was, Sarah always found time to stay connected and involved in the lives of those who touched her.
Our lives are blessed by each person we love, and we have the power to enrich the lives of others. May her memory remind us of the importance of taking an active role in nurturing our relationships, old and new. Though she will be missed, let us celebrate her life and realized that no matter what else may be going on in the world, each day is as much of a miracle and blessing as the day each of us were born.