Photos And Review | Guitarfish Music Festival | Cisco Grove

Images and Words by: Alan Sheckter

Guitarfish Music Festival :: 7.26.13-7.28.13 :: Cisco Grove Campgrounds :: Cisco Grove, CA

Way up in California’s high country, just a bit downhill from the crest of the mighty Sierra Nevada, is where the festival they call “Guitarfish” thrives. Named for a guitar-shaped fish of the same name, the Guitarfish Festival loosely emanates “Guitarfish Adventures,” an “epic eco-musical fish tale” book that features a music-making, conservation-minded school of sea creatures.

In this its third year, the expansive Cisco Grove Campground, with the clear waters of the South Yuba River flowing within its midst, Guitarfish Fest musicians and attendees set up camp and for three days celebrated summer with a shared hearty appetite for progressive music, crystal-clear mountain air and a bohemian lust for fun and frolic.

Dogs and kids were welcome and both added cheerful dimensions to the proceedings. A new area of the campground was utilized this year for the dual-staged “fish bowl” performance area that was the center of the music, as well as the main hub for food and drink vendors (thanks Lagunitas and Java Sushi), trendy clothing and craft artisans, a solar energy product tent and a gaggle of socially conscious advocates, including Sustainable Tahoe, a Lake Tahoe watershed-preservation nonprofit. The local Kindred Art and Folk Institute was also on-hand, spearheading sustainable art activities (and a big-ol’ bounce house), at a kids-themed area. Decorative fish were hung throughout the festival grounds, as were neon-tubed campsite lights and other innovative translucent orbs and illuminating features.

Over the three days, about two dozen music-makers dished out heaping helpings of sound, and attendees took advantage of basking in the music from a variety of vantage points, from directly in front of the stage, to a walk on the river rocks, to the comfort of their nearby campsites. Music gravitated toward funk ‘n’ groove jams, along with mass quantities of rock, mixed with dashes of jazz, reggae and folk from about two dozen performers including the funk ‘n’ groove/driving beat masters Orgone and The Pimps of Joytime, rap/funk DJ Lyrics Born (whose band offered a James Brown-tribute set with horn players from Jazz Mafia), venerable San Francisco-based jam band New Monsoon, Bay Area masters of multiple genres of jam Vinyl, the Lebo-and-two Motets trio of Magic Gravy, the SoCal-beach-rock sounds of the Wheeland Brothers, multi-instrumentalist/humorist Joe Craven and tribal rhythmists Sambada. The vibe at this intimate festival was sublime, with an organic, high-mountain-forest quality that few gatherings can claim.