Written by Elisha Gud
Photos by Shutter and Cut
It was time, I had dreamt of this moment every single day since leaving last year. The only way in or out of town is Interstate 70 through some crazy canyons, which makes for one hell of a scenic drive worth every extra minute it takes to get through it. Quincy, California makes for the most magical festival location you’ll ever step foot on and that’s without a doubt just an extra perk of what you get when you sign up to attend High Sierra Music Festival. Usually my review would consist of verbatim who played what, when, and where…so, join me as I do something different and take you though a casual walk through High Sierra Music Festival.
Upon arrival we hitch hiked our way into town to the post office to grab some gear. It took me all of 5 seconds with my thumb out on the side of the road to be picked up by the sweetest couple that were heading to the same place. They were locals and worked for the radio station so they gave us the hometown low down on the town of Quincy. We grabbed what we needed and eventually said our goodbyes as we grabbed our credentials and found another ride back to the festival grounds.
Navigating the festival is easy. The Grandstand stage which is also a large field with people playing games all around, bleacher seats, is also home to vendor row. We always stop by the Conscious Alliance food drive where a donation of 20 non-perishable items gets you a free “Art That Feeds” poster. On the other side of the trees is the lawn all covered with hammocks, yogis doing yoga, slack lines, people walking their pet alligators, rouge jam sessions, late night ZEROdB Silent Disco and the early morning sunrise kickball games when the true wookery and shenanigans happen.
Enter the food court…Earthly Delights, Kaliko’s Hawiian Kitchen(easily consumable on a daily basis), Spiro’s Gyro’s, Blue Sun Cafe, and many more heart healthy options and probably the healthiest options of food to choose from at any festival. Sponsored by Sierra Nevada, Deschutes, and Lagunitas the booze was accessible and within reach at every corner. With a plethora of places to sit it is the easiest place to exchange conversations with new friends and get the low down on the Giant Puppets Save the World Parades (including Friday night’s glow in the dark parade), fire performances, late night artist play shops, troubadour sets and more.
Just behind the lawn and food court is the Big Meadow stage—which is cool because if you get there early enough to storm the gates there’s a chance you could camp directly next to the stage. Near the Big Meadow stage there is the Vaudeville tent which this year was beautifully decorated with painted recycled cups and plates. In between the two stages the local radio station Grizzly Radio broadcasted the entire event and conducted various interviews throughout the weekend giving festival goers an opportunity to tune in to all of the fun from their campsites so you never miss a beat…or a savvy exclusive interview with Jay Blakesberg. Stations to tune it to were 89.9 for the Grandstand, 91.5 for the Big Meadow and High Sierra late nights, and 103.7 for the Artist’s Playshops.
On the corner by the port-o-potties, in the middle of the food court, and everywhere in Shady Grove–every where you looked you’d stumble upon a new secret renegade set with artists from various bands and happy faces welcoming you to the party.—Last year we saw Billy Strings by a dumpster and this year he was on the main stage. Multiple times throughout the weekend we would make our way to camp Bitchin’ Kitchen—home to massive group meals where long time friends from the camp Pamela Parker and many others would play, we also joined our new friends at Camp Zesty for a white hot disco party accompanied by Luke from Lotus holding it down with tunes, shots from the ice luge, and dunk-a-roos.
On our way to see Rising Appalachia we stopped into the High Sierra Music Hall to check out the Give The Drummer Some—retrospective 70’s funk artist play shop with members from The Motet, Turkuaz, and the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. The mid afternoon funky-ness carried on throughout the day where Delvon Lamarr and his crew kept it funky. We then caught a few songs with The Motet but really made our way to get down and dirty with The California Honeydrops. The amount of energy they brought to the stage was contagious and you could really feel the love and vibrations throughout the crowd. The Nth Power stole the show for the first night of the festival soul with their “Rebel Music” Marley tribute set.
Friday morning’s crisp cool temperature and slight drizzle of rain was quite a treat and the perfect addition to the Jon Stickley Trio set..talk about stage presence and poise, their last number “Darth Vader” had me stomping holes in the ground. The afternoon consisted of Steve Poltz, the Scott Pemberton Band, and Lebo at large with Natalie Cressman, Jennifer Hartswick, Melvin Seals, George Porter Jr., and more…other tunes from Friday included Twiddle, Ghost Light, Spafford, Turkuaz, and The Floozies, while The String Cheese Incident were slaying it on the main stage the late night bands SoDown and The Nth Power we gearing up for what would be another rowdy and late evening.
Midway through the four day festival where music is prominent so the day consisted of Jazz is Phish, The Family Crest, Mt. Joy, Fruition, Nathan Moore, Lettuce, Margo Price, and Grace Potter. We joined our friends at Camp Zesty this year where the color themed camp throws a raging party throughout the day for those in need of escaping the mid-day heat for the forest and shade. Post Zesty party-ing included bouncing in-between the Lotus and Sturgill Simpson set and then getting our rage on all night long with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and The Floozies.
Sundays are always the best days, after a raging weekend there is nothing better than realizing that you’ve still got one more day of fun before heading back to the real world. Sundays at High Sierra Music Festival call for a trip to the local pool just a block away from the venue and intimate sets with Nathan Moore, while the entire crowed sat the entire time, Nathan’s final song and a request from the crowd was titled “Rise Up” and sent most of the crowd into large group hugs, tears, and laughter. We spent some time watching the Billy Strings set, saw some kids pushing a couch across the grass and danced our way through the rest of the day at the Guitarmageddon Tom Petty tribute set. The Guitarmageddon set includes just about every guitarist from most of the bands on the line up as they come together and jam it out for a few hours. The evening ended with a mellow set from Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and the Foundation of Funk featuring Tony Hall and friends.
Upon driving away that next morning from the most beautiful weekend of the year I realized what makes this place so special is not just the incredible line up, but the people and one of a kind experience and infinite possibilities that happen at High Sierra. I can’t possibly explain how incredible this place is in one short review…it’s an experience, one you’ll just have to come and find out for yourself. Until next time Quincy!