Written by Elisha Gud
All Photos by Justin Zangerle and Elisha Gud of Shutter and Cut Photography
It was 2am, we had just pulled into Camp 70 and my emotions were going crazy. We had finally arrived and the music would be starting in less than 10 hours. There were already so many people there…So many smiling faces bomping around the camps asking if we needed help setting up or where we had came from. Los Angeles! I said, with all my might and excitement as I helped my friend get her stuff out from the bottom of our RV. It was chilly so I knew the days would be hot and the nights would be cold…nothing out of the ordinary for a traditional High Sierra Music Festival in its twenty-ninth year. The pines were glowing and the moon was shining as we decided to lay our heads to rest so we could be exceptionally ready for the first day of the festival. I was surrounded by all of my friends in my most favorite place ever, and ready for the weekend—It was time to party!
Day one would proceed as planned with all of my favorite bands on the line up—let’s keep it real every band on this line up is my favorite band. Didn’t matter what day they played, they are my favorite and I’m sticking to that story. The Rainbow Girls opened up the festival with their bluesy vibes getting the crowd prepared for a weekend of dancing, the special set was shared by a cover of the song “No Rose, No Rain” and a join in by John Craigie to really set the mood for “Rough Johns.” As the day continued festival goers would have the chance to see bands including Mapache, The Suitcase Junket, Gene Evaro Jr., Marty O’Reilly & The Old Soul Orchestra, Mandolin Orange, and Royal Jelly Jive.
There is something about starting your day off with a long walk through the grounds the first day of the festival. Taking it all in, exploring the scenery, finding all of your friends campsites, and checking out the vendors. It’s something I do at every festival first thing when I wake up that first morning. It is no secret that High Sierra is known for having some of the best vendors of any festival. From clothing by CARAUCCI, Lighten Up! Tye Dye Co, the giant foam bath tub,Live Wire Neon, Conscious Alliance, Warrior Within Designs, and more. I knew Big Somethings set would be starting soon but I had to stop by one more vendor. “Bici.arte” handmade pieces that were made with a purpose to celebrate the bicycle and love. The shop owners friend had given us a ride into town the day before and told us to check them out, and it was worth it.
We headed from there to the Vaudeville Stage to check out the Big Something set which had just started. We got there just in time because the scene was great! People were dancing in circles there were men and women hoisted onto each others shoulders and everyone was having a blast. The Bubble RV was parked right outside the tent this year so campers were relaxing in its shade while the bubble man shot off bubbles into the air throughout the crowd. The rest of the night consisted of Too Many Zooz, Manic Focus, Karl D, and Toubab Krewe with their bluesy/percussion jam-packed vibes. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong came back for a second year in a row and just like any other PPPP set blew the crowd away. We did not hit up any of the late nights from night one but I heard that Polish Ambassador crushed it.
Friday morning arrived just as usual and I woke up more excited for this day than any other. Our theme camp would have its Camp Zesty Party this day and ALO was set to play from 2pm-5pm to keep the party going. This years theme was GOLD, it was the biggest year yet in the 10 years the camp has been doing this. With ALO playing originals and covers the camp was killing it, with shine, ice luges, dunkaroos, and steak bombs—which is a shot of tequila that you chase with a nicely seasoned and seared piece of steak. I was sad to not see The New Mastersounds during the party but knew I would be seeing them play a special set during the Camp Happiness party the next day.
After the party we hit the Vaudeville, and Big Meadow stages to see some of the Jennifer Hartswick Band and Too Many Zooz. I was excited to see St. Paul & The Broken Bones as it had been years since the last time I had, and it was practically like going to church. As I had remembered their set did not disappoint, as they hit the stage with my favorite song of theirs…“Broken Bones and Pocket Change.” From the St. Paul set we headed over to see the ending of Star Kitchen and the Polish Ambassador set. We chose to watch the Dispatch set from the stands…from what I heard from other festival goers they also thought that they brought a new vibe to the festival and stood their ground as headliners. Way to crush it guys! From there we hit up The Nth Power Marvin Gaye tribute set. Per usual sending the crowd into a different universe where Marvin was still there rocking it with us. The set consisted of songs like “When Did You Stop Loving Me,” “Got To Give It Up,” “Heard It Through The Grapevine,” and so many more. The Nth Powers cover set is never to be missed year after year.
As Saturday proceeded we found our way to the food vendors to grab some of the Dump City Dumplings (a personal favorite of mine, you’ve got to check out the pizza ones) and the newest food vendor of all Kaptains BBQ Shack/Nitro Shack where we had heard they were serving up 9 different kinds of mac and cheese…it was not a lie, and the pulled pork mac was some of the best I had ever tasted. Their Central Coast style BBQ made with all Sustainable and Organic products are not to be missed if you ever see these guys at a festival.
The music was popping off as Leftover Salmon took the stage at the Grandstand and Cha Wa a New Orleans funk band woo-ed the crowd at the Vaudeville tent with their NoLa funk and brass bringing a true Mardi Gras feel to the woods. Another incredible piece of High Sierra magic that you will find are these incredible musician play-shops. After Cha Wa, we checked out the Classic Album Hour; The Rolling Stones “Let It Be.” These workshops are typically occupied by a range of musicians sitting in and sitting out—rolling in, and rolling out to give the fans a set they could never imagine yet always remember. This one in particularly included musicians from The Travelin’ McCourys, The Lil Smokies, John K, Leftover Salmon, The Shook Twins and many more.
From here we checked out Some of Del & Dawg and The Del McCoury Band, and cut the time in half to see some of Galactics set. With the sun beating down and the music raging on we sat back at the campsite and listened to the music festival continue through Grizzly Radio 89.9fm for a little bit before heading out to see legendary Jim James – with a full band, Umphreys Mcgee and ALO. We did make it out to the late night shows this night as we had to see TAUK crush the Funk n’ Jamhouse with a crowd that seemed ever so stoked to be there and have an invite.
Four day music festivals are hard, like…will I be alive to make it to this show? Will my feet make it? How far is everything really and can someone carry me? That is not the case here, Sunday started and I was still exceptionally energized and ready to get the party started. While Gospel in the Hall was getting started (a fun Sunday tradition) we checked out Shook Twins & Friends as they played an exceptionally special set for the crowd. Tears were flowing…at least out of me and a few others sitting around me. As I got a quick nap in back at the RV I could hear AMO AMO on the radio and Cha Wa getting down off in the distance. I snoozed off because it was incredibly important to me that I make it back for Steel Pulse and Guitarmageddon – Plays Led Zeppelin.
Some of my greatest memories have been made in the Music Hall during Guitarmageddon, it’s so intimate, close quarters, and packed in with everyone sharing the same special experience, honoring whatever band it was for the season…this year it was Robert Plant and the crowd loved it! It was nice to see our now good festival friend Pamela Parker joining the fellow musicians on stage and adding to the giant guitar filled experience. Afterwards we skipped by the Lil Smokies, got down to The Marcus King Band, and raged with Andy Frasco & The U.N.. TAUK raged on through the night and I was sad to not be able to make it to their second set but, Greensky Bluegrass was playing on the main stage and since we had VIP status and could hang out in the friends and family area the view was top notch and couldn’t be missed. Their set included some oldies but goodies, a solid “Miss September,” and a wide range of songs from their new album “All For Money,” either way, you could find me stomping holes in the ground along with everyone else.
As the festival was ending we retreated back to Zesty Camp for some last night shananagins with our favorite friends that we only get to see once a year. It’s incredible that all of this hard work goes in to creating such a beautiful weekend and we are invited to be a part of it year after year. There is something incredibly special about Quincy, California and you’ll never know it if you just drive on by. The town thrives off of this once a year event and the locals are truly incredible people if you really get the chance to sit down with them. Each year we find ourselves learning more and more about the history and the town as we digress from the weekend at Thunder Catz Cafe. Next year will be High Sierras 30th Anniversary and I truly can not wait to see what is in store. Thanks for the memories, thanks for the laughs, thanks for the good music and the good food, but most of all…thanks for being my friend…each and every one of you that attended. Hearts were broken, Relationships were made, love was lifted, and found again. This one was for THE GOLDEN AGE! And Remember nothing scoots past the gallery —