High Sierra Music Festival provides top-notch entertainment picking great up-and-coming artists to fill out the lineup while bringing in many favorites. With such a good lineup and so many stages, it really is hard to catch everything, but at least there is always something going on. I tried to catch as much music as I could from about 11 a.m. until the late-night sets for four days and I think I saw more music and danced harder than ever for the 30th anniversary.
SHADO CONGALTON/PROVIDED Aqueous performs Saturday evening at the Big Meadow stage.
THE HEADLINERS Despite three different stages packed with great musicians I stuck to the main stage for all four headliners. I know I missed out on some unique stuff, but there is something about the big production and the lighting that High Sierra does a fantastic job with. The quality is top-notch, and they provide an excellent experience for the crowd. All four headliners put on an amazing show and felt perfect for all sorts of music lovers. The bands fit what High Sierra is all about and they all put on exciting shows. Each band might not be for everyone, but that’s why there are other options. DIVERSE LINEUP, WOMEN WHO ROCK High Sierra always creates a diverse lineup for music genres, but they also did a good job booking more women this year. Erin Chapin, of The Rainbow Girls, pointed out how many women are part of it all and how it feels normal. Samantha Fish rocked the place for her second time attending. Molly Tuttle showed off her skills and Greensky Bluegrass let her sit in on their set. There are many others including Sammy Rae, AJ Lee, Margo Cliker, Ashleigh Flynn and Alisa Amador. Lindsay Lou is a joy to have at any festival. Her music is amazing, but also, she brings the festival spirit and collaborates with many artists. She took some time to meet with her fans as well. If there was an award for best dressed, Lou might win it because her fashion is on point. I think one of everybody’s favorite artists after this weekend is Anna Moss. As part of Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz’s band and sitting in on many more, she really made a splash at High Sierra. I overheard many people say how incredible her voice was, and many songs she sang were favorites. I took some opportunities to listen to her, and I hope she’ll be back next year and often because she is destined for big things. And we’re thankful for many other musicians who join year after year such as The Rainbow Girls and Pamela Parker. They really bring so much to the festival and those who come every year know this.
THE PLAYSHOPS Holy cow the secret is out. There is almost no room in some of the Playshops and everyone has their favorite. It took me a few years to realize how special these are, and some think they’ve become the heart and soul of High Sierra. These are unique sets to the festival that may never be recreated, and they bring many collaborations between the artists. I did not catch as many as I would like. It was very packed for many, with the doorways very crowded. My best advice for next year is you really need to plan to get in early if you wish to see them properly.
ANDREW QUIST/PROVIDED Samantha Fish performs on Saturday
BREAKOUT ACTS In my opinion, High Sierra is a great opportunity for many bands to finding a music-loving fanbase. It puts you in front of music fans who are going to buy tickets to shows after they hear about a band at High Sierra. This year featured many new bands to the lineup with much to be discovered. Many California bands made waves — especially some bluegrass bands. Youngsters Birches Bend and Crying Uncle Bluegrass Band both dazzled crowds. Molly Tuttle is another one from Santa Cruz who got to show off her skills and AJ Lee and Blue Summit are another Bay Area Favorite many will be familiar with now. On the jammier side of things, Aqueous rocked the house off. I joked with lead guitarist Mike Gantzer shortly after if he could please sign at least a 5-year contract with the festival. Hopefully they will be back.
SUSAN J. WEIAND Birches Bend perform on the Vaudeville stage on Thursday.
FESTIVAL FAVORITES In its 30 years, there are many bands who have graced a High Sierra stage, and there are many others who keep coming back for more. The Slip set the record for most High Sierra appearances this year with 15. Their sets were rocking. Lebo the king of High Sierra. This was his 20th time playing at the festival (12 with ALO). His sets are always special and his playshops are always packed. Skerik and Steve Poltz are others who seem essential to be there and provide endless entertainment as they collaborate with others. The California Honeydrops, Lettuce and the Nth Power are staples to the festival. While they might not be there every year, they sure feel like family when they are. Railroad Earth is always a favorite and it was nice they shared a set with bluegrass legend Peter Rowan. They brought him back out to close and did an amazing version of “The Cuckoo” with Lindsay Lou.
CLOSING IT OUT Sundays are always special, and I missed a lot of music connecting with people and saying goodbye to old and new friends. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead brought the spirit of the Grateful Dead alive in Quincy and the grounds felt transformed to half a century ago with everyone shaking their bones and dancing. There surely was happiness and magic in the air. Andy Frasco & The UN felt like the real closing of the festival as many gathered at the Vaudeville stage to see the California native. It was only his second time at the festival, and he feels like he’s always been a part of the family. The tent was packed from the inside out. Frasco brought on a slew of guests (including Anna Moss) and he really rocked the house. He sent the festival off properly had the crowd energized with words of positivity to take into the world.
TRADITION High Sierra has become a reunion many look forward to every year. No matter what the lineup, there’s going to be something for everyone, and it is a tradition to keep. There are always music favorites we love, and there’s always new discoveries to find. You might miss quite a bit, but there’s always the next year.
Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.
Sign in to comment