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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2001/07/17
by John Zinkand

One Mans Trip

The tension had been building and building. I was counting the days in excited anticipation for months. Summer was approaching which meant it was soon time for the annual musical ritual known as the High Sierra Music Festival. Each summer for the past 3 years I had been at this incredible event and was so stoked to make my 4th consecutive year there the best ever. I figured the odds were in my favor considering the sick line-up that this years incarnation of Festival had to offer. Top that off with the fact that I live in Portland, OR and Phil and Friends just happened to be playing on July 3rd in Eugene, and you can imagine how psyched we were. My wife, Ashley, and I jumped on the chance to catch Phil since we would be heading south to California on July 4th anyway. Gotta love that musical good karma!
We were preparing for the 4 days of non-stop music and camping a couple days in advance. Checklists were made and items checked off as they were accumulated in a pile near the basement door. I made a large fruit salad and my wife made some curried chicken salad. All the amenities such as booze, beer, clothes, camping gear, coolers, spray bottles, a canopy, etc. were very important to making a luxurious and enjoyable festival experience. When I got home from work on Tuesday night, Ash had the car all packed and ready to go. We made some adjustments to our coolers, having to shift things to make room for all of the important perishables. I popped in a Phil and Friends disc, pointed the car south, and made tracks to Eugene on this very warm and sunny 90+ degree Oregon day.
Eugene rules. Its such a groovy little laid back town. We drove right to Cuthbert Amphitheater and parked the car in one of the lots of U. of O.s Autzen Stadium. There were long-haired and tie-dyed clad folks milling around in the hot sun. Cuthbert Amphitheater is a tiny little place tucked quietly by the stadium in Alton Baker Park. After parking we strolled through the park and across the bridge that passes over a little stream to the Amphitheater. The entire place holds maybe 4,000 people. We quickly spied the entrance and were about to walk through the door when the guy informed me that he needed to pat me down. Damn, I thought. With the mellow vibe that was so prevalent, I completely spaced the fact that they might search us.
Of course, the guy went over my shorts pockets fairly well and felt that they contained some bumpy, irregularly shaped contents. Can I see whats in here? he asked me. Sure, I replied nonchalantly. Now, what was really contained in the pocket in question was my glass oney, a film canister, and a lighter. However, I only pulled out my lighter and film canister. The guy looked at me for a second, then looked down at my hand, then he looked back up at my face. I smiled. He began to speak pensively, Uh, yeah, thats alright, I guess. Go ahead in. Nice! Im glad there was no hassle to start off this most heavenly weekend and besides that, I really had to go to the bathroom!
We strolled down to the 3rd row of wooden benches near the front right hand side of the stage and took a seat. It was crazy how much space there was. No one crowded in at all and we had a few feet between us and the next person sitting beside us. Warren Haynes came out dressed in all black, sat on a stool in the middle of the sun-drenched stage, and played some songs on his acoustic guitar. He sings very soulfully and the gathering crowd seemed to enjoy his laid back set, although Warren did seem rather warm up there. A great moment happened when Jimmy Herring brought Warren his guitar for one of the songs (a Warren Haynes clone stage hand had been bringing Warren a new guitar for almost every tune). Warren said, Now how about that? One of the greatest guitar players in the world is bringing me a guitar! The crowd chuckled and gave Jimmy a cheer in respect of his awesome guitar playing talent and ability.
After Warrens set, I went to retrieve some sort of cool treat as the sun was becoming kind of oppressive. I looked around at the food booths in the back the venue and finally discovered a little Hawaiian Shave Ice stand. For those of you who have never been to Hawaii, shave ice is a native icey sweet treat. Its shavings off of a block of ice piled like a snow cone, but the ice shavings are much finer. In Hawaii shave ice is traditionally served on a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream. I asked if any was available, and the folks at the booth began to laugh. We didnt think anyone would know about that! That sure is a treat, huh? Sorry, no we dont. With refreshing shave ices in hand, I made my way back to the 3rd row. I assumed that it would be packed with people now and that getting back to my seat might be a little difficult. Not in the least. The same amount of space was there when I returned and we happily enjoyed our frozen treats while waiting for Phil.
As the band took the stage the small crowd cheered. A jam was immediately started that wound its way in several directions. Some very strong Lady With a Fan intro licks were just harsh teases as the band kept exploring, seemingly trying to find a song to settle into as the opener. They finally landed on Warrens tune Soulshine which was a great sunny day reggae-tinged opener. Next the band went into a fairly upbeat version of Friend of the Devil. This sped up and funkier rendition of a usually slower tune was very enjoyable and the crowd seemed to dig it. It lead right into a pretty standard Dire Wolf, which is always a fun song to hear. Next came one of the treats of the set, Hard to Handle sung by Warren. His rich sultry vocals did this song justice as he belted out the lines. The funky groove laid down by Phil was very nice and the band slammed most of the thunderous changes wonderfully. The raucous jam slowly wound down and led into the tune Broken Arrow. Im not a big fan of the tune, personally, as I find it hard to associate it with anything but Rod Stewart, but this version was actually pretty good. Jimmy built up a guitar solo that became very intense and I was pleasantly surprised. The Passenger they played next to end the set was one of my favorite songs of the show. It was loud and it rocked. The power chords were slamming and thunderous and this tune really had the place jumping. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the raw power that Phil and the band delivered with this great end to a solid first set.
During the break, I scuttled to the back to fill up my water bottle. Unfortunately, so did the other 3,999 people there. The lines were too long so I made my way to a little stand where some kids were selling Snapple. They were tediously slow, but I eventually scored a cold refreshing beverage and returned to my seat to find the area not even slightly more crowded than it had been since we got there. Refreshed, relaxed, and happy, we were ready for the next set. Rob Barraco pointed to the almost full moon and jokingly sang the line I see the bad moon rising Phil chuckled. Yes, it seemed everyone was very relaxed and ready to go.
Revolution was the tasty choice for the 2nd set opener. It was played very well with a straight ahead rock-n-roll feel and everyone was loose and gettin down. It segued into a nice rendition of Wharf Rat. The jam went way far out and explored vast and varied musical textures. By the time the familiar licks of Wharf Rat sounded again before the last verse, I had almost forgotten what song they had been playing (which I always take as a great sign of a killer jam). Next was the event of the evening. The band played a debut version of the fast and jazzy instrumental tune King Solomons Marbles (Stronger Than Dirt?? Milking the Turkey???). What a friggin treat! Jimmy was racing through this song with incredible dexterity. The changes were all nailed and they pulled it off as if they had been playing this song together for years. As the song ended, everyone cheered loudly in amazement of what had just happened. Everyone was in awe of the musical gem of the evening. After the band members took a minute or two to breathe, they started playing Pride of Cucamonga. This abstract Phil tune alludes to Oregon and weed growing green and fat, so obviously the crowd loved it. The one-two combination of Casey Jones>GDTRFB finished out the set in energetic but standard style. Casey peaked pretty hard and the jams in GDTRFB were good, but nothing as special as what we had already witnessed this evening. Then the band wished us well with the always touching song, We Bid You Goodnight. They came out and gave us an encore of Cosmic Charlie which was pretty mellow and groovy. It had been a long hot night and the boys seemed very tired but very satisfied. Phil mentioned the special thing we have going alluding to the enthusiasm of the die-hard Oregon crowd, and a special night of music came to an end.
We slowly made our way out of the Amphitheater. The little bridge that crosses the stream caused a hug bottleneck and it was packed full of people as we were cattled across it. Some kids started to jump up and down a little and I couldnt help but think of the footage from Israel of the wedding party falling through the floor. While crossing the bridge I saw little pods of canoes where people had rowed up to the edge of the Amphitheater to hear some free music. Not a bad idea! My wife and I jumped back into the car and decided to drive south for another hour or so until we arrived in the quaint little town of Roseburg. We quickly found a motel and went to sleep in preparation for the long drive to Quincy, CA the next day.
The drive was pretty uneventful which is just the way we like it. No problems or concerns to speak of, really. The one thing we did notice was the weather norms seemed to have been inverted. As we got further south in Oregon we left bright sunny skies that got cloudier and cloudier until it was downright overcast when we arrived in Quincy. We checked in at our motel and met our buddy from Portland who would be crashing on our floor that night. We grabbed some food at a local burger joint and even felt a few sparse sprinkles of rain. Rain at High Sierra? No way. We made our way back to the motel where we drank some beers and huffed some nugs while waiting for another friend from Oakland to arrive who was also crashing on our floor. He finally got there around 11pm and we all tried to go to sleep. Maybe it was the stuffy crowded room or the collective excitement and anticipation, but I dont think any of us slept that well. When morning finally came we were all pretty beat but completely psyched to be heading to the start of the Festival.
The sun must have scared the shit out of the clouds because they were nowhere to be found. It was gonna be a very hot day indeed. We drove the 2 miles to the Quincy Fairgrounds in two separate cars and were surprised to see the mile+ long line that had already formed in the shoulder of the little mountain road of Route 70 at this early hour of 7:45am. The gates were scheduled to open at 8, so we decided to grab a space in line. We and our friends needed ice, so we agreed that their car would get in line and save us a space while Ashley and I went to the store and got bags of ice for everyone. After getting the ice, we scanned the long line for awhile until we spotted our friends. I pulled right into the little space they had left for us in front of their car. The line was not moving, so everyone got out of the cars and went for a little walk as I sat in the drivers seat of our car for a minute longer.
Thats when the most unpleasant part of the whole weekend happened to me. I dont know if he was just tired and grumpy or if he thought I was a weekend warrior dickhead (I have short hair and dont look very hippie-earthy, for lack of a better term), but something was ruffling this older mans feathers. Im sitting there quietly when this man pops his head in my passenger window, his curly, graying, longish hair hanging down to around his gruff beard, and he kind of shouts, What the hell do you think youre doing? Did you just pull in here? I said, Yes, but some friends saved me this place while I went and got ice for us both. He quickly replied, No, no , no. Thats not how it works, man. Get to the end of the line like everyone else! I told him that I didnt think so and then he started in with the obscenities and things got pretty ugly until he finally stormed back to his car which was exactly two spaces behind me. What a nice vibe to spread at the beginning of Festival, I thought. When my friends returned I told them about the episode and they told me to not worry about and to just blow it off. In a few minutes my blood pressure went back down and I was back in a positive mindset. Like I said, this was by far the worst event of the weekend, so I figured it was good to just get it out of the way.
The line moved very slowly and the sun beat down relentlessly on the road which was pretty much barren of shade. We only had to move about a mile and a half to get inside, but didnt get into our parking space until around 11am, 3 hours later. As soon as we got out of the car, Ash and I grabbed our canopy and headed to the Shady Grove campgrounds in a feverish attempt to find a nice, large, shady spot where we could reserve camping spots for our 10 other friends that would be camping with us over the long weekend. We found a great spot near the back of the Shady Grove right by the fence next to the RV Park. We proceeded to set up two canopies and hang other shade tarps and tents in a covered wagon style. In about an hour we had set up a killer little party/camping area complete with several coolers, stoves, a radio, and lots of chairs for everyone.
All of our friends had trickled in by around 1pm and all the sights around us were becoming settled, too. Folks started to hang out with their neighbors, smoke bowls, hand out beers, and discuss which musical performances and bands they were most excited to see. We could hear the music from the Americana Stage pretty well from our campsite all weekend long. The best thing about it was when we tuned the Americana Stage in on Grizzly radio and could hear the high end and vocals clearly over the radio while feeling the bass from the stage just a few hundred feet away. Very trippy! The entire setting of this festival is ideal. There are on-site parking spaces for folks who coughed up an extra 30 bucks or so for the privilege, which guarantees you a parking space no more than a couple hundred feet from your car. The Shady Grove and Hillside camping areas are just outside of the actual fairgrounds. People can camp on the big main field inside the fairground entrance, too. Upon entering the grounds, there are food booths set up directly in front of you, while the big camping field and the Circus Contraption setup is to the right. Beyond the food booths is the High Sierra Music Hall (main late-night venue) and beside that is the Showcase Stage (secondary stage). Behind the Music Hall is the other late night venue, the Funk-n-Jam House. Way over to the left upon entering is the Main Stage area. There is a beautiful grassy field where people do yoga in the mornings and sit in the shade or throw Frisbees in the afternoon. You can hear the music from the Main Stage wafting over the wall from this grassy field that serves almost as a big breezy lobby. The gate to the Main Stage Music Meadow is connected and once inside you can find the huge concert field, booths with clothes, crafts, and beer, the first aid tent, artist merchandise booth, etc. The grounds also has a large area for RVs and several stationary bath houses complete with showers and toilets. There was also a nice shower trailer provided by the good folks from Toms of Maine right next to the Vaudeville Tent. The Vaudeville Tent served as a music/performance/late-night movie venue. Add all the beautiful people with bubbles, crazy clothes, spray bottles, drums, incense, twirling sticks, tasty ganja treats, cool wares etc. and you have the makings of one of the most laid-back, peaceful, and positive musical festivals on planet Earth. The vibe is really too high to try to capture with words. Blissful.
We had settled in and were now ready to get in on some fresh new music. I had heard of but had never heard the Santa Cruz band, Netwerk:Electric. They came out onto the showcase stage and gave a very high energy performance. People were immediately dancing in the hot sun with reckless abandon. The sound these guys put out is pretty funky. Its their take on the West Coast instrumental groove/funk thang that seems so popular these days. I must say, they certainly did this genre justice with their impressively talented guitar work, solid rhythm section, and smooth keys. The lead guitar player was jumping up and down and really getting into it as he shredded away with dexterity and youthful energy. All the guys seemed pretty young, but all were well on their way to becoming accomplished musicians. After one song, some people yelled, Sweet! to which the guitar player replied, Sweets? No, not sweet, Sweets! Thats our bass player, his name is Sweets. They definitely seemed to be having fun and the High Sierra crowd was playing right along. After this fun set, we headed back to our campground to grab some lunch since the Sun was easing up its intensity a little as it sunk further and further in the sky.
We hung out, ate, and drank while listening to Grizzly Radio at our campsite. We were feeling revived and refreshed when it was finally time to head over to the Main Stage for the Living Daylights followed by Mike Clarks Prescription Renewal. When we got to the Main Stage field, we were pleasantly surprised to find some grassy spaces open close enough to the stage that we could get shade from the stacks as the sun went down behind the stage. The Living Daylights came out and just blew the doors off the place. They had a keyboard player and extra percussion player the whole weekend and they seemed really psyched for the extra support. They played the intense psycho-jazz they are known so well for like musicians on fire. Arne was going crazy on the bass while Jessica would blow crazy sax fills and solos. Dale always plays the drums so energetically that he bounces up and down and his long hair flails, but he seemed really happy to have a percussion partner this night. After this incredible performance, Mike Clark and company took the stage for a rollicking set of jazzy tunes. Skerik was playing the sax like the wild man that he is and took a particularly interesting solo with some sort of filter on his sax that made it sound like an electric guitar. Karl Denson also made it to the stage, introduced by long time friend and mentor, trombonist Fred Wesley, to sit in for several funky tunes. Mike was having a grand old time playing his incredible style of precision drumming to the large festival crowd and smiles were everywhere. As the set came to a close, we headed back to the campsite as folks started crowding in to wait for the next set of music by Sound Tribe Sector Nine.
We listened to the Sound Tribes trance inducing set on the radio as we got our heads straight for the late-night of music to come. By the time it was approaching 11pm everyone was feeling fairly groovy as we headed over to the Vaudeville Tent to catch a set by Chicagos own (ok, ok, Indiana, really) Umphreys McGee. I had heard a lot about these guys and had seen them the week before Festival for the first time at the Mount Tabor Pub in Portland. They had put on a jaw dropping show with incredible music, wild changes, good vocals, and lots of humor. I was very excited to catch two sets from them this weekend. They did not disappoint and had the large crowd grooving from the start. Their jams get very intense while at the same time you never knew when the song would change chords, tempo, or even key. These guys keep you guessing and serve up a crazy musical stew that satisfies the soul. At one point the sound went out in the middle of a song, but the Umphreys drummers just used the opportunity to jam out a rockin drum solo. Everyone was smiling, hot, and sweaty by the end of their great high-energy set.
Next we headed over to the High Sierra Music Hall to catch Steve Kimock. I figured his band might not sound as tight as usual due to the recent and sudden departure of long time bassist Bobby Vega. Wrong. I entered the absolutely packed venue to witness some serious power. Kimock was playing like a man possessed. He ripped solo after solo with nothing but serious energy. He attacked all the written out sections aggressively and went through many Kimock staples. The screen that hung above the stage in this long and large hall were simply amazing. I dont think Ive ever seen such psychedelic and trippy eye candy anywhere. They were these massive dual screens hanging above the stage with crazy projections on them. Computer generated objects melted away while subtle designs ebbed and flowed and crazy patterns and optical illusions messed with your perception. The long guitar voyages synched up perfectly with the intense visuals. At the end of the night it seemed like I floated back to the campsite. Everyone was asleep pretty much already, so I went in my tent and tried to sleep, too. Unfortunately, it never really happened and I spent most of the night lying there listening to people hang out and party at their campsites. At least I was resting my eyes and lying vertically, I thought. The next morning came slowly and I woke up with little to no rest for the second consecutive day. FESTIVAL!!!!!!!!!!
The next three days slowly became a battle of man vs. sun, sleep deprivation, and the torture of trying to decide which good music to see in a short time. Day #2 came and we enjoyed a good set by a band wed never heard before, Tree O Frogs. They played some funky instrumentals and eventually brought up a talented female vocalist that really funked the place up. Next we headed over to the Americana Stage which was so conveniently located close to our site. Jazz Mandolin Project was playing to one of the largest audiences at that stage all weekend. After a few tunes, we listened to the rest of the set at our site on the radio (but listened to the bass from the stage). After JMP, the Living Daylights took over on the Americana Stage. Their set was definitely mellower than the absolutely intense performance they had given the night before on the Main Stage. They had a large crowd grooving in the afternoon sun all set long, however. Next we headed back to he Showcase Stage and caught a set from the San Diego band, Government Grown. The drummer is the lead vocalist in this band and is set up in the front of the stage accordingly. Unfortunately, he was also directly in the hot sun and his animated drumming style made him work up quite a sweat. At one point he literally begged for fluids and said he felt like he was going to pass out. This sounded just about right for a summer music festival! These guys had a unique sound in that they blended a beat driven sound with trance and reggae. Not as many long jams as most bands at the festival, but a very fun and original sound, nonetheless.
After some more hanging out and general revelry at the campsite, we headed over to the Showcase Stage for an evening set of Umphreys McGee. I didnt think the set was quite as intense as the night before, but they once again put on a damn good show. I am eager to see this band develop and grow and hope to see them for many years to come. Next was the late-night show with Robert Walters and Karl Denson. These guys are both so good and their style of music is a perfect fit for the celebration of life and music that is High Sierra. Everyone grooved super tough late into the night, though it was obvious that the house was not as packed as it had been for Kimock the night before. I think many folks were over at the Funk-n-Jam House catching Sector-9s second show of the Festival. When we funked til we couldnt funk no mo, we wearily dragged our carcasses back to camp. But for some strange reason, I couldnt sleep so well again that night.
I awoke to day #3 feeling like shit. I couldnt stay in my tent any longer due to the fact that it heated up like an oven every morning by 10am when the sun hit it. Luckily, some nice dreadie girl came through selling some Bloody Marys. I bought one immediately and sucked on its refreshing and revitalizing juices. The spicy tomato, celery, olives, and vodka were just the thing I needed and helped me quite a bit that morning. After some tasty chocolate chip pancakes and bacon I announced to everyone that I would be napping over at the Yoga field under a shady tree.
I found a great shady spot and proceeded to recline my lawn chair and nap aggressively. It was a great spot, too, because I could hear the Main Stage music very well as I drifted in and out of sleep while lying on the breezy field of grass. The sounds of Seattles Hanuman were very satisfying. These guys had a great jazzy sound that was impressively high-energy for such an early morning performance. I plan on catching them the next time theyre in Portland. I drifted back to sleep and when I woke up my friends were all around me doing the lazy napping thing, too. The Motet were now on the Main Stage and performed a drum and world-beat heavy set that was very fitting for a day time musical excursion. I heard some of their Showcase set on Grizzly Radio later in the weekend and they opened up the jamming a bit more then. We did make it over to the Showcase Stage area for Garaj Mahals afternoon set which was awesome. These guys are really too talented to describe. Think high-powered rocket jazz that can groove played by incredibly gifted players. Kai on bass and Fareed on guitar backed by Alan Hertz on drums is an impressive thing that must be experienced first hand. I highly suggest seeing them if they play near you. We just kind of sat near the back for this set as we knew we would see the band up close and personal the following night when they played a late-night set with the Motet and The Slip.
After some food and beverages back at the site, it was almost time to start our evening. We began by listening to Bela Fleck on the radio from the Main Stage. Their mind-boggling jazzy style was ever-present. We didnt attend this show, however, because we were excited to see the Showcase Stage performance of Bostons reggae band, John Browns Body which just happened to coincide with the second half of Mr. Flecks set. John Browns Body did not disappoint the fairly large crowd that chose them over Bela and the Flecktones. The reggae grooves and mad irie vibes they put out were felt by all in attendance. Ganja was being puffed happily and smiles were pasted on all the faces as the groovy beats were churned out by this skilled 8-piece reggae band. It felt as if Jamaica were only a stones throw away. By the time their set winded down, folks were gathering in anticipation for Sector 9s final set of the Festival. We opted to head back to the site and party a bit more while listening to Karl Densons Main Stage set on Grizzly Radio. After this already very long day, we were very tired, but had one more show to attend. We got to the Funk-n-Jam House in the middle of Jazz Mandolin Projects awesome set. They were stretching things out more than usual and it seemed that they were appreciating the fact that people wanted to dance. Jamie Masefield was playing long electric mandolin solos over some funky vamping by the rest of the band. At one point they had Kai Eckhardt from Garaj Mahal sit on the bass and the result was the highlight of the set. Seeing such high caliber musicians playing together is one of the best things about High Sierra. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation was catching up on us big time. By the time moe. hit the stage at about 1:45am, I could barely keep my eyes open. I managed to hang tough for the opener, a cover version of Pink Floyds Money, as well as the second tune, Captain America, but that was it. With no more steam left in our engines, we trudged back to the site where I enjoyed my first solid night of sleep. I must have gotten 6 quality hours!
As the sun baked us out of the tents by 10am, I realized that we were about to experience the 4th and final day of High Sierra Music Festival. The weekend had certainly flown by! After some tasty vittles, it was over to the shade trees near the Showcase Stage where we set up our chairs and planned to relax for most of the day. First up was a skinny girl from San Francisco who played acoustic guitar and sang. Her backing band consisted of an upright bassist and a violinist. Her folk songs where quirky and sometimes serious, but her voice was very sweet and easy to listen to. After her mellow set that was sometimes overpowered by the sounds of the childrens performance that was going on right next door, the stage was set up for the three-piece band from New York City, Drums and Tuba. These guys are phenomenal. The Tuba provides the bass which is driven by some very powerful drumming and crazy guitar work. The guitar player wears one guitar and had the other set up on a stand that he plays rhythmically with one hand as he plays his other guitar simultaneously. The crazy, beat-driven, trance sounds are extremely danceable. Many people were shaking their groove things in the hot California sun, while we chilled and took it all in from our shaded seats. I drifted into a nap at some point and woke up to the erratic jazz sounds of the Scott Amendola Band. Scott is a killer drummer from the Bay Area who used to play in the band TJ Kirk along with Charlie Hunter and Will Bernard. Scotts direction seems to be less groove oriented than his former band mates current projects, and more geared towards abstract and jazzier sounds. His band was very good overall and many people hung around to check out his interesting sound. Next up on the Showcase was Spearhead. As we sat there in the shade, tons and tons of people started piling in around us. Obviously, Mr. Franti and Spearhead were a major draw this year! By the time he asked the crowd, How you feeling, High Sierra!!?? for the 9th time in 3 songs, I had enjoyed enough of the set. It was a raucous dance party and I was just too tired to give my full participation. We wandered back to our site and enjoyed some lunch and beverages. Later on we turned on Grizzly Radio and were pleasantly surprised by the sounds of a band from Sacramento called Uncle Harlens Band. They played some groovy psychedelic rock that had our neighbor campers asking us, Who is that?? One of the highlights of their set was a great Neil Young cover ( I forget which tune, though, unfortunately).
Everyone gathered back at our site and had some dinner as we prepared for our final evening of music at the festival. After a good meal, we headed on over to the final Main Stage performance which would be that of moe. They really rocked out a great show to close things up. Some highlights were a nice version of the tune Moth, a great Too Fucking High encore, and the long jam that is the tune Meat. Moe.s set was definitely enhanced by the help of guests Bela Fleck on banjo and Victor Wooten on bass. This jam session was very interesting as Bela was playing banjo riffs for a rock-n-roll jam and playing in a way that is not his usual style. Then Victor let loose and things culminated in a sick bass solo jam that had everyone wondering how the heck he can do that shit. For the moe. lightshow, they projected these huge spinning purple lights on the huge green pine trees that were adjacent to the stage which gave off a very trippy thick purple and green fur effect. There was also a large brightly colored balloon with streamer tentacles and a flashing light that was being guided over the crowd by someone on a string. The entire set had incredible energy and was one of my personal favorites of the festival. For late night we headed over to the Funk-n-Jam house first and caught the Garaj Mahal set. It was too good and at one point the singer for Zap Mama, who was singing with Trilock Gurtu for the weekend, sat in with Garaj Mahal. There were dramatically less people at the late-night shows on this final night, and we enjoyed it immensely. There was plenty of room to dance and Garaj Mahal started to play mostly groove tunes that had everyone twirling, spinning, and dancing. When they finished up the small crowd begged for an encore but the guitarist, Fareed, merely assured us that they would be playing as guests later on in the evening and that there was plenty of music in store for us. After their set, we headed over to the Music Hall to see Bela Flecks performance. I cant say enough about Bela and company. They are so skilled and such a pleasure to watch perform. They are total professionals and definitely seemed to enjoy the company of many guests this evening. Paul Henson and may others including Karl Denson helped out on various horns, oboes, etc. But with all the days and nights of partying and music behind us and the impending 10 hour drive back home in front of us, we had to call it a night.
As we made it back to the site everyone was tired, happy, and sad. It had been a festival of epic proportions that wore us all out. I think that if it would have went on, though, we would have all found some energy reserves to keep on enjoying the awesome music and vibes that High Sierra has to offer. We knew that the real world was just around the corner, however, and that the 4 days of magic was coming to a close. I crawled into my tent to sleep one last night in the great outdoors. I slept like a rock and was quite refreshed the next day. We drove our car right up to the sight the next morning since so many people had left around us, which made packing up very easy. We said goodbye to all of our friends, old and new, and headed back to Portland. Is it possible that this festival will improve next summer? You know, somehow I think it probably will. And Im damn sure I will be right there to enjoy all the splendor that it has to offer. See you next year, everybody!

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