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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2003/06/26
by John Zinkand

Amped Like a Marshall Stack

Right now things are intense. I’m just about to mine a deep vein of music
after a few months of relative mellowness in the Northwest jamband scene.
As a music-loving freak, there are few moments in the year that bubble with
more anticipation. I do get all psyched up for shows throughout each year,
especially when they involve road trips and travel, but as I type this I
feel like a four year old on Christmas Eve. Jazzfest will always be the big
one in my eyes, but this year I couldn’t afford to go, so it was a
non-factor. I love having lots of bands in one place for a few days and
there’s no better place for a west coast head to enjoy such a deal than at
the High Sierra Music Festival. Getting psyched up for that festival is an
annual occurrence, but this year I feel like I’m going to jump out of my
First of all, it’s my favorite summer festival. I love the fact that it’s
relatively small and always well organized. The people and vibe at High
Sierra are truly second to none. The sheer volume of acts is amazing and I
count on the festival to introduce me to new bands every year. The one
bummer regarding High Sierra for me, however, is the extreme heat. Being a
well-fed, thick-blooded, white-bellied Oregonian, the temps that often climb
into the high 90’s during the day can be oppressive. Being subjected to the
extreme heat for four consecutive days has always been a big battle. I try
to stay up and rage the late nights, but then I get roasted out of my tent
at 8am when the sun hits it, forcing me to rise and shine even though there
are more hours of sleep needed. The lack of sleep can turn me into a
shade-seeking drone in the day, but still leave me too wiped out to enjoy
the late night shows. Damn you dreaded energy-sucking, heat-spewing,
life-giving orb!
Not this year. As newly christened thirty something’s, our posse decided
it was high time we stop sleeping in the dirt. We’ve traded in our tents,
tarps, coolers, and camp-cooking gear for a 23 foot Tioga RV. Well, not
traded in, really, just rented, but oh man are we psyched. I know many
people have a thing against RV’s, as they are not quite the most
fuel-efficient vehicles on the highways. But for us, it just makes the most
sense. And with everyone driving down in one RV as opposed to convoying
down two or three cars, it’s probably a push anyway. We can finally afford
one, so why not take advantage? We always break the long trip down from
Oregon up into two days, and this will make doing that a breeze. But the
real benefit happens when we arrive at the festival. We will not have to
get up super early and get into the agro entry line.
And once we park, we’re done setting up while everyone else has to tote
their camping stuff from their cars over to their sites in the hot sun. The
biggest plus, however, is the increase in both sleeping time and music
appreciation time it will provide. Since food will now be a snap to cook up
in our kitchen, we save time there. Less time cooking and cleaning means
more time partying and grooving to the live music. Then there’s the nice
perk of having a bathroom right there at night. No more waking up at 5am in
a struggle to get some warm clothes on, find a flashlight, and stumble over
to a row of "late-night" porta-potties. Seems like after 2am, people forget
all rules of etiquette in those things. Nope, we’ll just wake up and walk
the three steps over to our clean private bathroom. And the very best thing
about the RV, of course, is the schedule of music it allows us to see. We
can now rock out at the late night shows until 4am or 5am and still be able
to enjoy seven or eight hours of quality sleep in dark, air-conditioned
Another great thing about High Sierra is that the west coast can expect
many of the bands on the schedule to play shows before and after the
festival in their respective coastal hometowns. The west is much more
spacious than the east as far as city density goes, so most bands take
advantage of being here and do some touring. It’s a great thing as it
creates a mini-festival feel to get the vibe going and to keep the fire
burning after the festival is over. In the week following High Sierra, I
plan on catching many bands that will come through the Northwest including
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Russo/Benevento Duo. But this year some of my
favorite bands will be coming through the Northwest during the weekend
before the festival, which is yet another reason why I am so extremely
titillated right now.
While many Northwest jamband fans are going to be enjoying the bluegrass
music at the Northwest String Summit this weekend, I will be jamming to some
of my favorite bands in the bars and clubs of Seattle and Portland.
Friday we will head north to Seattle to see Umphrey’s McGee. These guys are
currently my favorite jamband touring and it’s been too long since they’ve
been here (an entire year). After that, we come back home to Portland and
see Umphrey’s again on Saturday night. But here’s where there’s an added
twist that helps me be so damn amped. The Fareed Haque Group is playing in
Portland that same night. Fareed is in my second favorite jamband currently
touring, Garaj Mahal. Fareed has played with Umphrey’s and vice versa on
several occasions, and my hopes are high that there will be some
collaboration during at least one of these shows. Then the following night,
Sunday, John Scofield plays an early show at the beautiful and intimate
outdoor venue at the Oregon Zoo, and Fareed plays the second night of his
two-night Portland stand later in the evening.
So that’s why I feel like I am about to rip out of my clothes like some
sort of music-Hulk. After that, we pick up the RV and head south on
Tuesday. We’ll stop at an Indian Casino on the way down and then find an RV
park. We arrive at a friend’s place in Quincy on Wednesday before heading
over to Tahoe City to see Umphrey’s McGee play one more time before the
start of the festival the following day. The pressure of intense
anticipation has been building up more and more over the last few weeks.
Reading about Bonnaroo and The Dead’s shows so far have only increased my
anticipation. I love the fact that Phish and The Dead are touring this
summer and the fact that there are so many quality festivals. It just seems
like a great time to be a jamband fan! There are plenty of delicious
treats for everyone right now, and I’m eager to enjoy my piece of musical
summertime pie. Have fun out there this summer. I know I will.

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