High Sierra Happenings
Over the weekend, the High Sierra Music Festival—-the definitive west coast gathering—- celebrated its sixteenth year by hosting four days or music, performance art and other post-Burning Man theatrics at Quincy, CAs Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds. Featuring such marquee names as Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, My Morning Jacket, Nickel Creek, Son Volt and Umphreys McGee, this years High Sierra had a decidedly Americana/jam edge, though representatives from other genres also sent able bodied representatives. The funky Meters trio of Porter, Batiste and Stoltz provided listeners with their New Orleans fix, while jazz/funk supergroup Garage a Trois brought the Crescent Citys sound into weirder and wilder territory. The Disco Biscuits first High Sierra performances since 2003 peaked with a swirl of I-Man and Helicopters, while the usually funky Greyboy Allstars dipped its toes into hip-hop during its festival closing set.
As per usual, the weekends festivities doubled as a sit-in orgy: Jeff Coffin played saxophone with both the Motet and Drew Emmitt Band, Josh Roseman (Groove Collective) added trombone to the Slips set and members of ALO backed singer/songwriter Brett Dennen. Local hero Tea Leaf Green used its late-night set as a forum for collaboration, inviting Jon Gutwillig (the Disco Biscuits) onstage for Garden 2 and Hot Dog, while Dan Leibowitz (ALO) waited in the wings before appearing on Can’t You See and Planet of Green Love. Matt Kass, from recent New Groove of the Month the Brakes, also played guitar on Reservoir. During its mainstage set, Tea Leaf Green brought George Porter Jr. out for a version of ‘Georgie P,’ a song written in his honor, while the Everyone Orchestras Matt Butler played percussion for the entire second half of the quartets set. Similarly, Tea Leaf Greens Bay Area brethren, Hot Buttered Rum, brought out Tim Bluhm (Mother Hips), Zach Gill (ALO), Matt Butler (Everyone Orchestra) and Glenn Stewart (Blue Turtle Seduction) during its performances. The members of Hot Buttered Rum also participated in a super pick featuring Railroad Earths Tim Carbone, Andy Goessling, John Skehan and Johnny Grub, the Two High String Band, Jake Shimbakura and fiddler Chojo Jacques.
Yet, Umphreys McGee took home the gold star for collaborations, inviting the majority of Thursdays entertainers onstage during its late night set. First ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro appeared on Nothing Too Fancy. Then, Keller Williams provided some vocal accompaniment to a jam during Jimmy Stewart. A bit later, Daniel Boone Daniel from the Deep Fried Pickle Project, added some saw to Der Bluten Kat, before Garaj Mahals Eric Levy and Alan Hertz, as well as guitarist Charlie Hitchcock, engaged in a hostile takeover during a set closing Jimmy Stewart. A number of players also participated in Butlers rotating Everyone Orchestra, including members of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Hot Buttered Rum and the Brakes, Charlie Hitchcock, Kai Eckhardt and his son Danilo, John Whooley & Moriah-Melin, Asher Fulero, Jake Shimabukuro, Jarrod Kaplan, poet Chris Chandler, Asher Fulero, Scott Law, Kai Eckhardt and Jamie Janover.
More than almost any other festival, High Sierra strives to break down the boundary between performers and patrons. In keeping with this spirit, a number of acts performed special sets throughout High Sierras maze of campgrounds. Throughout the weekend, Jamie Janover entertained fans on his traveling realsmobile, a drum enhanced bike with fire breathing capabilities. In addition to their two announced performances, the Toubab Krewe performed a stealth third set on top of a RV. On Friday night, Surprise Me Mr. Davis, the occasional collaboration between the Slip and Nathan Moore, offered an encore appearance at Camp Harry with Sam Cohen (Apollo Sunshine) adding auxiliary guitar on the Rolling Stones 19th Nervous Breakdown. (Cohen performed the same song with Surprise Me Mr. Davis in a more formal setting during its Big Meadow set). A night later, My Morning Jackets Patrick Hallahan stopped by to play drums with the White Thighs, while members of Apollo Sunshine performed in various impromptu-configurations. Denson also picked up a few extra gigs in High Sierras food court with a rotating cast of characters. Like its brethren Bonnaroo and Wakarusa, this year High Sierra expanded to include a handful of indie-rock darlings, including Son Volt and My Morning Jacket. During its late-night set, MMJ brought out the Slips Andrew and Brad Barr to do a magic trick during Golden. Later, Son Volts Jay Farrar played acoustic Kinks covers on Relixs Cold Turkey.
One of High Sierras most unique attractions is its various panels and playshops, which touch upon all areas of the music industry, from promotions to performance. Bela Fleck and Nickel Creeks Chris Thile offered an extremely rare duo Playshop, with Shimabukuro providing additional strings. George Porter Jr. and Johnny Vidacovich also brought their weekly New Orleans trio series to the Sierras, inviting such divergent artists as Papa Mali, Mike Dillon and Shimabukuro onstage to fill their rotating third spot. Longtime Jambands.com/Relix scribes Mike Greenhaus and Benjy Eisen appeared on two panels this year, one focusing on podcasting, the other on publicity. Evan Winiker, of Steel Train fame, served as a guest panelist for the latter discussion. Other standout sets included performances from Backyard Tire Fire, Steel Train and a new version of Zero fronted by Jerry Joseph.