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Published: 2005/09/12
by Jeremy Sanchez

Hittin The High Notes: 2004 High Sierra Music Festival

CMH Records

This message is presented as the High Sierra DVD begins: “For four days in July 2004 eight thousand music lovers converged on Quincy, California for the 14th annual High Sierra Music Festival”

Next thing you know, the always-loud Vince Herman is yelling from the stage (He did the same thing a couple times at All Good this yearthe man is not scared to stand in front of you and holler away), and then footage roles, changing to the perspective of someone in the passenger seat of a car that is traveling towards the campgrounds. This is a DVD taken from a fan’s perspective. You watch people set up tents, look for passes, and then get to party along, seeing some shows, missing others very natural. There are even chapters on this DVD that touch on the heady and valid topics of Festival Footwear, Plumas Arts and Favorite Munchie Foodyou can tell the creators aren’t first time festival goers, since they understand the importance of topics like these.

Dave Barnette from Grizzly Radio (local broadcast born during High Sierra Music Festival) shares a necessary survival tip when he comments at the beginning of the DVD, “Check around for some friends that you may not have met before and maybe some friends that you might know, or some people who are gonna be your friends, because you’re gonna live with them for the next four days.” This is wise advice for any festival junkie, especially lone soldiers out there who will certainly need help somewhere along the way.

Hot Buttered Rum String Band started the festival off and they are the first act of the DVD, combing the blue grasses of “Poison Oak.” There’s no sleeping on the crowd shotsan integral part of any festival. Also a part of any successful festival is a diversity of bandson to a trance-rooted groupParticle’s “Fox Force Five” oozes a resinous Eric Gould bass groove, over which guitarist Charlie Hitchcock, keyboardist Steve Molitz and drummer Darren Pujalet blow fire. After Particle, there’s a “Favorite High Sierra Bands” segment, where bands you could’ve missed were you at the festival and are forced to miss here are mentioned. I question a few of the omissions from the DVD, but who’s gonna agree with everything? Regretful omissions: Chris Robinson and New Earth Mud, STS9, moe. This segment flows into some pretty sexy parade footage and an explanation of its beginnings at High Sierra.

Jason Fred Jazz Odyssey’s “Santiago” is simple sounding by design (played here for the second time in public), but thoughtful enough that I was able to sedate into its evolution. Donna the Buffalo roped a calmer, more country-tuned vibe with “Rock of Ages,” and The Radiators’ came funky with a traditional: “Little Sadie.”

Vince Herman and his gang of acoustic soldiers are all over the festival and this DVD, playing while they’re carted around on the back of a golf cart. Where else but at a festival can you watch Herman coast by, playing away like it’s nothing? In turn, Leftover Salmon owns the final jam on this DVD, “Breakin’ Thru.” They currently pull off the newgrass style better than most anyone.

The extras section has your choice of Vince Herman and Friends playing an extended and conscious-messaged “Trashcan Rock,” a segment of which is in the DVD’s main material, or ThaMuseMent’s bluegrass twist, playing “Nothin’ Much” with clips woven through, showing kids and their activities at the festivala great closer for a family-minded festival, seemingly all about its patrons. Both are worthy picks for extras.

There’s a section in the movie that asks, “Why High Sierra?” The overwhelming answers relate to the community that rises there annually. This DVD proves that you can skip the headliners (could’ve been a five-star DVD, though, with a few more of the bigger acts included) and still get so much out of a festival like High Sierra, because the high notes can come from more than just the bands.

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