Words by Spencer K. Rouse
The trek up to Quincy is filled with large amounts of anxious perspiration. A good dose of this is simply from packing from the micro to the macro; it’s like stacking a six-foot Russian doll. This, coupled with a timeline, multiple last minute trips to acquire crucial items and coordinate with at least seven others, can get a lil’ hectic before the exodus.
But once on the road, the trip is short and akin to your first amusement park. You chatter incessantly with your passengers as you discuss which bands to look for and who is coming up when the steep and deep magnificent natural beauty of the Feather River canyon mesmerizes you. It enables you to take a breath, enjoy your release from the binds of the grind, and begin to remember all the joy that lies ahead. Within an hour you pass Belden and memories of Bobolink tickle your mind, further severing ties from reality.
Now to put things into perspective, there are at any given time three stages of music, business workshops (where you learn to break into the music biz) and jam sessions with up to 10 different bands sharing one stage. Then there’s yoga, poi, belly dancing workshops, parades, fire dancing, six-year-old hula hoop phenoms, stilt walkers, caped superheroes and a couple of fuzzy animals, not to mention the early morning kickball and extreme bowling sessions. On top of that, you have dynamite vendors supplying your desperate body with organic and exotic whole foods like kava, acai and Thai coconuts, to licky treats like pizza and ice cream. Then you need to peruse the rest of the vendors offering ornate Buddhas, tapestries, batiks and djembes.
With so many choices, one has to make hard decisions, and odds are that you’ll miss something good, but it’s okay, because you’re surrounded by family that’s willing to offer whatever it is you need to make your festival experience absofukinglutely beautiful. Whether it’s directions to a stage, a bite of that delicious Caribbean salmon or just helping you back to your tent, folks are always willing to lend a hand.
Moreover, it’s not just the attendees who feel this. HSMF is special simply because it cares about the experience. For nearly two decades its organizers have created something solely for us. They have continually improved the event to include features that festival-goers see as important. Each year HSMF elicits responses as to how the festival experience can be enhanced; if you can extend this type of thinking across 19 years, you begin to imagine how much fun HSMF can be.
Sharing this experience en mass raises your consciousness and actually provides hope. It sounds corny as hell, but the feeling permeates the festival like a Velux blanket. It carries through the vendors, staff and musicians. For example, I was standing in line for coffee, when I felt a slight tugging behind me. It’s Fareed Haque (Garaj Mahal/Flat Earth Ensemble) gently pulling some fluff from my T-shirt. What a guy.
The music started for me Thursday around the mid-afternoon at Big Meadow, the mama bear of the three stages, as our camp, Markaritaville, faced it head-on like two gunslingers. I was optimistic for Delhi 2 Dublin, an aptly named Vancouver BC group that incorporates traditional Punjabi lyrics, fiddle, electric sitar, deep beats and percussion. D2D worked in full electronic beats and rhythms with a dynamite violinist, Kytami. This little powerhouse of a nymph directed fierce energies through her bow that spiraled through my DNA like a smoky serpent, as she joined her band mates in choreography. This, coupled with universally positive lyrics and the deeply enlightening electric sitar provided by a kilted Andrew Kim, took me to an early high.
From there I rolled straight into The Pimps of Joytime. This is one helluva funky-ass band from Brooklyn, NY. Brian J on lead was a specter of Princeâ€”slight frame, smoking guitar, attention-grabbing vocals and an electric presence. Quietly off to the side stood petite Mayteana Morales on percussion and samples, until she burst open with the soulful power of a large gospel singer. But wait: it gets better. On bass was a tall, pale-skinned redheaded sweetheart, Hagar Ben Ari, that absolutely killed the funky bass. And then you had Chauncey Yearwood on congas and percussion with a vocal tone that reminded me of early â€˜80s lover’s rock reggae. Driving the whole bus like a well-oiled veggie diesel was Eric Kalb (Greyboy All Stars/Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings/Deep Banana
From there, I refueled and headed over to the most intimate and favorite of my stages: the Vaudeville tent, a cross between a traveling church revival and a circus with a similar range of emotions contained within. I was anticipating J Boogie’s Dubtronic Science set. J Boogie is a DJ residing out of the Bay Area known mostly for his trip-hop/downtempo album of the same name, with a second record released recently. I was dying to see how it would be constructed. And there was J Boogie, center stage with laptop, turntable, mixer with the freakin’ Brass Mafia (tenor sax, trumpet, trombone) to his right and a female rapper that could have passed for Lisa Lisa both vocally and visually to his left. Boogie took classic bass lines and hooks from the â€˜70s and â€˜80s but played them with a stronger production value, deeper/electro bass, etc. He then conducted the BM with live hooks over the loops.
This was followed up with the New Orleans trombone monster that is Bonerama; it’s not a sex toy, its just three of the baddest horn playin’ muh’ funkas backed by an Ã¼ber
This trio of performers was doubled and tripled over the next 24 hours as J Boogie, PJT and Bonerama all played two sets with a bonus funk workshop that included at one time six horns slaying the fonk. An added thrill was the Loyd Family Players bangin’ out their Brazilian drums immediately after PJT finished smack in the center of the audience.
As space only permits me a ridiculously finite amount to describe the indescribable, let me include The Wailers, Pretty Lights and Orchard Lounge (more DJs, yeah!), Izabella, ALO, Mike Farris and the Roseland Rhythm Revue, the Gospel session Sunday morning, and DeVotchKa as standouts, with the Disco Biscuits, a reunited Leftover Salmon and Galactic raising the standard of