By Spencer Rouse
If you are in need of some soul-satisfying good times then skip the traditional 4th of July holiday weekend and head for the hills. You’ll be joining the musical equivalent of a family reunion at the 21st annual High Sierra Music Festival (HSMF).
The focus of HSMF is to bring together the best live music available in the most intimate setting possible, and this year looks to be no different. And of course it wouldn’t be the same without all the activities and amenities for festival-goers.
Besides the usual greatness like poi spinning, hooping, pilates and yoga, there is also nightly fire dancing, HSMF’s own Grizzly Radio offering live broadcasts from every stage, beer and wine tasting at the High Sierra Swirl, unique delectables like fresh oysters, and last but not least, Sierra Nevada Brewery’s limited edition FestivALE.
Something brand new this year is the Silent Disco hosted by DJ Motion Potion. It’s a dance party with no speakers, only wireless headphones. You can dance nightly from 3 AM until it’s time to play kickball at dawn.
This year features acts like My Morning Jacket, Ween, Gillian Welch, Maceo Parker, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, ALO, Beats Antique, Dumpstaphunk, Ernest Ranglin, Rebirth Brass Band, The Travelin’ McCourys, Los Amigos Invisibles, MarchFourth Marching Band, Pimps of Joytime, Orgone, and Jessica Lurie Ensemble, just to name a few.
With three main stages running music from before noon until near midnight, and four late night stages scheduled until 4 AM, you will have plenty of opportunities to hear some of the best players around. Who knows? You may just run into Gillian Welch snacking on a fried pickle in the food area, or discover a new band playing in someone’s camp.
Many of the artists are also available in cozy and informal settings, either sitting in with other artists, playing an unscheduled camp set or at one of the many play shops.
There are five to six play shops offered daily. This year’s highlights include Brokedown in Bakersfield with Tim and Nicki Bluhm, Ska, Rock Steady, Reggae & All That Jazz exploring the roots of Ska with Ernest Ranglin, Monophonics horns and more, and the ever popular Guitarmageddon play shop with a tribute to The Rolling Stones.
A special play shop this year is The Sweetness Sound with MaMuse and members of Elephant Revival. This one’s all about delving into vocal harmonies. This will be the first year that MaMuse will be performing as a group at the festival, but both Karisha Longaker and Sarah Nutting of MaMuse are very familiar with HSMF.
“We’ve played with the samba troupes, stilted in the parades, done costumes for years and years and years,” said Longaker.
When asked about playing festivals versus one off gigs, Nutting responded, “A three day festival is like being on tour for a week, just the energy and stimulation.”
You can join in on this energy with MaMuse at the play shop or dress up and march along with them and Wolf Thump during one of the daily parades.
This united sense of revelry is endemic to the bands that participate. MarchForth Marching Band is a great example of this spirit. With over 20 performers, 10 in the drum corps alone, they combine a big band sound with vaudevillian acts including stilts, hoops, dancing, fire, and unicycles.
MarchForth is also excited to show off their new tunes.
“[The new album’s] got rock and jazz and its funky and there’s even, if you can believe it, a little bit of blues in there…it’s funny to see those types of genres on an album when we started off doing second line and afro beat and samba and Eastern European gypsy brass,” said John Averill, bass player and band leader for the group.
MarchForth has been going strong for over seven years now and their talent and dedication is what makes it all possible. The logistics for such a large ensemble are staggering, so it’s no wonder the band works well together; they have to.
“It’s crazy to have to figure this thing out on your own. I think teamwork and family are the two things that come to mind. There is kind of a family vibe with the group on the bus, not a lot of drama,” said Averill.
That kind of closeness is something you can expect from everyone at HSMF. See you there.
The High Sierra Music Festival will be taking place June 30th through July 3rd in Quincy, California. Visit www.highsierramusic.com for tickets and info.