Wednesday, July 9, 2014

High Sierra 2K14

High Sierra Music Festival at Quincy
The Feather River and Quincy: both are amazing hosts when it comes time to make the pilgrimage to the High Sierra Music Festival. This year I blasted up for one day, perhaps the best day. Before the lineup was ever given a schedule, I had made a list of the bands I most wanted to see. When the daily grids were released, all but two of those band were slated for Thursday. This meant that I was barreling up north for the heat of the music as well as the sun. Highway 70 is a gorgeous path that bends and crosses the Feather River as it snakes away from its headwaters. As you peer over the shoulder of the road, swimming holes reveal themselves as the water cascades onward. I had left the cooler side of coastal California and was racing toward the parched highlands to the east in an attempt to catch the first act at the Vaudeville tent.

Hollow Wood | Vaudeville Tent | 1:30-2:45

Hollow Wood - Vaudeville Tent

This youthful 5-piece hailing from Boise was far more rocking than I had expected. But then again, what was I suppose to expect? This was their coming out party so-to-speak. Early on in the set they emitted a sort of 90's alt vibe with heavy guitars and plenty of reverb. The periphery notes of the third track opened up to reveal perhaps their most noticeable track - Little Bird. The next couple of tunes had an Irish-driven pulse. A rattling tambourine was followed by the cadence of their lyrics. This seemed to help the band morph into a more melodic mixture. Track 6 slithered with a slower, groovier tone until it unwound itself into a Teen Spirit sort of frenzy. On the next offering they built momentum with some cool key work and scratchy vocals. It felt more like a song fit for 3am. The frontman, Adam, has a gravely voice and at times it resembles a young, more friendly Tom Waits. Hollow Wood ended about 30 minutes early and after an on-stage huddle they came back and played a series of instrumental pieces with Adam on the keys. They cooled down their set as the crowd dispersed into the afternoon sun.

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down | Grandstand | 4:45-6:15

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down - Grandstand Stage
After linking up with a slough of friends, we were off to the grandstand to get down with Thao. I've been a bit spoiled as of late, having seen this outfit a few times in the last calendar year, which is why I wanted to see their mojo on display at High Sierra. The Get Down Stay Down played faster and with more purpose on the festival stage. Opening with the title track from their most recent album, We The Common, I was pleased with the increased paced with which it was played. Next they lunged into a New Orleans-tinged take on The Feeling Kind. This song felt properly aged from the first time I'd heard it. Thao's City reminded festival goers to, "rest and be strong, wash and be clean." Whether they chose to is another story. During Holy Roller she sang what we all want... "love in the aftermath." Five songs in, Thao decided to rock out on the peddle steel and she didn't disappoint. The song after was more subdued and allowed for some time to chill out. Once in a while I wonder why pop music is so generic. The Get Down showed us all what the radio should sound like. As a few of us started to make our way to the next overlapping artist, she dusted off another gem from her latest album. Thao and the Get Down Stay Down are a staple in my current audio diet. I trust she and her bandmates worked up an appetite for others in attendance.

Sturgill Simpson | Big Meadow | 5:45-7:00

Sturgill Simpson - Big Meadow Stage
Bouncing from Thao over to the Big Meadow stage, I was stoked to see Sturgill and his gang of outlaw-country sidekicks. He was definitely treating the people to some real county music. He's rocking, but with roots. His music does a tightrope walk between being slow enough to feel, yet quick enough to punch you in the mouth. These four men seem to embody both western and southern country—I guess it's called being gutsy. Real life is present in Simpson's offerings and observations. When something feels familiar, it feels good. Near the end of the set they unleashed a T-Rex type of country jam. It was filthy-good. This group of boot-wearing musicians was a surprise treat and a high point of the night. Thanks Sturgill for being the real deal.

Lord Huron | Grandstand | 7:00-8:30

Their intelligence and honesty are still on display, but they've figured it out. Something else has transformed within Lord Huron since their appearances at High Sierra last summer. The sound they create is warm - reminiscent of hearing your own echo. Strangers in the high country sun were being lyrically staggered by, "bones in the sand." Later, the singer's harmonica and the moon seemed linked. Huron has a way of making us all feel the same while their music remains different. When the line, "that girl" was being reeled in and out, we could all conjure our own images, though we'd been baited by the same lure. This time around they were playing to their advantage. Asking the right questions makes a big difference. The sound was full of change as their licks intensified. Crooning the lines, "gonna find me a place baby way out west" could not have been more fitting, considering our geographic location. I felt like we were on a string as they continued to catch and release the crowd. One of their song lines states, "doesn't mean I'm ready." Maybe we weren't ready, maybe they aren't ready, but one thing's for sure, Lord huron is already good.

Sound Tribe Sector 9 | Grandstand | 9:15-11:30

First off, I was totally stoked to see the new STS9. I hadn't yet caught the new ensemble but was intrigued to have their sound and energy either wash over me or mash straight through me. It turned out to be a collision of the two. Kicking it off with some amazing LED visuals set to the Musical Story voice-over, I was super hyped. The initiation began with 4 Year Puma as I was readying myself for battle. Click Lang Echo followed, introducing the Quincy faithful to a new song. One of the tracks that's been making the rounds since Rocklin joined the band has been Rent. This was the beginning of their grandeur. I'm pretty sure this was the point at which I began to dance freely as the new tweaks to a familiar song rang true. Equinox followed and was the catalyst for their return to Poseidon. This track was full of the jazzy roots that distinguish Sector from the rest of the EDM scene. Following the old-school grooves of the water king, they explored their way into 20-12. Following the lead of their own doing, Tribe launched into a ripping New Dawn, New Day. Another new track that was full of guitar licks, vocal samples, and thick beats. Needless to say I was in full-on dance master mode. What Is Love? came into view as the crowd pleaded for more. Sound Tribe was on stage to wage a war. They were prepared to battle for our attention. During March, Blu Mood, and Golden Gate, they built upon the present to bring us back to the previous. The onslaught that occurred next was probably the highlight of the whole festival (remember, I only attended one night). Frequencies Peace 2 & Frequencies Peace 3 brought this sonic storm to a head. As the high pressure continued to rise, so did the collective mindset of the Grandstand's attendees. If I could have, I would have stomped a hole in the earth where I was getting down. Dance moves and positive vibes were conquering all else. It was as if Sound Tribe had been architecting this blue-print from the onset, using the prior tracks as a foundation. Their pace was fervent, corrupting us because of what we thought we knew. Musically, their mission was unmistakeable—take no prisoners. The five of them were all fighting for our attention and it was wonderfully harmonious. Their power was full of detailed precision, pounding us with what they had. Rocklin and Velmer smashed the rhythm section. Chunky is an understatement. Totem held us hostage as they worked toward the closing. Another new track came next in the form of an upbeat World Goes Round. I personally really dig this fresh new tune. It lends itself to movement. Even though we could have all danced the night away, STS9 had to shut the door to this dance party and they used Circus as the vehicle to take us away. Sector showed us the way to something special and new without losing track of where they had been.

Rocklin & Velmer of STS9
STS9 setlist | High Sierra | Grandstand | 07.03.14

4 year Puma, Click Lang Echo, Rent, Equinox, Poseidon, 20-12, New Dawn New Day, What Is Love?, March, Blu Mood, Golden Gate, Frequencies Peace 2, Frequencies Peace 3, Totem, World Goes Round, Circus

Special shout out to Parker for gifting me into the Funk'n Jam House for a late-night treat in the form of Dopapod. They registered well and had a darkness to them. It was a reminder to me - why do the Biscuits and UMs of the world try to sing?


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