general fuzz

Musing from a obsessive computer music composer with hippie-ish tendencies.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Summer time = festival time. Once again it was time embrace the hedonistic music marathon that is the High Sierra Music Festival. Stina was going to surprise me with tickets, but after I threated to buy them and go without her, she gently explained that we were already going. Ah. I'm a bad sport.

This was our 3rd time at the festy, nicely coinciding with our 3rd year wedding anniversary. Let me walk you through our grand adventure.

Stina was recently diagnosed with Sciatica, thus her back was not in good shape. She decided to persevere and push through the pain, so she spent much of the festival lying down on the ground. Her dancing comprised mostly of waving her hands around. It was quite endearing.

Apparently last year was a real bad year at the festival. There was a large invasive cop presence, and they brought the negative vibes in tow. This caused a drop in attendance this year, which ironically made it a far better festival for us. It was never too crowded = the lines for showers/bathrooms were never bad. The 5-0 presence was nil this year. I did not see a single cop the entire time I was there. Apparently this year they had a volunteer crew that tailed the cops, so that if anyone was arrested, they volunteers would immediately advise the arrested soul with sound legal advice. They also ensured that the cops didn't overstep their legal rights. This seems like the most effective police management strategy I've ever heard of.

Right then. On to

Day 1:

Stina, Angel, DanT and I drove up to Quincy. It took too long at 5 1/2 hours. We arrive at 9pm, find the campsite that Rachel and Aaron had setup on the off site campgrounds. Unfortunately, this year the off site grounds were a mile away from the festival, and so we would take a shuttle to and fro. We also carted up some bikes so we could have a little more flexibility. We hammer back a welcome to high sierra beverage or two, and shuttle over to check out Phix's 10pm set at the Vaudeville stage.

I immediately run into Lizzie and Matt, and I'm swept into the festival spirit. We wander around the grounds a bit and run into some decent fire dancing.

Its amazing how much of the Burning Man culture/ideas has been integrated into this festival. There are art cars, ambiance crews, fire dancing, and theme camps. Its definitely a smart way to improve a communal experience.

We catch a little of the Surprise Me Mr. Davis (the Slip + Nathan Moore) and head back to camp.

Unfortunately theres a giant tree cutting factory positioned directly across from the site. Between that and the noise of the generators for the giant flood lights, neither Stina or I sleep the first night. Very rock and roll. Except that we're grumpy and tired, and Stina's back is flaring up. Boo. Its crazy hot out. Why did we come here again? We suck at this.

Day 2:

I start Friday off with some Mama's Cooking. They were pretty generic. Then some Brett Dennen.

He had sweet, gentle sound, and half of ALO backing him up. I liked what I heard there. Then a looper workshop with Lynx (beat boxer + flute) and That 1 Guy (crazy custom built instrument). Its inside and slightly cooler then outside, so I decide this room is a good spot during the day.

After a break at camp, it was time for Anders Osborne Band with Kyle Hollingsworth

A very New Orleans vibe, sick bass player, and I love me some Kyle. They even did a SCI song which was hilarious as Kyle was making letters with his hand to indicate what key he was currently in.

Panjea with Michael Kang - african dance hall vibe, didn't pull me in

Then some Jamie Janover. He had a great thing going on at Shady Grove - maybe 50 people were present, and his band was doing crazy rhythmic journeys. His drummer was world class - I was totally enamored with him. He had Dan Lebowitz, who was freaking everywhere at this festival, sitting in (High Sierra - now with 30% more Dan Lebo).

Chillin at camp during sunset.

I found Stina at Soulive.

She had discovered a gorgeous open tee pee at the back of the lawn area with rugs and pillows. This would be her new home for this stage.

We lumbered along until the Phix late night show (most late night shows needed additional tickets - she had gotten them as a special anniversary treat). We refueled with a couple tasty egg rolls. Even though we were pretty much shit dinner, we rocked out to Phix one last time with Angel and Dan (they are on their farewell tour - so sad, cause we always had a great time when they came through). I recall a sweet Reba. They even brought Asher (sick keyboard player) up for an epic Stash.

No way did we stay up for headliner Garaj Mahal. We passed the f out and slept real good on Friday night.

Day 3:

Kicked off Saturday by finally hearing Blue Turtle Seduction. They play all the time in SF, they've been the opener for a bunch of shows I've been at, and I've never seen 'em. They were ok. A little too blue grassy for my tastes. Its getting stupid hot again. I decide to check out the "how to promote your band" workshop, and I've stumbled upon the hidden gem of this festival: Music Biz workshops. Its in a small room, and its AIR CONDITIONED. OMG. I'm actually cold. Its fabulous.

None of the actual discussed information applied to me, since who tries to makes a living giving away your music for free and playing two dates a year? It was mostly this one lady who put everyone in their place. If you're not doing 200 dates a year, have a perfect website, an impeccable tour manager, stay home and play guitar hero. Really condescending, but probably true if your trying to making a living playing music. Who cares really? I was cold and out of the sun. Yeay.

Then another indoor event: Guitarmageddon. Josh Clark assembles a band to cover classic guitar heavy rock.

They played some cream and I read my book. I'm slowly discovering how to thrive in the festival environment.

Another sweet Brett Dennen set. I spend some quality time hanging with Ryan and Lizzie at Ryan's vending booth. If you haven't check out Ryan's art, click on the link. Its amazing.

Everyone met up for the Everyone Orchestra.

It turned out to be one of my favorite sets of the festival. Its always hit or miss with the EO - this time it was hit. Strangely I recognized very few of the musicians in this iteration. There was even a sick Tuba player.

Then the Budos Band.

They were great. An 11 piece afro-cuban groovin smile fest. They have true mass appeal - I would bring anyone to a Budos Band show.

Some Toubab Krewe (Afro Bowboy Ninja Surf).

I enjoyed their lively blend of eclectic African instruments and electronic music stylings.

I even ran across a renegade Reeble Jar set along the way to dinner.

They were fine, but they didn't inspire me to delay dinner for long. I had another incredible Gyro. I love the Gyro vendors, as does everyone else, what with the line.

I capped they day off with Stina at Tea Leaf Green.

At this point I was pretty burned out on music. I could go for some silence. A shower wouldn't hurt either. I feebly check out Bassnectar

and its just crazy in the tent. It was as if half the audience were on stage. I cowered in fear and retreated to the relative safety of our sweet sweet tent.

Day 4:

I wake up refreshed, finally feeling acclimated to the festival. I'm ready to rock today, unlike many of our fellow festival goers, who are looking a bit haggard. Its really smoky out, and apparently theres a raging forest fire 30 miles away. Thats not so far.

I kick the day off with some Albino! on the main stage. They've got the high energy afrobeat tastiness that I crave. A female is dancing like crazy on stage. I'm feeling good.

I took Stina to my secret special utopia, the air conditioned room for a workshop on music business legal advice. It was actually pretty facinating, led by an very experinced music lawyer. The insistent snoring from the passed out dude on the floor was a little distracting though.

We then went to the last minute announced music workshop given by Page McConnell. It was in a giant air conditioned music hall, and was not even a third full.

He took some questions and played some tunes. I even got to ask a question about his analog synth gear. He described his history with collecting analog gear and getting into electronic music. I got thanked for the question. Unfortunately, that was one of the better questions. The other ones were pretty poor ("can we write a song together right now?", "is Phish getting back together?"), giving Page the (possibly correct) impression that we are collectively all a bunch of knuckleheads. He played Velvet Sea, which was really touching since the last time we heard him play that was when he was crying at Coventry. Someone asked him to finish up with a piano solo from Squirming Coil, which he did. It was pretty cool.

While wandering around I happened across Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, where he was DOMINATING the organ. I had to stop and check it out.

I was damn impressed, which was hard to do at this point. Totally amazing stuff radiating from the band.

Then ALO.

I wasn't really into it at that point. I've heard them enough.

Time to head over to the main stage to hear Page McConnell with his band.

They were pretty great. I've always been a Page fan. He was a major influence during my years of piano assimilation. I was familiar with his new album (which is ok - strong lyrically, not so much musically) so it was fun to hear them live. It was at the best time of day - when the sun goes down and it starts to cool off. I stuck around for his entire 2 hour set. I ran into lots of friends and I was surprised to find that was lamenting that it was all almost over. Of course if you told me there was another day left I would have puked on your shirt.

There was a great moment during Page's set when I barged into a conversation with Lizzie and she was talking about "that one guy during the workshop." I told her I was at that workshop, and she looked at me funny. She knew I was there. I had no idea that she was there. We then determined she was talking about one of the dumb asses at Page's workshop. She had no idea that there was a performer named "That 1 guy" and I went to his workshop. Humor.

Finally, the true kings of high sierra: Leftover Salmon. They've been on hiatus for a while, and high sierra was their first gig back together. They were fantastic, and they fired me up. Festivaaaaaal! I danced harder then I had the entire time I was there. It was sweet relief. You couldn't wipe the smile off my face. They brought out a bunch of friends, including Page.

It was a perfect way to cap off our festival. Unfortunatly, I was too amped to fall sleep that night, and Stina's back started to seriously flair up. She got me up at daylight in a lot of pain, so we rapidly broke down our camp and fled home to Frisco.

There were a bunch of special moments for me during the weekend. I remember maybe a third of them. I ran across a lot of musicians who I have deep respect for. Most of them are pretty down to earth, happy to chat with a fan. Some of them even got CDs.

I recognize that a music festival really seems better on paper then in reality. I mean, how could I not want to see all these fabulous bands. But after the third or fourth band of the day, its hard to be engaged as an active listener. If the music doesn't lift me up and set my pants on fire, then it just washes over me. I'm not such a good camper, and I really like creature comforts. The sun is already a strong natural enemy for my skin, and it was stupid hot out.

So, in review, it was a real good time. It wasn't always easy, and I wasn't always happy, but I'm glad I went.

So there. Longest blog post ever.


Blogger PVision said...

Holy crapahoi. I'm tired just reading about it.

Boo to the Sciatica. At least the pain now has a name.

And Happy Anniversary!

8:14 AM  
Anonymous stina said...

Amazing post - yeah for cameras that you can carry in your pocket. boo to back pain.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Gail said...


First thing I did when I got home: give mad love to the kitties. Second thing: put a vegan suasage and some veggie baked beans on the stove (vegan beanies and weanies!). Third thing: check your blog to admire the longest post ever with Picasa uploaded pictures. Nice.

We miss you guys already!

5:28 PM  

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