Festival Recap: High Sierra Music Festival

by | Aug 26, 2011 | Concerts & Festivals, Reviews

Quincy, CA // June 30-July 3

High Sierra Music Festival celebrated its 21st year this summer at the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds in Quincy, CA over the 4th of July holiday weekend. In addition to acts like My Morning Jacket, Ween, Warren Haynes, Neko Case, and Gillian Welch, this year’s line up featured artists that are either on their way to becoming familiar names among music lovers, or are already gaining full momentum in the music world.  Here are some of the highlights.

The Brothers Comatose are a San Francisco-based quartet that took their foot-stomping bluegrass to another level. Bryan Horne, bass player from Hot Buttered Rum, stepped in due to a last minute emergency, and learned an astonishing 20 songs in one day for the band’s shows that weekend. Mia Dyson, an Australian singer/songwriter, rocked out with a phenomenal voice that held its own among powerhouses Lucinda Williams and Bonnie Raitt.  A true rock and roller, Dyson dominated the stage with a drummer, her guitar, and deep lyrics. Zoe Keating was a featured cello player, based out of San Francisco, covering the genre of classical music (a unique addition to High Sierra) with a foot-controlled laptop to create lush, powerful music.

Youssoupha Sidibe and the Mystic Rhythms Band was a truly mesmerizing experience. Sidibe, a West African musician, sung in a myriad of languages that included Arabic, French, and English and highlighted his fluid vocals with the kora, an indigenous harp, to give range to his international sound. Ernest Ranglin drew some of the largest crowds at the festival. Dubbed the “godfather of ska,” Ranglin is a Jamaican reggae artist whose easygoing vibe is effortlessly translated into his music.

Perpetual touring band Delta Spirit is a five-piece outfit from Long Beach, CA, specializing in vintage rock and roll and spiritual lyrics.  Each of their sets throughout the weekend demonstrated dimension and brought back some of the nostalgia of good old-fashioned rock. Zach Deputy, a self-proclaimed “island infused drum and bass gospel ninja,” had enough energy to supply an entire nation.

With his guitar and a looper, Deputy infused his music with body-moving soul and blues. San Francisco’s The Soft White Sixties were one of the edgier bands at the festival, playing some attention grabbing hard rock. Dr. Dog’s psychedelic indie rock was a crowd favorite, as they brought their loud pop-rock ’60s vibe to the stage. Beats Antique, an electronica trio that originally started out as a San Francisco performance art act, used heavy bass, stringed instruments, and world roots music to bring a groove-worthy performance. Critically recognized singer/songwriter Nathan Moore, known as High Sierra’s sweetheart, entertained with his lyrical story telling and Americana-infused music.

Put on by an independent production company based in Berkeley, CA, High Sierra has bloomed into a 10,000 person event that brings a balance of bigger, headlining names and smaller, up-and-coming bands. What really makes High Sierra stand out from the loads of summer music festivals around the country is the eclectic mix of genres and the festival’s ability to bring lesser-known bands with promising talent to the forefront.


photos by Tanya Fuller