High Sierra Music Festival Returns; Lebo, Poltz, RRE, Fish share stories
Producer Rebecca Sparks said it would be a joyful reunion for people.
“It’s become so much more than a festival,” she says. “It’s a community; it’s a meeting; it’s the family; it is a connection. These are all things that we have been missing over the past three years.
High Sierra brings a variety of music with over 50 acts in the lineup.
“The music is always at the highest caliber. It’s beyond everyone’s palette,” Sparks said.
There are several stages filled with music from morning until well after sunset. Some acts will perform more than once throughout the festival.
Headliners are Almost Dead by Joe Russo, Greensky Bluegrass, The Disco Biscuits and Goose. Some bands have become regulars at the festival, including The Slip, which will have the most festival appearances with 15. The festival attracts many newcomers with new faces.
Sparks is thrilled to have Femi Kuti (Fela Kuti’s son) performing this year.
“To have this amazing world class act, coming from Nigeria to perform at the festival is very special,” she said.
Sparks also highlighted Sammy Rae & The Friends as an up-and-coming band.
“She’s just exploding, mostly on the east coast,” Sparks said.
The Nth Power will put together a tribute set to Steely Dan. Sparks said it was highly anticipated.
Between three different stages and music workshops, there is a lot going on. Find the complete program here with the biographies of each group/musician: https://highsierramusic.com/artist-info/
Many festival goers camp at the fairgrounds with a few different options. Sparks said it was nice for people to ditch their cars for a few days and relax without having to worry about checking their phones and emails.
“It gives people a really good break from it all and connects with humans,” she said.
There is a food court with several vendors offering a variety of options.
The festival is known for its family atmosphere, so there is a family zone with activities for children and a stage for performances. It includes several acts aimed at children. There are also daily parades full of colorful costumes and performers and children can join in the fun on Sundays.
“We have a fantastic family space with lots of kid-friendly offerings,” Sparks said. “We will have our yoga, of course, and we will have fire shows in the evenings.”
Find all the detailed information about the event, tickets and attractions here: https://highsierramusic.com
Quincy was devastated by fires last year and the community is still recovering. Sparks said the festival wants to come and support locals as much as possible. She said the festival can help do that.
“Spiritually it’s a healing thing – coming together and bringing back a sense of normalcy,” she said.
She said locals are looking forward to having the festival and they can showcase their city.
HERE ARE SOME EXCERPTS FROM OTHER HIGH SIERRA ARTISTS:
Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz makes High Sierra a tradition and brings the whole family. This will be his 20th High Sierra. His band ALO played 12 of them, and the other years he plays as a general artist or starts a band. He is often seen sitting with many other groups throughout the weekend.
“For me, that was a touchstone,” he said. “Every year I’ve seen so many musician friends and non-musician friends.”
He said that High Sierra is doing a good job of bringing back their regulars, but they are also bringing in more famous and well-known artists and doing a good job of bringing in up-and-coming bands.
“I have no doubt that I will be looking at something new this year,” he said. “It always happens.”
He’ll run a “50-ish Years In The Rearview” music store and he’ll play in a few others.
“Those are huge,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like that’s where the heart of the festival happens.”
The band he formed for this festival includes ALO members Ezra Lipp and Steve Adams. He added Adam MacDougall on keyboards and Wally Ingram on percussion. Anna Moss of Handmade Moments is also joining them.
He said he loved putting these bands together because they were some of his favorite musicians he got to know.
“For me, it’s fun because I can build my dream band every time,” he said.
Lebo said what excites him the most is that he always leaves High Sierra feeling very inspired.
“I can’t wait to come back; I really missed it on so many levels,” he said. “The music and the musical camaraderie, I’m excited to get in there.”
Steve Poltz is playing his fifth High Sierra and his first was 10 years ago in 2012.
” I can not wait to be there. I love it – they are my family,” he said. “You still leave tanned and sleepy, but you feel like your soul is being fed.”
Poltz has fond memories of High Sierra. It was there that he first met Oliver Wood of the Wood Brothers. At the campsite, there is always a big Cajun barbecue and Poltz likes to play there.
“There’s whatever happens if you’re open to it,” he said.
Poltz said Wood came over to watch him play, so Poltz asked him to sit down to a song or two.
“We became friends because of that,” Poltz said.
Then he said that Oliver and Jono Rix helped produce his record and they are now all close friends.
Another favorite Poltz moment was enjoying the music on the grandstand.
“I have fond memories of when JRAD would play and stay at the very bottom and dance like a fool,” he said. “Hearing their treatment on all these songs is always fun.”
He made a connection that night with artist and salesman Ryan Kerrigan, who ended up doing posters for Poltz.
“I always look forward to making new friends and seeing old friends again,” he said.
There are plenty of opportunities to see Poltz at the Festival somewhere. He does several sets on some of the stages. He said he would sit with a few people. And he will lead a workshop in homage to John Prine. He said right after one of his sets, he would leave the stage to sit with Lebo in a Ziggy Stardust Playshop.
“I’m going to be a sweaty mess and it’ll be super fun,” he said. “I love stuff like that. I was kind of born to do that, if that makes sense.
When asked why people should come to his set, he replied, “Everyone who comes to see me wins the lottery. At least 34 percent. Even if they don’t win the lottery, good things happen to people who see me.
High Sierra means a lot to Railroad Earth and it means a lot to be back for the 30th anniversary, said drummer Carey Harmon. The festival gave the band a chance in their first year together in 2002 and it helped them find a fan base on the West Coast.
The band only had one set scheduled, but the rest of the time they were told to go around and play wherever they could.
He remembers that the weekend had been hot and they had camped in tents next to their friends’ motorhomes. They decided to climb on the motorhome, install some speakers and play in front of the campground.
“It was part of the early traditions of the band,” he said. “That was definitely my fondest and earliest memory of High Sierra.”
Railroad Earth returned the next four or five years, Harmon said. They were listed on bigger slots and took to the main stage.
“Some of the people who really became fundamental to our fan base, especially in California, came from High Sierra,” he said. “They’re good friends we have now and former jerks who clung to what we were doing.”
That includes crews like Santa Cruz’s The Happy Brigade, he said.
This year will be the group’s 10th appearance. They play a long slot Thursday on the grandstand stage. They will play with bluegrass legend Peter Rowan and perform the album “Old & In The Way”. Harmon said they were going to go through the album with Rowan, take a short break, and then come and play Railroad Earth music. He said the band is in a groove now that they’re on tour and released their latest album, “All For The Song.”
“By the time we get to High Sierra it’ll be really good, that’s when it’ll get really fun,” he said.
Samantha Fish first came to High Sierra in 2016, and this will be her second time returning to Quincy for two sets, one Saturday and one Sunday.
She said she remembered the foam party and was looking forward to it, she joked. She said she remembered a dedicated crowd that came out charged and in return left her group feeling energized.
“It’s kind of an eclectic event,” Fish said. “There is something happening on every street corner with lots of music. It’s a very artistic environment.
She is happy to be back playing such a big festival with enthusiastic music fans.
“You’re a dedicated music fan if you’re going camping in the California heat in mid-July,” she said.
There have been a lot of changes in the past six years since she arrived at High Sierra, so she said to expect a different show than last time. Last time she came in a trio and this time it will be a quartet. She added four albums to her discography, giving her much more depth in what she plays. She said the two sets will be different without repeats.
“The show has changed quite drastically,” she said. “We’re going to bring some fire and energy with us. Honestly, I’m pretty happy with that.
When she’s not playing, she says she’ll mingle with people and immerse herself in the environment.