Artists sing praises for upcoming High Sierra Music Festival

Tahoe Onstage

Fans are captivated by Allen Stone at the Grand Meadow in 2013.
Tim Parsons/ Tahoe Onstage.

The High Sierra Music Festival offers the opportunity for undiscovered artists to reach new heights and for bands already on top to spend time with fans and peers during the peak of festival season.

“It’s the best festival,” said Neal Casal, who will appear at this year’s High Sierra with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. “It’s my favorite festival I’ve ever been to for so many reasons. It epitomizes what you would want from your California music festival.”

Located in Quincy, California, a one-and-a-half-hour drive north from both Reno and Truckee, the festival is Thursday, June 30 to Sunday, July 3. More than 10,000 attend each year.

Kayte Udow of San Francisco and friends at the High Sierra Music Festival. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Kayte Udow of San Francisco and friends at the High Sierra Music Festival.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Scott Pemberton’s rise in popularity can be tracked by his High Sierra Festival performances. The “timber rocker” will be making his fourth consecutive appearance.

“The first year we were unheard of and we opened the Big Meadow stage,” Pemberton said. “We were the very first band, which actually was really cool. We made a little bit of a splash. On our third year we closed the Big Meadow stage. That was a pretty cool progression. Not sure where we’re going to be this year.”

We are: the band itinerary was released today.

There are three primary venues at the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds. The biggest is the Grandstand, a field inside an old stock car racing oval. The midsize Grand Meadow is an outdoor area next to the fairgrounds’ main buildings, and it’s adjacent to the Vaudeville Tent. The Funk and Jam House and High Sierra Music Hall hold the late night jams that last almost until sunrise.

Wes Montgomery would have been proud to hear guitarist Eddie Roberts of the New Mastersounds out of Leeds, England. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Eddie Roberts of the New Mastersounds. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage


The New Mastersounds will appear at the festival for the fourth time, but the first since 2010. Guitarist Eddie Roberts has extra special fondness for High Sierra. The British soul quartet from Leeds played its first two shows in the United States in 2004. It returned in 2005, playing shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco before coming to High Sierra.

“To me, it felt like the Monterey Pop Festival,” Roberts said. “We had just played before four people at a show in L.A. We have a photograph of the envelope that held our settlement at the end of the night. It reads, ‘$5 times 4 equals $20. Four Masterminds.’ ”

But the tour soon became a most successful four-man British Invasion.

“What an incredible time,” Roberts said. “When we arrived, nobody’d heard of us and when we left, we had a fan base and the next time we came through San Francisco we had fans. So it’s a very special festival for us.”

Scott Pemberton, the timber rocker. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Scott Pemberton, the timber rocker.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

High Sierra will be the final stop on the New Mastersounds’ tour, so Roberts said he and his bandmates would stay all four days to watch and jam with other bands, including Mike Dillon’s Nolatet from New Orleans and the Motet, from Roberts’ latest U.S. hometown, Denver.

Casal, whose Chris Robinson Brotherhood, plays on the big stage at the Grandstand at 6:30 p.m. Friday, was happy to learn the Del McCoury Band was coming to the festival. He said was thrilled at a previous High Sierra when he met the bluegrass star who once played with Bill Monroe.

“I got to have a conversation with Del McCoury,” he said. “I had a real moment listening to him. I had a couple of sit-ins that year. I hope to do more this year.”

Special jams and workshops are held throughout the festival.

“It’s a big festival and there’s a lot going on,” he said. “It hits all the marks and it just feels the most authentic … from how it’s organized to the artists who play, everyone who is there is doing it for the right reasons,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like a moneygrab, ever. It just feels like it’s truly about music. You never get that lowly corporate festival feeling at High Sierra.”

Pemberton agrees.

“High Sierra is one of the best, absolutely, for its production and artists’ support,” he said. “I think other festivals often model it and take ideas from it. It’s a really beautifully run festival with the artists’ liaison helping us get around and making connections for jam sessions, and the sound is always good and the people are amazing.

“And the people who go out to the festival support live music also not at the festival so you see familiar faces when you are on tour. I’ll be in Chicago and somebody will say, ‘Hey, I saw you at High Sierra.’ It’s a fantastic festival.”

Tahoe Onstage will file photos and stories each day from the High Sierra Music Festival.

Related story: Blues bands coming to High Sierra Music Festival.

  • Website:
    Dates: June 30-July 3, 2016
    Location: Quincy, California
    Grandstand bands
    Thursday: Scott Law and Ross James Cosmic Drawl, Xavier Rudd, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
    Friday: Jamestown Revivial, Leftover Salmon, the California Honeydrops, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Thievery Coorportation
    Saturday: Elephant Revival, Turkuaz, North Mississippi Allstars, Dr. Dog, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
    Sunday: Steve Poltz, the Del McCoury Band, Femi Kuti & the Positive Force, Greensky Bluegrass, Tedeschi Trucks Band
    Complete grid:

    High Sierra Day 1

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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