Funky weather — and music — mark High Sierra’s Day 2

Tahoe Onstage

Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz and Meters bassist George Porter Jr. at the High Sierra Music Festival.
Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

Day 2 of High Sierra Music Festival saw campers finding their recovery legs from the first session of late night and early morning reveling, and many found time for a needed shower, as well.

Festival pros know washing the bad funk off on a daily basis makes for a much more enjoyable experience for all. Those that simply couldn’t wait to get some of the sweet funk back on ‘em only had to turn up to the High Sierra Musical Hall around lunchtime. Turkuaz’ Michelangelo Carubba and The Motet’s Dave Watts led an all-star tribute to ’70s funk drummers, featuring an ensemble of guests from their own bands, Skerik, The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio and The String Cheese Incident.

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Jay Lane

In typical kit artist and band pilot fashion, the entire performance moved steadily and culminated in the last couple of tunes paying tribute to drummer Steve Gadd and Tower of Power, respectively. It probably sounded like a good idea to save the TOP tune, the hardest according to Carubba, until the end when they put the set together. But thanks to the muggy and overcast weather outside, the indoor hall was like a sauna for those poor guys absolutely tearing it up onstage.

To make things even hotter, Nth power drummer Nikki Glaspie joined for the last two, spending time on both Watts’ and Carubba’s kits, as well as a turn on Jason Hahn’s congas. Her signature ferocity pushed them all through to the end of a simply badass 75 minutes of power funk explosion. If you missed this one, it was a real treat.

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Nikki Glaspie and Dave Watts

Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz and ALO is a fixture in Tahoe and also at High Sierra. During his Lebo and Friends set Friday on the Grandstand stage, Lebowitz explained how much he loves HSMF and shared that it was the first festival he ever attended as a fan. This year, his 19th, surely will be his busiest as an “at large” artist hosting several sessions and guesting in others.

Joining Lebo for an afternoon of covers were legends George Porter Jr. on bass, and Melvin Seals on keyboards. Jay Lane manned the kit, while out front Natalie Cressman and Skerik lent their chops on trombone and saxophone. The talented Jennifer Hartswick’s trumpet and vocals rounded out this magnificent seven.

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Michelangelo Carubba

Fun and cover improvisation were the order of the day, with Lebo serving as conductor. ALO, The Dead and Pink Floyd, among others, all found interpretive homes with this outfit playing together for the second time. Lebowitz, Porter, Seals and Hartswick all had turns on lead vocals, creating a great variety of tone and texture in the presentation. Fans took pleasure in seeing so many of their favorites sharing one stage and each had multiple feature parts.  It was a blast.

The String Cheese Incident held a three-night residency at Lake Tahoe’s Crystal Bay Club Crown Room last year, which was a major coup.  The Denver, Colorado, jam band gave HSMF fans four fantastic headliner sets and six hours of music over the first two nights.  They’ve set a very high bar, both musically and visually, for the headliners to follow, beginning with Sturgill Simpson on Saturday night.

So shower up, High Sierra peeps.  The sun will be back out and the weekend will be hotter (and funkier) than ever.

  — Michael Smyth

Tahoe Onstage

Cameron LaForest

About Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website

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