No group of musicians is more symbolic of the High Sierra Music Festival experience than the horn section, a collection of individuals working together to provide a party for everyone in the vicinity. The same all-for-one attitude that horn players have can be felt when walking among campgrounds throughout the fest, and it’s that generosity of spirit that makes this festival so special.
High Sierra Day 2 saw a slew of horn sections reinforcing the groove and thickening the soul that bands such as The California Honeydrops and Mofro produce in spades.
The Soul Rebels
The New Orleans-based eight-piece band grabbed the Vaudeville Tent by the throat Friday night and refused to let go until their very last note. Featuring two trumpets, tenor sax, a pair of trombones, a sousaphone and two marching-band style drummers, this group had the most striking sound of the festival so far. But this wasn’t just standard New Orleans second line. These guys — led by president/drummer Lumar LeBlanc — used the swagger of hip-hop, the catchiness of pop music, and the eruptive dynamics of EDM to produce a post-modern soul stew.
After playing for more than an hour, the octet closed with an explosive version of the Bruno Mars hit “Uptown Funk” leaving the crowd wanting more.
The California Honeydrops
The audience at the Grandstand stage got even more than they bargained for from The California Honeydrops this year. The set included a series of guest appearances by vocalist Grace Love and guitarist Jimmy James of the Seattle soul band Grace Love & The True Loves to form The West Coast Honey Soul Review. The expanded lineup also included another sax player and a percussionist.
After an exhilarating performance of Wilson Pickett’s “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You” lead singer/band leader Lech Wierzynski affectionately introduced the Honey Horns to massive applause. Soon after, he brought Grace Love and Jimmy James up for extended, sweaty covers of “People Get Ready” and R. Kelly’s 1993 classic “Bump N’ Grind,” with the latter benefitting greatly from the swampy horn part played by two tenor saxophones.
Gene Evaro Jr.
The young guitarist/vocalist from Joshua Tree brought his band back for set number two on Friday at the Big Meadow stage. The group once again played with the aplomb of a young group taking every advantage to prove itself at a festival jam-packed with influential acts.
The experimental soul/rock troupe features Clint Stoker and Scott Kisinger on sax and trombone, respectively.
Even the instrumental funk four-piece couldn’t resist getting in on the fun. They brought up Turkuaz’s horns for three songs, including Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” during their incredible set at the Big Meadow stage Friday afternoon. The horn trio includes Greg Sanderson on tenor sax, Josh Schwartz on bari sax, and Truckee native Chris Brouwers on trumpet. They take the Big Meadow stage with Turkuaz at 2:45 on Saturday.
JJ Grey & Mofro
The rock and soul legend certainly did not disappoint as he closed the Vaudeville Tent late Friday night. His band, including the dual trumpet attack of Marcus Parsley and Dennis Marion, was incendiary as Grey ran through “Hide & Seek” complete with a Todd Smallie bass solo and call back to Wilson Pickett’s version of “Hey Joe.” He kept the party moving with fan-favorites “Lochloosa” and “How Junior Got His Head Put Out.”
Even after almost two decades of burning up stages and leaving crowds speechless, Grey still has the fire that fueled his early albums. The blue-eyed-soul balladeer was the perfect way to cap off Day 2 of High Sierra.
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