Tahoe Onstage is the place to get lowdown on the High Sierra Music Festival for concertgoers and folks who can’t make it but want to follow their favorite bands.
We will post stories and photographs each day from the festival in Quincy, California, a one-and-a-half-hour drive north from both Reno and Truckee. High Sierra features dozens of the greatest bands in the land from Thursday, June 30, to Sunday, July 3.
For the online music website Tahoe Onstage, High Sierra is the Super Bowl. The idea came to me in the spring of 2013 when I sat in a nearly empty newsroom, where most of my co-workers had been unceremoniously laid off.
I decided to leave, too, and would start my own website. I bought a ticket to High Sierra, the famous festival I’d heard about for years but had never attended. It’s a hot place, for sure, but it’s paradise for music lovers with four days of nonstop music.
Three years later, Tahoe Onstage, unabashed in its self-aggrandizement, is so well established it has been allotted four full credentials for photographers and reporters to describe the High Sierra scene.
Last year, Tahoe Onstage reporter Spencer Kilpatrick attended High Sierra for the first time. He will be back this week.
“During the day, by my estimate the temperature was approximately 361 degrees, so I spent most of my time looking like a puffy, agitated boil,” he recalled. “Luckily, I had a lot of sunscreen, water and beer to get me through the days and into the perfectly comfortable evenings that make sleeping in a tent a welcome experience.”
Musicians praise High Sierra.
“It’s the best festival,” said Neal Casal, who will play 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.”
It is a festival where bands such as the New Mastersounds and the Scott Pemberton Band can play for new and larger audiences.
“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.”
The New Mastersounds had just arrived to the United States when it played High Sierra for the first time.
“To me, it felt like the Monterey Pop Festival,” guitarist Eddie Roberts said.
A newer band on the rise is TAUK, hailing from Oyster Bay, New York.
“I’ve heard of High Sierra forever. I’ve heard a lot of really good things, so I am psyched to finally be on it,” said Charlie Dolan, who plays bass for TAUK, ironically an instrumental band.
Tahoe Onstage reporter Garrett Bethmann is most looking forward to seeing Thievery Corporation. For me, it’s the North Mississippi Allstars, which includes guitarist Luther Dickenson.
Last year, Dickenson produced Samantha Fish’s breakout album, “Wild Heart.” Fish will play for the first time at High Sierra on Thursday and Friday, while the North Mississippi Allstars perform Saturday and Sunday.
“I hope I get to see (Dickinson) out there,” Fish said. “It’s like ships crossing in the night — we never really get to run into each other. The summertime is when you get to see all of your friends at festivals and hopefully get on the same tour once in a while.
Sometimes, the unexpected happens at High Sierra, and one surprising occurrence led to the most-read story Tahoe Onstage has posted.
Storytelling singer John Craigie’s most popular song was a humorous and true story about him almost taking some marijuana from the hospitality room for Todd Snider. Craigie was the opener for Snider, a nationally known artist dubbed The Songman. While Craigie’s song was an internet sensation, he had never discussed it with Snider, and he wasn’t quite sure if he appreciated it.
I was the only press photographer at Craigie’s 2014 High Sierra performance in the Vaudeville Tent. When Craigie went into his story about Snider, he was surprised to notice The Songman himself sitting at the side of the stage. Snider had played the previous late night show with his band Hard Working Americans.
“It shook me up a little bit,” Craigie said. “He’s a cool guy but he’s a busy man and I was just amazed that he came out to the festival because he wasn’t playing (that day). I was a little nervous.
“Throughout the song I didn’t make any eye contact with him. When I finished, I saw he was gone. I thought, ‘OK, well, maybe he had to move on.’ That’s right when I saw him in the corner of my eye coming onstage. It totally caught me by surprise.”
The crowd roared when Snider presented Craigie with a jar, a symbolic passing of the torch to the ascending artist.
“You don’t have to steal anymore, man,” Snider said.
You never know what will happen at High Sierra. Keep checking Tahoe Onstage to find out.
- High Sierra Music Festival
June 30-July 3
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 Corportation
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: http://highsierramusic.com/daily-schedule/