Comatopia: Brothers Comatose host 3-day festival in rural Calpine, north of Truckee

Comatose 1What started out as a house party has gotten so big, it’s moved out to the porch.

Comatopia is a weekend gathering in the mountains hosted by the Brothers Comatose and a bunch of friends: Hot Buttered Rum, Steve Poltz, The Sam Chase, Easy Leaves and Dixie Giants. It will be held Friday, Aug. 14 through Sunday, Aug. 16, in the Sierra Valley Lodge in Calpine, a tiny town 33 miles north of Truckee on Highway 89.

Comatose 2 “The idea of doing our own festival has been around for a couple of years but it’s a daunting task,” said Ben Morrison, who formed the bluegrass band with his brother Alex. “There are so many details, it’s kept us from doing it in the past. And we have been so busy with touring. But we had the name for the last couple years.”

Parish Entertainment Group, which has venues in Oakland and San Francisco, recently acquired the Sierra Valley Lodge, which has become a hidden musical gem. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood and the Mother Hips are among groups that have played there this summer. Organizers at PEG approached the Brothers Comatose about hosting a festival and Comatopia became a reality.

Music will be performed on a main stage and out on a spacious deck. Comatopia’s highlight could be the Sunday afternoon jam featuring all of musicians.

Ben and Alex Morrison’s parents were musicians who hosted house jams. Somebody left a banjo after one of the get-togethers. Alex picked it up, and Ben strummed along with his guitar. They added fiddle player Philip Brezina, mandolinist Ryay Avellone and upright bassist Gio Benedetti and called themselves Brothers Comatose for their trance-inducing jams.

Since playing the High Sierra Music Festival the first week of July, the band has traveled 11,000 miles touring the country.

Aaron Redner and Nat Keefe of Hot Buttered Rum. Tim Parsons / Tahoe ONstage

Aaron Redner and Nat Keefe of Hot Buttered Rum. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

“It’s 24,000 miles around the world, so we’ve driven nearly halfway around the world,” Morrison said.

Most of the Comatopia bands are longtime friends of the Brothers Comatose, however, the Morrisons got to know Poltz at High Sierra.

“He played with us during a pickin’ workshop, and we had best time in the world,” Morrison said. “He’s just a crazy ball of energy. We became good friends that weekend. He said, ‘Can I please play your festival?’ I said, ‘Are you serious? Yeah.’ We’re stoked have him.”

Like the Brothers Comatose, Hot Buttered Rum, the headlining guest band is based in San Francisco.

Morrison described the other bands:

  • “The Sam Chase band is an eight-piece folk powerhouse from San Francisco. Sam himself is a great songwriter and they have a killer band, full of energy. They just played Outside Lands and they’ve been crushing the local scene.”
  • “The Easy Leaves are sometimes a duo, sometimes a full band. They are killer, country- Americana songwriters. They are cool performers from Santa Rosa. We just played with them at a festival, Pick A Song in Oregon.”
  • “The Dixie Giants are New Orleans brass band. They are high-energy and will play on the stage and then march through the whole festival.”
  • Comatopia
    Aug. 14-16
    Sierra Valley Lodge
    103 Main Street, Calpine, 96124
    7:30 p.m. – Easy Leaves
    9:15 p.m. – Steve Poltz
    10:45p.m. – Hot Buttered Rum
    Late night DJ will close out the evening
    3 p.m. – Pick session in the Lodge/On the Deck
    5 p.m. – Afternoon Set on Sun Deck – Steve Poltz
    7:30 p.m. – Dixie Giants
    9:15 p.m. – The Sam Chase
    10:45 p.m. – Brothers Comatose
    Late night DJ will close out the evening
    11 a.m. – BroCo Brunch Bluegrass Session
  • Ticket information
    -Weekend Pass Advance – $35
    -Day Pass Advance – $25
    -VIP Package #1 – $410
    -VIP #1 includes lodging for Friday and Saturday nights in a room with 1 bed, plus 2 VIP passes to the shows. VIP Badges include premier balcony viewing
    -VIP Package #2 – $550
    VIP #2 Includes lodging for Friday and Saturday nights in a room with 2 beds, plus 4 VIP passes to the shows
    -Camping Pass – $25/car
    -Parking – FreeSierra Valley Lodge:
    Shows will be at night  with pick sessions, BBQ, Kickball, Horseshoes, Billiards, Darts and much more at the lodge during the daytime.
    Other off site daytime activities include the Sierraville Hot Springs (, swimming at Upper Sardine Lake (, and hiking at The Calpine Fire Lookout Hike (

Related story: High Sierra: Brothers Comatose like to get weird, too. LINK
Related story: The near tragedy and triumphant return of Steve Poltz. LINK
Related story: Tahoe a second home for Hot Buttered Rum. LINK

Tim Parsons

Steve Poltz on the Big Meadow stage at the 2014 High Sierra Music Festival. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

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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