QUINCY — “This is my greatest High Sierra show ever,” Steve Poltz exclaimed to a delighted Big Meadow audience.
Poltz, who melds clever songs with humor, had July 5th’s festival crowd melting with emotion, and it had nothing to do with the 98-degree temperature.
“It’s a weird connection,” Poltz said in his air conditioned dressing room after the performance. “When it’s going right, there is a vibration we have together. When it happens, you know it’s happening. Everything connects.”
“They want to know that you’re giving them something real,” he said. “They want to feel that you are real and are being authentic. … I love being able to entertain and make people laugh and also make them cry and think.”
He said he knew he had the crowd when the loop tracks he created live started and stopped perfectly to his Australian nomenclature-inspired rap spoof, “Fackin’ Thing’s Fackin’ Facked.”
Poltz can be brilliantly serious, like when he related Nelson Mandela’s plight to the second verse of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” or when he played “You Were Meant For Me,” a hit song he co-wrote with Jewel, his former girlfriend.
Backstage, he laughed about penning a major pop song, one that “everyone, anywhere” recognizes. “Pure luck,” he smiled.
“I learned some of that from listening to Howard Stern over the years and the honesty that he has in his interviews and when he just talks about himself,” he said. “He’s not afraid of showing different sides of himself. I just feel if I can somehow encompass a lot of things that makes me what I am.
“I loved listening to the soundtrack of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” The Beatles, John Prine, Loudon Wainwright, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Elliot Smith. I think we’re just part and parcel of what we soak up and somehow we come out as this post apocalyptic new creature that’s been rummaging through junk heaps and putting different things together.”
How would he describe such a creature?
“Really slow speed metal mixed with a folk observationalist.”
Poltz’s mother was an English teacher who taught him the importance of language and songs. She recently explained to a youngster the basic framework of a song: “Who was there? What happened? How did it make you feel?”
Poltz has been on five Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, backcounty trips with Tim Bluhm where songwriting is taught with no distractions. It was during one of those trips when Nicki Bluhm discovered Poltz’s song “Check Your Head,” which she covered on the latest album by Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers.
Tim Bluhm joined Poltz on the Big Meadow stage, where they sang a couple Mother Hips tunes, “Tinkerbell Perfume” and “Time Sick Son of a Grizzly Bear.”
Poltz finished his set running with his guitar through the audience which sang along to the loops.
“Are you with me?” he shouted. “Good, because if you’re not, it means the terrorists win.”
After an encore, Poltz shouted, “This really is my greatest High Sierra show ever.”
Back in the trailer, he was asked how many times he’s played the festival.