QUINCY — John Craigie worried that one of his musical heroes, Todd Snider, thought he was a would-be thief, but at the High Sierra Music Festival something happened that showed Craigie just how Snider felt.
Both are folk singer-songwriters with a penchant for humor. While Craigie, 34, has performed in all 50 United States and has made eight studio albums, Snider is more well-established and considered among the very top artists in the genre. This is why Craigie’s 2013 song “I Almost Stole Some Weed from Todd Snider” resonated with so many people.
A video of the song went viral on YouTube, but the story it told didn’t reach a conclusion until Snider made a surprise appearance July 6 upon the Vaudeville Stage.
It all started when Santa Cruz promoter Sleepy John Sandidge spotted the obvious similarities between Craigie and Snider and he put them together on a show at the Rio Theater and then again at the famed music venue the Catalyst.
An ensuing misunderstanding occurred when Snider’s tour manager walked into the artists’ lounge at a most inappropriate time for Craigie, who was standing before a jar full of the headliner’s weed. Details are revealed in the song. Although the two played on the same bill, they did not know each other, and the incident was never truly resolved until High Sierra. Craigie was one of the scheduled performers, but Snider, who played the previous late night show with his band Hard Working Americans, was not. Just before Craigie was going to play the song, he spotted Snider in the crowd.
“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. I was a little nervous.
“Throughout the song I didn’t make any eye contact with him. When I finished the song, 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. “Now you don’t have to steal anymore,” Snider appeared to say.
“I think a lot of the people in the audience might have thought that was scripted,” Craigie said. “That speaks to his character and his sense of place in music and in our genre. I never wanted that song to make him look like a bad guy. He really is cool and in that moment it really showed what kind of guy he really is.”