RECAP / PHOTOS: High Sierra Music Festival 2012

It’s tough to recap an entire four days of a festival that seems to fly by with such ease and relaxation, yet has lifetime highlights that you’ll be remembering until next year’s event rolls around.

Taking photos for Live Music Blog over the weekend was an absolute pleasure. To be able to capture something as magnificent as High Sierra just brings a smile to my face every time I hear the shutter snap. Over the course of four days I experienced more music, more hijinks, than I’ll ever be able to remember (which may be a good thing, depending on the memory).

There were times when I wish I had my camera, like at the People’s Porch, where members of Elephant Revival, Nathan Moore’s Hippy Fiasco and a list of other musicians all traded licks and songs well into the night and kept going til sunrise. It was a small porch set up near the entrance to the festival grounds and it became a haven for singers and songwriters all weekend.

It was a scene out of the 60’s. You’d hear the other musicians ask “Hey, who’s that?” with genuine curiosity as one after another sat down and played a tune. We were all in the right time and right place. I kept finding myself wandering back there, two-three-four times a night. Like a moth to light.

Other sets I feel the need to divulge took place in the High Sierra Music Hall during the day. Here, playshops are set up… but the word playshop is used loosely here. They aren’t really. Most are full on jam session collaborations with folks you had always wished would play together. Marco Benevento, John Skehan from RRE, Jeremy Korpas of Big Light, Skerik’s Horn-o-copia, Nicki & Tim Bluhm. You name it, they were there. Some as part of a Talking Heads themed Guitarmeggedon, others taking part in a Tribute to Levon Helm to name a few. The playshops are the un-advertised gems of the festival and really makes High Sierra unique and different than others. It’s just the right blend of collaboration, jam and impromptu adventure that any diehard music fan wants to experience.

One of my favorite sets at the Big Meadow stage was The Motet performing funked out songs from the Grateful Dead. There was a great vibe at their set, which was packed under the hot sun — roses and skulls decorating the stage which made for some great photo opportunities.

I was busy following the Slip / SMMD guys around all weekend… Unfortunately The Slip only played one set, when historically they’re usually around for the whole weekend. The Barr Brothers kinda screwed that up in making a damn fine record on their own. They had to get on a plane to head to another gig. I did happen to thank Marc Friedman on Sunday evening for his full on “Heartbreaker” jam two years ago. He may have thought I was a little crazy, but I’ve always wanted to thank him for starting that during their late night set in 2010. I’ll have a large bucket of photos to unload of Surprise Me Mr Davis and The SLip at Live Music Blog in the next few days. The SMMD late night was one of the better sets of the weekend.

Among the highlights were Built to Spill’s Main Stage set. A few of my friends that I ‘dragged’ couldn’t really get into it, but I was absolutely loving it. At the end of the set, Delicate Steve took over lead guitar for Doug and jammed it out into oblivion. A truly memorable moment for BTS fans and while I’m at it… Keep an ear/eye on Delicate Steve. The guy was a site to behold all weekend long and everything he touched turned to jam.

The 22nd annual High Sierra was so good, if I could buy my tickets for the 23rd, without a lineup to be seen, I’d do it today. 100%. You should all join me. High Sierra is the only thing in the world (besides my family and girlfriend) that’d I’d pick over Phish. If you know me — that says a lot.

Here’s more of my photos from the weekend below. Hope they do justice to what was an amazing event by everyone involved.

More Photos and Setlists from LMB on The Slip & Surprise Me Mr. Davis (w/ Marco Benevento) can be found here.