It seems there’s an endless amount of festivals and events to attend in the region, but there’s one in particular that’s been a staple of the music community for almost three decades.
High Sierra Music Festival returns for its 29th year to Quincy, Calif. About two hours from Carson City, this event is dubbed the “ultimate, intimate camping experience” by its organizers.
“It’s almost like High Sierra is its own universe,” said Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz, of the band ALO. “And we only get to go there for one weekend a year.”
Lebo is a familiar face at the festival. This will be his 20th year performing there. He first came in 1999 as a fan, when it was held at Bear Valley. This year his band ALO will perform and Lebo will be an artist-at-large, sitting in with many other acts throughout the weekend.
The biggest draw bringing music fans to Quincy is the lineup. With more than 50 bands booked, it brings in a diverse selection of genres, including blues, indie rock, bluegrass, dance, electronic, funk, folk and more. The top bands in the business get booked, but so do many up-and-coming artists.
Rick Winfield of Reno said one of the cool things about the festival is seeing the smaller bands gain popularity as the years pass by. In 1997, he saw String Cheese Incident playing on one of the smaller stages. Now, they’re a headlining act, performing there two nights last year and in previous years.
“It’s kind of fun to see the bands that work their way up,” he said. “The community are the reason those bands become as successful as they are.”
A big draw to the festival is the collaboration that takes place. Musicians tend to sit-in with each other at gatherings like this, but here, High Sierra goes beyond that and organizes playshops, which are one-of-a-kind music experiences.
“Collaborations are unique and in the moment, and one time only,” Lebo said.
The success of High Sierra is attributed to many factors, festival co-producer and co-owner Dave Margulies said, and he relates it to a living atmosphere. It starts with the container itself, that’s been created in the small town of Quincy for 20 years, he said. The producers and the staff of the organization laid a foundation that has been built upon year after year.
“It’s something that has been built organically over the years with values that can be noticed and embraced by the patrons, fans and bands,” Margulies said. “The experience has been defined, not sought out or created. It’s all evolved in a very natural way over the years.”
There’s a term that was created about 10 years ago, which can be found on shirts at the merchandise tent: High Sierra Lifer.
Margulies said many people have the mentality that they’ll be there year after year no matter what, regardless of who is on the lineup.
The festival touts itself as one that offers great music with an intimate feel. It has a 10,000 ticket capacity, which keeps it a mid-size event. Margulies said the festival is user-friendly.
“The entry and exit are really seamless and easy,” he said.
Camping is also not too far from the stages, so attendees aren’t walking long distances to get where they want to be.
Other amenities provide for a better experience. There are Klean Kanteen water stations throughout the grounds and showers available.
Winfield thinks the festival is the perfect size.
“I’d gone to Phish’s last show in Coventry; I’d been to Bonnaroo, and I’ve sworn off big festivals.”
Children are a big part of the event. They are included as much as anybody else for fun activities and entertainment.
“It’s evolved over the years; festival producers have grown, they have families and have kids,” Margulies said. “One thing we’ve always been known for is being a place for families.”
Lebo brings his kids every year.
“It’s great, it’s an awesome environment for children,” he said.
Lebo will be performing in the children’s village for a set. Among the features of the children’s village are arts, crafts and activities.
And there’s all sorts of fun taking place away from the stages. Daily parades are scheduled around the fairgrounds. There’s workshops for people to learn something new.
The festival also has a convenient nanny program, the Rockin’ Nannies, where parents can drop their kids off and go enjoy themselves while certified professionals take care of their children.
PLACE WHERE YOU CAN BE YOURSELF
With creative costume ideas and traditional festival spirit, many come to High Sierra to get away from society and get weird, as some would say.
Carson City resident Lisa Yesitis volunteers with the shuttle service. She’s been coming since 2004 or 2005. She said what she likes about High Sierra is how it’s a place to let loose.
“You get to be whoever you want to be,” she said. “There’s a lack of judgment, and that’s what I love about it.”
She loves to participate with the costume themes. Last year, she and a friend had fun dressing up as jellyfish, mushrooms and fairies, all of which received a good response. Yesitis said her goal is to always try something new every year because there is so much to experience.
High Sierra Music Festival kicks off Thursday, July 4, at the Plumas County Fairgrounds in Quincy, Calif. Find out more at http://highsierramusic.com/