Arts and culture reinvented in Alpine County

Salinas, Calif., band Qiensavé playing at Woollystar Music Festival in this photo taken by Richard Fahlander.

Salinas, Calif., band Qiensavé playing at Woollystar Music Festival in this photo taken by Richard Fahlander.

The magic happened on the banks of the West Fork of the Carson. The river raging down Woodfords Canyon was there, making its own sort of raucous, rhythmical songs. The second year of the Woollystar Music Festival was even more successful than its initial offering. Well-attended by Alpine locals who have been here for decades, as well as new families who are just settling into the smallest county in California, it was an unforgettable event.

There were a substantial number of both Tahoe and Carson Valley based people, along with those, drawn in by the buzz surrounding the festival, that had driven long distances to the remote location. Since it is such a special piece of land, with both meadows, forest, and a backdrop of rocky canyons, the producers were still able to retain the closeness and intimate setting they were looking to design.

As the ashes from the Tamarack Fire have cooled, ideas have arisen like the mythical Golden Phoenix of renewal and regeneration. Just as the burned trees and debris are being removed from the hillsides and restorative plantings are being undertaken, so the arts and culture of this mountain community are enjoying revival. Thanks to Andy Fahlander and Avery Hellman’s tremendous undertaking, this annual event promises to be a foundational cornerstone of creative Alpine.

As well as organizing and hosting the festival, Avery and Andy played with their band Ismay. Ismay is basking in the glow of having national and international exposure as a contestant on the Apple TV+ program “My Kind of Country,” produced by Kacey Musgrave and Reese Witherspoon. The Apple program is available to view online, as well as Avery’s new video “Stranger in the Barn.” Put together in Sweden over this last winter, it has a dreamy fairy-tale like quality.

Andy also played mandolin and electric guitar with The Brothers Comatose this year. Music reigned supreme from Friday night through Sunday morning. Artists included Margo Cilker, Los Cenzontles, Jenner Fox, Qiensavé, The Live Oaks, Wreckless Strangers, Ismay, Agouti, Beans Sousa, and Ash Relics. It was an impressive line-up. The performers were all unique, with their own sound, and had people engaged and musically motivated all the way through.

The weekend included both RV and tent camping, a film screening, restorative yoga and nature walks, and the setting allowed for a connection and communication with each other, and with the land. Is there any place else like this? Definitely not. Organizers have created something out the pristine Alpine air: the stuff of legends. The Woollystar Music Festival has already become one of the most talked-about events in the music industry, so start making plans to come next year. The audiences were enamored with the bands that were chosen to play and of the melodic, evocative interludes that the high-altitude venue made manifest. It is exciting to be part of the story. Google for images and sounds.


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