High Sierra Music Festival: Why we keep going back

HSMF_POSTBy Mike Frash // Photos by Sam Heller & Sterling Munksgard //

High Sierra Music Festival //
Quincy, CA
July 3rd-6th, 2014 //

Festival loyalty not only helps a festival survive, but also thrive. Case in point — High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, CA. For the 24th consecutive year, the High Sierra faithful have their Fourth of July weekend plans booked for this fest that curates around jam bands, funk, new grass & electronica. But as HSMF veterans know, it’s about so much more than just the music. Here are seven reasons we keep going back.

Take a look at our fest review from 2013 and purchase tickets here.

Listen & follow our High Sierra Music Festival Playlist.

The HSMF Community & Scene

1. The Community & Scene
There’s a sense of community the permeates High Sierra Music Fest and its attendees, where simply being nice has a contagious effect. Some groups come armed with themed camps, helping to create group unity. High Sierra is a place where upgrades happen on a regular basis. And since it is such a thoroughly “professional partying crowd”, it’s permitted to carry around adult beverages in all spaces (but no glass bottles are allowed into the main stage). Hydrated people party harder!

Music Mainstays

2. Music Mainstays, Pop Up Shows & HSMF Culture
The recurring artists at large, the Artist Playshops, Guitarmagedden, Sunday Gospel, unannounced sets on busses and in camping areas — these year-to-year and random one-off events are cherished. And don’t forget other mondo culture pieces like fire shows, Sunrise Kickball, yoga (including the laughing variety) & pilates, parades, late night shows, night time neon-psychedelic shuttle rides & rage-tastic moments like the 5AM bacon and mimosa party.

A Laid Back Vibe Like No Other

3. A Laid Back Vibe Like No Other
With a mentality somewhat akin to Burning Man, most folks are helpful, smiley, fun and prone to sharing. High Sierra is not a place to be seen, or just an “event” (unlike bigger festivals) — rushing and cell phones are left at the door. A consistently respectable atmosphere, many families bring their youngsters (the Rockin’ Nannies are always an option). A wonderfully intimate festival, there aren’t many shows that require you to pre-plan and be there early for a prime spot.

Proximity to the Music

4. Camping Close to the Music
The home camp location can be everything at a festival. How often can you camp right next to the stage, enjoying the music from your campsite? And if you can’t spring for a FestivALL Pass to secure prime real estate, camp should only be a short walk away. There’s something happening at any hour of the day at HSMF, so it’s good to be close.


5. It’s the Little Things…
Brick & mortar showers and toilets are available for those with a visceral fear of port-a-potties. And there’s always plenty of cerebral signage containing wise words of wisdom to send you off on your way with inspiration. And always remember, Frickles are for friends, a McLarry Breakfast Sandwich can cure a brutal hangover and there’s a refreshing pool within a stone’s throw away.

Stealth Booking

6. Stealth Booking
The headline sets deliver, but it’s the emerging acts that often offer the biggest auditory thrills during the extended holiday weekend. Many bands play two shows, doubling the opportunity to catch breakout performances. Over the past few years, The Lumineers, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Lord Huron and Gary Clark Jr. have occupied the secondary stages for multiple days. This year, Typhoon fits this trend.

The Location

7. The Location & Weather
The High Sierras surrounding the festival grounds offer impressive forest scenery, the weather is hot-but-bearable in early July (just as it should be), and some take a break for a day trip to the river (when the water isn’t too high). The smell of wood is ever-present, propelled by a logging facility across the road. Quincy is an ideal location for a NorCal escape.

HSMF Culture


  1. I want to add AMBIANCE to this list! The magicians at HSMF turn Plumas fairgrounds into a beautiful, magical land of wonder every year. From the highest ceilings in the late venues to the port-a-pottie doors, every inch of the place holds delight for the eyes. Certainly the most beautiful festival!

  2. FYI-Adult beverages ARE allowed at Grand Stage, but glass is not. Bring a plastic container for this reason.

  3. A great festival, though I miss Bear Valley . . . I’d trade the pool for the additional space and the better weather that Bear had.

  4. Everything above and more!!!! Bring on HSMF 2014!!

  5. WELL DONE, SHOWBAMS! Best article I have read on the festival in the 14 years I have been going! (sans epic Jambase reviews) 🙂

  6. Simply the best!

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