High Sierra celebrates 25 years in grand fashion

2015 High Sierra Music FestivalBy Benjamin Wallen //

High Sierra Music Festival //
Quincy, CA
June 30th-July 3rd, 2015 //

High Sierra is an intimate music festival nestled in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains. Held every year around the Fourth of July in Quincy, Calif., people come from all over to get down in the sun and have some fun.

Celebrating the festival’s 25th year brought the return of jam-band giants The String Cheese Incident and Umphrey’s McGee, both of which are no strangers to High Sierra. Tearing the roof off of festivals and causing the earth to shake from fans dancing is what String Cheese and Umphrey’s do best, after all.

2015 High Sierra Music Festival – The String Cheese Incident


The String Cheese Incident

San Francisco locals The Sam Chase & The Untraditional were another highlight at the festival. The Wood Brothers, meanwhile, brought their special sound to Quincy and had lots of new fans talking about them afterward. The Word, a mash-up of amazing musical talents from John Medeski to Robert Randolph, impressed by surprisingly only playing instrumental gospel tunes.

Pennsylvania bluegrass band Cabinet also left a heavy mark at High Sierra, as did T Sisters, who seemed to be everywhere. Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO), Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, The Brothers Comatose, Steve Poltz and Surprise Me Mr. Davis shared the stage for a memorable, mid-day set of California-inspired tunes in the indoor, air-conditioned music hall. On the final day of High Sierra, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead closed things out on the main stage with two full, vibrant sets.

On the whole, this year’s festival was very well-handled and maintained. High Sierra is a special event, made special by all of those who make it what it is. The festival never feels too crowded or overpopulated — it’s just right between the music, the people and the area amid everything else. It’s exactly what many want in a festival and so much more.

Magik*Magik Orchestra look back to “When We Were Young” at Fox Theater Oakland

John-Vanderslice-&-Minna-Choi

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

Magik*Magik Orchestra with with guests Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, The Dodos, Diana Gameros, Geographer, How To Dress Well, Zoe Keating, The Lonely Forest, Maestro Michael Morgan, The Pacific Boychoir, Rogue Wave, Two Gallants, John Vanderslice
Fox Theater Oakland — Oakland, CA
January 31, 2014

Minna Choi and Magik*Magik Orchestra delivered on the promise of an uplifting, collaborative evening Friday with three breathtaking sets of emotive music. A long list of participating acts were featured in ten to twenty minute segments, offering originals and covers that fit into the concert gala’s theme, “When We Where Young”.

The Pacific Boychoir were on stage for the full performance, adding angelic harmony and a consistent reminder that the show’s proceeds were going to Magik-For-Kids, an organization that encourages children and adults alike to join an orchestra. An oversized frame surrounded the young choir and the stars of the evening, Magik*Magik Orchestra. The ensemble’s elegant leader Minna Choi orchestrated the proceedings throughout while playing lead piano on occasion, and John Vanderslice acted as a superb master of ceremonies.

Zoe-Keating

Zoe Keating was the first featured player, starting the evening with Tears For Fears’ “Mad World”. Maestro Michael Morgon took the reigns for this section with a god-like spotlight haloing him. Another selection, “In C”, set a transcendent mood that never left.

The Dodos frontman Meric Long was next in the lead. “Black Night” was a suitable choice with the song’s “control yourself” center-point and adolescent angst. “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys included the Pacific Boychoir, adding a bit of heart-tugging depth. The choir stayed on stage all night but participated in about half the songs. As Minna Choi pointed out, “These are some of the most well-behaved people I’ve worked with.”

John Vanderslice took the stage with the phrase “Welcome to Minna’s world.” He played “Mulholland Drive” and “Forrest Knolls” amongst other songs, and admitted that “there is a terror for an indie rock band to work with Magik*Magik Orchestra, we’re all talking about it offstage.” He also complemented the Pacific Boychoir, saying “They know more about theory at 10 years old than I do now.”

How-To-Dress-Well

How To Dress Well started the second act with his moody, snap-glitch R&B song “Cold Nights”, then moved onto the haunting “Suicide Dream 1”. Most will remember the set for his Janet Jackson cover, “Again”. Later in the set Vanderslice commented that “Tom Krell is a philosophy professor”, which was followed be an audible “Don’t embarrass me!” offstage from Krell.

Mina Choi then took the mic to say Magik*Magik Orchestra has wanted to do something like this for a long time but she “never had the guts to pull the trigger. It’s really a celebration of the Bay Area and local bands from Oakland and San Francisco, including Geographer.”

Geographer played a stripped down “Verona” without the woodblock clicks, until the final notes of the song. Neil Young’s “Helpless” got the cover treatment successfully with help from the Pacific Boychoir.

John Vanderslice introduced Diana Gameros, a Mexican-born San Franciscan that displayed remarkable talent. Her two songs made her segment feel entirely too brief — her Latin indie-rock was a pleasant change of pace, leaving the crowd wanting more. Her voice and smile deserves more attention, including from us.

Rogue Wave ended a stacked second act with “Your Eyes” and “Sight Lines” from their catalogue, and a fun cover from Buddy Holly, “Everyday”. Also Zach Rogue dismissed a prior charge from John Vanderslice that he had offered a uber-strong beverage to the master of ceremonies.

Two-Gallants

Two Gallants spent the entirety of their segment with an immersive, long slow-burner. The odyssey of a song surely was the longest single piece of the night.

The Lonely Forest’s lead singer John Van Deusen gave a simple, stunning performance. “Be Everything” from the Lonely Forest and “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel ended up being two of the most memorable movements.

Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers anchored the evening with their laid back California Soul, including the scorning ditty “Little Too Late”.

Nicki-Bluhm-&-Minna-Choi