Justin Halgren / Courtesy of the High SierraMusic Festival

There will be lots of acts on multiple stages at the High Sierra Music Festival starting Thursday, but also respites from the music such as yoga.

Music lovers descend on Quincy for High Sierra festival

Published: Thursday, Jun. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 10TICKET
Last Modified: Friday, Jun. 28, 2013 - 6:39 am

There's a certain time of year, as the temperature climbs above 100 degrees and the American Valley is lush, when the population of the small Plumas County town of Quincy triples.

The 5,000-person community stretches, inflates and expands to accommodate the 10,000 attendees of the High Sierra Music Festival.

"It's commendable to see how the community has come to embrace this event," said Roxanne Valladao, director of Plumas Arts, the county's art agency.

Travelers strap camping equipment to the roofs of their cars, cram provisions into trunks and make the pilgrimage for the Fourth of July weekend, driving hours to the tiny town-turned-tent-city.

High Sierra's 23th incarnation will host more than 50 bands. Primetime performers Robert Plant, Primus and Thievery Corporation promise to draw large crowds, but the festival has a reputation for attracting lesser-known acts that go on to reach popular status (Ani DiFranco, Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Galactic, for example) or return to the festival for multiple years.

Casey Lowdermilk, marketing director for the festival, named Lord Huron and the David Mayfield Parade as smaller acts that are likely to steal this year's show.

Ben Schneider, founding member of Lord Huron whose birthday happens to fall on July 6, said he immediately knew he wanted to play High Sierra when he received the offer.

The Los Angeles indie folk band with Michigan roots is no stranger to this year's festival scene, having played weekends at Coachella and at Snowmass Mammoth Fest in Colorado.

"I think (High Sierra) will be a bit smaller than other festivals we've played this summer, but that sounds good for me," Schneider said. "Everybody says it has positive, laid-back vibes. That's what we're looking for – a relaxing, laid-back week of music and friends."

Schneider said people are surprised at the energy in a Lord Huron show. The band makes an effort to give audiences a separate experience from listening to the recorded material. The result is "more visceral, more communal," he said.

"People are pumped up for a few days, and you can feel that energy coming off of them," he said.

David Mayfield and his band, the David Mayfield Parade, also plan to crank up the excitement, employing theatrical, visual and comedic elements in each set.

"Expect the unexpected, because we're definitely not the band that just stands there and plays songs," Mayfield said. "There's all manners of weirdness dispersed in the sincere, original music. People should be open to something they've never seen before."

Mayfield has performed with the Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons and the Black Keys, and his style covers bluegrass, rock and Americana. The David Mayfield Parade will play three sets Saturday and Sunday; another set, on Saturday, will see Mayfield play with three other artists in a Troubadour Session, in which the musicians take turns playing and talking about music.

"I come from a bluegrass family," Mayfield said. "I grew up walking around, grabbing a guitar and playing with people. I want to do some of that, probably early in the festival, because I know I'll want to sleep after that fourth performance."

Aside from the music, the festival boasts activities and amenities such as a nanny service, a craft fair, short-film screenings, parades, food vendors and Grizzly Radio, a festival community station that broadcasts live music from the stages.

Lowdermilk said that last year was the first time High Sierra sold out in its more than 20-year history, and organizers hope for similar attendance this year.

In addition to about 100 paid staff members working in the two weeks around the festival dates, the weekend relies on "a complete army of volunteers" to carry out small tasks and give attention to details.

"We have a pretty amazing, well-oiled machine for a festival staff," Lowdermilk said.

Valladao said the festival weekend has a huge economic impact on Quincy, and is one of the most profitable for several of the town's stores.

Revivalists eager to bring New Orleans flavor

Sandwiched in the middle of the High Sierra Music Festival lineup, the Revivalists split the list of heavy hitters and new-to-tour artists with a buzz of Southern-rock charm.

The New Orleans-based band formed in 2007 but only last year played its first California show.

"People in the West really appreciate New Orleans music, and we've been accepted warmly," said Andrew Campanelli, the band's drummer.

With distinct rhythms and soulful lyricism and instrumentation, the music has a jam band sound with a rock band attitude. Campanelli, a Virginia native, said New Orleans brought together and inspired the band members, who hail from Texas, New York and Oklahoma.

He noted the folk and Americana music scene in Northern California and its connection with the South: "The freedom and forward thinking associated with New Orleans and Louisiana in general is kind of like the Wild West."

More than 250 people have "added" the band on the High Sierra website, making a tentative promise to see it perform. It's a modest number compared with major headliners, but Campanelli guaranteed an energetic and dynamic performance.

"From the very beginning, we've prioritized making the live experience something you don't just see once and say 'OK, I saw that,' " he said. "We have the ability to cater the set and we're going to rock it the whole time."

The Revivalists perform at High Sierra at 3:15 p.m. Thursday on the Big Meadow stage and at 3:15 p.m. July 5 on the Vaudeville stage.


When: Thursday-July 7

Where: Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds, Quincy

Tickets: $85 to $205 for one to four-day passes

Information: (510) 595-1115; www.highsierramusic.com

Call The Bee's Morgan Searles, (916) 321-1102. Follow her in Twitter @morgansearles.

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