Making the pilgrimage to High Sierra


By Jenn Sheridan · 



July 2-5 | Quincy
Singe-day $85.50-$95.50 | Passes $195.50-$260.60


Northern California music lovers have been making the pilgrimage to High Sierra Music Festival every July since 1991. Since the first incarnation at Leland Meadows near Pinecrest, the festival has drawn a tight-knit community of musicians and fans who return each year to celebrate under the stars.

“The integrity, spirit and vibe of the festival has evolved but it still retains this magical quality that’s helped create an incredible community,” said Rebecca Sparks, who has produced the festival since its early years.

Consider the band ALO who enjoyed its first visit to High Sierra Music festival as part of the volunteer crew checking tickets at the gate. Today, they hold a decade of performances at the festival under their belt with plans to return this year.

The String Cheese Incident headlines the festival with four sets over two days and the lineup includes a balanced mix of new faces and old favorites including musicians such as Micheal McNevin, Living Daylight, Garage Mahal and The Slip, who played the first High Sierra Music Festival.

“It’s like a Northern California homecoming,” said Brad Barr.

A veteran of the High Sierra Music Festival, Barr plays the guitar with The Slip along with his brother Andrew and Marc Friedman. The group is the only band to play 13 consecutive years at High Sierra.

An interesting thing that happens when you have a community of musicians that return to the same environment year after year is a new collaboration of ideas and the creation of new projects. In addition to great shows on the main stage, many groups host impromptu jam sessions and invite guest musicians to their sets. Such is the birth of Surprise Me Mr. Davis, collaboration of The Slip and singer-songwriter Nathan Moore of ThaMuseMeant.

“We met Nathan in the early 2000s,” said Barr.

A request to hear Moore sing with The Slip led to the groups collaborating on a self-titled album and returning to play at High Sierra Music Festival every year since their formation. The group is known to surprise fans with late-night performances in Camp Harry.

Barr also returns this year with a third project, the Barr Brothers, which combines Brad and Andrew Bar with harp player Sarah Page and bass and keyboardist Andres Vial.

“It’s strange to go with a veteran band on one hand, but with a totally new bad on the other hand,” said Barr. However, years at the festival have given Barr a great perspective on the growth and change over time, he says.

“I think it has evolved from more jam music to a new appreciation for recorded songs – more pop and indie rock bands,” said Barr. “Fifteen years ago it was bands like The String Cheese Incident and Wide Spread Panic. More recently we’re seeing bands like My Morning Jacket. The fans still go all out to entertain and freak you out.”


Family friendly experience
As the High Sierra Music Festival grows and changes, so do the people. Recognizing that today’s audiences include a more mature crowd, festival organizers work to create a family friendly experience that ensures that long-time fans that now have families can still enjoy the same festival.

The festival includes a family friendly camping area and kid-friendly art projects, parades and games. Musicians also play special performances for the kids. During the evenings, a group of educators and child-care professionals called The Rockin’ Nannies host a nightly sleep over where kids can enjoy crafts and movies while mom and dad dance the night away.

“We’re looking forward to a big show,” said Sparks.

With a lineup that includes Umphrey’s McGee, The John Butler Trio and Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers along with Nahko and Medicine for the People, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and The California Honeydrops, they’re bound to deliver.


For more information or to purchase tickets, visit