High Sierra Festival Punctuated by New Mike Gordon Songs and TAB Covers

July 6, 2017

Stuart Levine

This past Fourth of July weekend, as the nation celebrated its 241st birthday, High Sierra Music Festival gave thousands of music lovers four days of sonic fireworks. Taking place in the hills of Quincy, California, the 2017 High Sierra lineup featured headliners Trey Anastasio Band, Ween, STS9 and Gov’t Mule, as well as countless jam staples like Mike Gordon, Hard Working Americans and The Travelin’ McCourys.

Thursday afternoon, High Sierra started strong with New Orleans funk-soul outfit Tank and The Bangas. The unanimous winners of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, Tank and The Bangas have been championed by Tiny Desk Contest judge (and fellow High Sierra performer) Trey Anastasio. Even in the early afternoon hours, Tank & The Bangas got the Vaudeville Tent moving with hard-hitting grooves and relentless energy, leading everyone into a weekend of great weather and great music.

ALO’s Dan Lebowitz made his way around the festival all weekend, sitting in with Fruition and later leading a full recreation of the Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station record. Lebowitz was also featured in Friday night’s “Heavy Metal Hoedown” where he (along with Eric McFadden and Bo Carper) gave tracks like Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” the bluegrass treatment.

Featured on the main stage, Mike Gordon debuted a slew of new music Friday night, setting the Phish webiverse ablaze with excitement. With only one other Mike Gordon solo show scheduled before Phish’s Baker’s Dozen, Gordon and his comrades went full throttle at High Sierra, playing four new tracks during their single, 11-song set. Three of the new songs were premiered back-to-back (“Whirlwind,” “Marissa,” “Up and Down”) before the band segued into the traditional Phish cover of The Talking Heads’ “Cities.” At present, new material seems to be Gordo’s main focus as he ended his performance with another new number called “Victim 3D.” You can see the full Mike Gordon box score here.

Ween took the stage after Mike Gordon, and opened with a rocking “Touch My Tooter.” The band’s lengthy 20+ song set spanned their entire career and featured live staples like “Buckingham Green” as well as rarities like “How High Can You Fly?” before ending with “The Mollusk.”

On Saturday night Trey Anastasio Band made their High Sierra debut, performing two sets on the main stage. Set one kicked off with TAB original “Mozambique” into Phish’s “Gotta Jibboo.” Later, “Cayman Review” was transitioned into a cover of Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel,” before treating Phish die-hards to a set-ending “Sand.” Set two featured more covers, including “Delta Lady” by Leon Russell, “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man and TAB favorite “Clint Eastwood.” Finally, Anastasio and company encored with an a capella version of the traditional Irish song “The Parting Glass” before closing with “Push On Til’ The Day.”

Gov’t Mule closed out the festival Sunday night with a pensive single-set performance. After an emotional “Soulshine,” Eric McFadden joined Warren Haynes on “Dreams” and stuck around for an epic rendition of “Whipping Post,” with the two guitarists swapping solos well into the night. With “Whipping Post,” High Sierra ended on a triumphant note while still tipping its cap to the memory of Gregg Allman. A progressive jam festival for the 21st century, High Sierra gave music fans (particularly Phish fans) plenty to do and see over its four day span.

See more photos from the weekend here.

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