Tag Archives: New Mastersounds

Purple Hatters Ball Music Festival – Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL

Each day, whether we want it to or not, life has something to teach us. The lesson plan for last weekend”s Purple Hatters Ball music festival was one of responsibility to each other, the dangers of the abuse of power and what we can all do together when motivated by love. Beyond the traditional combination of music, mirth and good natured mayhem the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park hosted more than the festival, it hosted the spirit and legacy of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman. Hoffman, a 23 year old college graduate, chose to work as an undercover informant for the Tallahassee police department in hopes of receiving lenient treatment on a narcotics arrest. Through a series of easily avoidable mistakes, she was murdered in the course of a botched sting operation. Though Rachel”s life may have been tragically cut short in a senseless instance of violence while working under the auspices of Florida police, her death served as an impetus for a positive legacy to be born.

Mourning the loss of a daughter and friend, parents Margie Weiss and Irv Hoffman and Rachel”s friends channeled their fury into trying to make sure no other families experienced the same pain they were going through dealing with burying a child. Irv contacted state senator Mike Fasano, and introduced and promoted the measure that would come to be known, appropriately, as “Rachel”s Law.” Simply put, the new law requires officers to receive training in working with informants and protects the informant by making it mandatory that they not only be informed that their sentences may, in fact not be reduced as well as allow said informants to speak with their lawyers prior to working with police. Added to this, the civil suit was recently settled and the Tallahassee Police were forced to admit, financially at least, that they were wrong. These victories don”t bring back Rachel, or truly make up for the hole left in the lives of her friends and loved ones, certainly, but do ensure that her legacy becomes a positive change for society itself.

The departed Ms. Hoffman was a fixture in the Florida concert scene, and regular visitor to Spirit of Suwannee Music Park and the owners and promoters who host and throw the nearly dozen major events yearly decided that they needed to honor the loss of one of their own, and so the Purple Hatters Ball was born. A non profit charity has been founded in her name, The Rachel Morningstar Foundation and a festival was born to honor her with the bands and music she loved in life. Many of the regional bands she loved, such as Dubconscious and the rollicking Catfish Alliance shared the stages with major acts like England”s The New Mastersounds and the funk enclave Lettuce. The park itself is a favorite destination of music aficionados and lovers of the great outdoors and the staff of regulars who keep the production running smoothly were more than happy to pitch in and make this a weekend not only to remember but to inspire as well. An art gallery displayed works like those Hoffman herself enjoyed, vendors plied their trade selling beautiful hand made and in some cases wearable objects of art, and food that would do well on the finest of restaurants tables was prepared for the hungry attendees.

Suwannee”s two permanent stages were joined by a third stage erected in front of the park”s signature lake, surrounded on all sides by the forest of Spanish moss-dappled Cyprus trees. The porch stage had a fun mixture of music throughout the weekend, from DJ acts like Sir Charles, jamtronica acts like Greenhouse Lounge and Chroma, while the Crunchay Lake Stage had a strong focus on Dj and electronica acts like T3AM, S.P.O.R.E. and Trillucination, with Dj”s Bobby Newport, Kevin Velarde and Ellofunk kept the discs spinning and more traditional acts like Shoes and Laces and the Savi Fernandez Band rocked the appreciative crowds into a frenzy. The beloved amphitheater are, with it”s signature terraced rings of hammock hung trees and sun dappled was host to some of the most impressive performances of the weekend, from the aforementioned headliners to a couple of inspiring one off sets.

On Friday, the brit flavored band The New Mastersounds played their brand of intricate, energetic funk to a appreciative audience. With sit ins ranging from the sublime, soaring drop steel guitarist and artist at large Roosevelt Collier and a stunningly brazen cover of “Jungle Boogie” featuring Catfish Alliance”s hype man/force of nature Big E-A.K.A. the Sexual Manatee complementing their deep catalog of tight originals, their set capped off a fun first day of music and dancing in the sun and under the stars. Drummer Simon Allen amused the crowd with his patter and stunned them directly after with a precision that was awe inspiring on his kit, while organist Joe Tatton hypnotized the crowd with his melodic drones and snapped them awake with his rollicking flourishes.

Saturday night saw headliner Lettuce lay down a deeply orchestral approach to the funk aesthetic, with guitarist Eric Krasno and Adam Smirnoff trading licks back and forth as seamlessly as has been done on a stage, both somehow managing to shine as individuals and blend perfectly as a unit at the same time. Soulful singer Nigel Hall played organ counterpoint to Alan Ivans ivory work on the opposite side of the stage, whil Adam Dietch kept the beats on the money and infectious to any feet not already moving. The Shady Horns provided a pop and snap to each sting and refrain, while bass madman Jesus Coomes prowled the stage, each step and motion of his body and extension of the thumping rhythm he was laying down. After such and earth shattering close to the night, it was appropriate that we began the next morning with a recharge of the mind and the body with the very special sunday morning church inspired gospel set featuring Nigel Hall and Roosevelt Collier, who has always brought a touch of the holy to his music, both in his solo work and his regular gig with The Lee Boys. Joining them was a hodge podge of band mates and guests from the rest of the fest, such as at one point or another most of Lettuce and Mastersounds bassist Pete Shand, though Shand gave his spot up to the appropriately named Jesus to finish off the gospel showcase.

Before the gospel supergroup took a well deserved encore, Margie Weiss and promoter Paul Levine took the stage for an emotional Mothers Day tribute to Rachel. Distributing a collection of butterflies for release, Weiss made a moving speech to the early risers about her feelings on the passing of time, and the act of keeping her love alive for her daughter and her spirit. Weiss was wearing, as she had not just all weekend but at each of the previous festivals and at many, many events honoring her daughter the trademark wide brimmed, giant fuzzy purple hat for which the festival was named. Her words barely finished, promoter Levine took the opportunity to dedicate the moment to a few other losses, such as that of his own mother, the recent passing of Smirnoff”s mother and others. He spoke of keeping their love alive, and using this examples of friendship to strengthen us in the dark times with eyes welling with tears, moving the crowd into a mixture of silent reverence and joyful affirmation before those gathered onstage released the gathered monarch butterflies back into the world, bring a flutter of color and dash of hope to the blue skies surrounding all. Seeming to find their troubles released along with the butterflies, Weiss and Levine exited the stage arm-in-arm, mission accomplished.

New Mastersounds guitarist Eddie Roberts has been exploring America and making new music along the way. A project started out of his temporary residency in San Francisco, Eddie Roberts West Coast Sounds featured not only a stunning display of intense guitar picking from Roberts but also an amazing dedication to fashion, as he and his suit braved the blazing sun in a open defiance of the heat. A consummate professional, he led the band through a dozen tunes that varied in tempo but not quality. As the music moved to the indoors for a seven hour dance party inside the cavernous onsite Music Hall, a gesture occured that summed up not only the spirit of the weekend, but the park itself. A craw-fish boil, a bayou tradition of feasting on the shellfish, boiled alongside potatoes, corn and andouie sausage was brought in to celebrate a graduation and feed the artists and staff who made this amazing display of caring possible. Upon realizing that there was more food than could possibly be consumed by the crowd backstage, Paul Levine gathered up a table, the requisite newspaper and a large amount of the food and drove to the center of the park with the bounty, and set it out for any and all to consume. Hungry music fans swarmed in, and enjoyed the fellowship of the boil. Even the food vendors, rather than be offended at the competition to their wares, left their booths and partook in the spread.

The opportunities to give, to share, and to brighten the lives of others are available to us all each and every minute of every day. Even if you don”t have a treasure trove of succulent food to present to a hungry crowd, you can still crack a joke, hold a door and find a way to simply help someone and make their journeys shorter, easier and more enjoyable. In her life Rachel Hoffman, from all reports by friends and family alike, spread smiles and happiness wherever she went and her example in life has resonated on long after her death. It should be the greatest desire of all who live to leave the world a better place, and to shine a light for others to follow and magnify through good deeds of their own. Rachel Morningstar Hoffman managed to do not only that, but inspired others to take steps to prevent her fate from befalling any others. Though she left the world in pain, the light of her life has only grown in the years she”s been gone… a true star showing us the way to a better morning for all.

The Big Easy comes to Jersey for Crawfish Fest


Michael Arnone’s 22nd Annual Crawfish Festival
Sussex County Fairgrounds
Augusta, NJ
June 3-5, 2011


The beautiful tree lined Sussex County Fair Grounds was the site for the 22nd Annual Michael Arnone’s Crawfish Fest which is held during the first weekend in June each year in the scenic northwest corner of New Jersey. For three days, this corner of the northeast becomes home to the scrumptious flavors of New Orleans’ music, food and atmosphere; set up to recharge Big Easy expatriates as well as spread the good word of one of America’s best party places.

There are two unique ways to experience the festival, either as a Saturday/Sunday single ticket day trip, or as a Friday through Sunday camping trip. The camping is a far cry from standardly difficult festival fare. In fact, it is easy. You can park at your campsite or hook up an RV, and there are nearby showers.

Arnone goes for an extra measured benefit for those willing to camp and be a part of the festival for the whole weekend by setting up nighttime shows that are just for the campers. This year he brought in some heavy New Orleans hitters for nighttime fun, including George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners and Bonerama.


The Headliners

The Radiators

web_067.jpgThe Radiators have played this festival several times, but when they were booked for this year, it wasn’t immediately known that this show would be the fifth to last gig of the beloved outfit’s illustrious 33 year career. It was well known by Saturday however, and both the band  and crowd were ready for a decidedly special time. The band’s love for one another and for their fans was immediately recognizable.

The show was emotionally charged right out of the gate, but really exploded when the Rads started to invite some long time friends up on stage with them, the first being the ferocious Cajun blues guitar player, Tab Benoit.

Tab sat in for two songs, trading solos with Rads guitarists Dave Malone and Camille Baudoin and raising the stakes of an already tenacious set. Following Tab was Mark Mullins of Bonerama, then his two trombone playing band mates, Craig Klein and Greg Hicks. After which, all the guests joined the Radiators on stage for a high powered encore, leaving the crowd wishing this would never end and glad that they were there for this little piece of history.


George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners

web_012.jpgGeorge Porter Jr. is musical royalty in the world of funk, and the crowd for the afterhours set was packed with his devotees. The band was in a good mood, joking with each other and their fans. The set was full of tasty surprises like the opening tune, “6V6 LA,” a beautiful old Meters tune written by Leo Nocentelli.

Another fun moment came when long time Runnin’ Pardner’s guitarist, Brint Anderson, sat down and played two solo songs with a slide on his dobro. Brint’s playing was soulful and gave an interesting break in a night of hard driving funk.

Slick jazz saxophonist Louis Fouche was subbing for regular Runnin’ Pardner, Khris Royal. Louis dropped searing solos on top of the Runnin’ Pardners funky grooves at a moment’s notice and upon nod command from Porter; lighting up the crowd, which included Louis’ beaming dad who was standing up front… tall and proud.

Porter’s enthusiasm is as contagious as his playing is brilliant; crafted from a lifetime of playing at the epicenter of funk. His band is filled with great players like the young drummer, Terrence Houston.

Terrence is a very active player but somehow doesn’t seem to ever overplay. His time and groove are that of a guy who has way more experience and he infuses the music with excitement. Michael Lemmler has played keyboards with George for nearly two decades and can flat out burn when it is called for.

George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners simply put, are tail waggin’ funk; and the Crawfish crowd gobbled it up.


The New Mastersounds with Art Neville

Hailing from Leeds, England, The New Mastersounds have literally become the equivalent to the the British invasion…of funk at least. Putting a wrap on their American tour by headlining Crawfish Fest, they brought one of funk’s founding father with them, Art “Poppa Funk” Neville.

web_001.jpgThere are many people in the roll call who are responsible for early funk development, but as a leader of the Meters and the Neville Brothers, Art’s influence is hard to overstate. The New Mastersounds were – as they always are – ever mindful and respectful of that influence and were as excited as kids on Christmas morning for the chance to once again share the stage with one of their heroes.

The New Mastersounds started out in the mid 1990’s playing Meters tunes and doing some writing of their own. They went to school on the lessons taught by bands like the Meters and Booker T and the MG’s, where melody is king. Their songs are tasty and memorable; their take on the style is fresh, energetic and enthusiastic.

The set started with fan favorites, “Hole In The Bag,” “3 On The B” and “Zambezi.” While The New Mastersounds tore through their songs, Art sat at the back of the stage with a huge smile on his face, screaming “Yeah” after Eddie Roberts’ guitar solos and Joe Tatton’s keyboard solos. It was apparent that Art was as big a fan as the screaming people out front.

The show alternated between the band’s super funky grooves and the between-song-dry-wit of long time friends Roberts and drummer Simon Allen. They are smart and funny, adding another element to the show.

Finally, Eddie Roberts told a story of how he was given a cassette tape of the Meters when he and Simon started playing together and how that “really changed their lives.” With that, they brought Art up to play with them and the show took on a slightly different feel; becoming more of an old school grinding kind of groove as the band played classic Meters songs like “Funky Miracle,” “Live Wire,” “9 ‘til 5” and then the Meters hits “Look-ka Py Py” and Cissy Strut.” The band then brought Joe Tatton back on stage to join them as they attacked “Here Comes the Meter Man” and Art’s vocally led “It Ain’t No Use.”




Tin Men

Billing themselves as New Orleans premier washboard, sousaphone and guitar trio, the Tin Men crushed the Crawfish Fest faithful with two sets, a Friday night campers only set and the opening set on Saturday morning. The band features three amazing musicians in percussion and vocalist Charles “Washboard Chaz” Leary, former Bonerama tuba player Matt Perrine and Alex McMurray on guitar and vocals.

web_078_1.jpgThis band wove together a tapestry of great song writing, great playing and hysterical cover song versions that left some of the loudest ovations of the weekend in their wake. Their versions of The Who’s My Generation, The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades – all played on washboard, sousaphone and a resonator guitar – were sublime.


Carolyn Wonderland

Carolyn Wonderland wowed the crowd at her campers only set with vocals strong enough to be akin to Janis Joplin spliced with great Texas blues guitar, lap steel and even occasional trumpet play. She played with soul and a lack of pretension. She was grateful for the small crowd that was there saying “Thanks everybody for taking a chance on me, I know you probably don’t know who I am.” It is likely they won’t forget though, as the line to buy her albums was long.



Bonerama dropped their usual brilliant set of trombone driven funk/rock/New Orleans gumbo to a packed night time crowd for a solid two and a half hours. The set was highlighted with sit-ins by Marc Paradis (Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes) and Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone on harmonica.

Touring monsters, Bonerama’s fan base has steadily grown as they play for fewer and fewer uninitiated folks. They delivered exactly what was promised on Saturday night, the perfect ending to the day’s abundance of musical riches.


Tab Benoit

Tab Benoit is a multi talented performer who knows how to read a crowd and give exactly what is expected. He played a beautifully beaten to death Fender Telecaster as he brushed against a multitude of blues styles from slow burns like “Dirty Dishes” to high powered songs like “Night Train.” He did a masterful job as MC, telling funny stories and drawing people in. His friend Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone sat in with him, playing blues harp and accordion. It was a strong set in a day filled with strong sets.


Memorable moment


web_131.jpgAs Cowboy Mouth closed out their set with their biggest hit, “Jenny Says,” drummer and lead singer Fred LeBlanc started to invite kids that were close to the front up on stage to play drums with him. Five kids were lifted up onto the stage, given drum sticks and the chance of a lifetime, to play drums at the peak of a huge rock-n-roll show. The crowd was inspired, the kids were psyched and when they finally got to join in, the fairgrounds exploded. You couldn’t find someone that wasn’t smiling. Simply put, it was a beautiful scene.


The Setting


There was plenty to keep people entertained at this fest. Three stages that kept music rolling all day, including a dance hall stage that featured Cajun and zydeco, as well as daily dance lessons.

The food was a great combination of Louisiana fare like boiled crawfish, chicken/sausage jambalaya, grilled alligator sausage, crawfish etouffee and beignets.




The weather was perfect and the talent level was high. Version 23 of this festival is looking like June 1-3, 2012. Missing it would be a mistake.


Click the thumbnails to view more photos from the fest by Bob Adamek

High Sierra back in fine form

High Sierra Music Festival

Quincy, California

July 5-8, 2007


The High Sierra Music Festival has always been about more than just music.

At its best it is about magic. 

In the summer of 2007 that magic that was back in full force.

Thanks to the hard work and cooperative efforts of festival organizers and the city of Quincy, California, the Plumas County Sheriff's Office was not nvited to this year's festivities.  Instead, sympathetic community volunteers walked the festival grounds as a peace keeping force.  This allowed festival goers to freak freely and let the magic flow.

High Sierra was again the gem that all festivals should aspire to being.  By focusing on the hottest mid-level and up-and-coming acts on the circuit, this four day music festival draws true music lovers to revel in sound and each other's company for a long and lovely weekend.

If "the heat" had been held at bay this year, the heat was not.  As the fest opened Thursday temperatures climbed well past 100 degrees as campers settled in and built as many shade structures as they could. 

The weather proved no impediment to the fun, however, as Vince Herman and Great American Taxi  kicked off the music on the main stage, while Los Angeles' Shannon Moore entertained the Shady Grove stage with her hook-laden rock sounds, 

The March Fourth Marching Band combined burlesque and acrobatics with their set, Salvadore Santana (Carlos' son) fused world rhythms, rock and hip hop, Garaj Mahal turned into a quintet with the addition of bassist Kai Eckhardt's extremely talented pre-teen son on drums for their complex fusion jazz, and That One Guy worked his unique instrument of pipes, reeds and loops.

Sol Jibe proved itself one of the hardest working and most delightful new finds at the fest by lending it's world beats and Latin rhythms to two different stages during the course of the day, winning new fans every time it played.  The Waybacks offered their blend of bluegrass, rock and country sounds, Hot Buttered Rum tore it up in an acoustic way, while Zilla offered more electronic grooves.  As Galactic's hard New Orleans funk closed out the main stage the heat had not yet yielded, lending a Southern feel (minus the humidity) to the proceedings.

When the outdoor stages were closed for the night at 11 the heat finally let up.  Things may have eased up on the bodies of all the festival goers, but the music geared up for round two of day one. 

Anders Osborne kept the New Orleans vibe going in the Funk N Jam House with String Cheese Incident's Kyle Hollingsworth on keys and Galactic's Robert Mecurio on bass before Soulive held funky court there. 

String Cheese Incident's Michael Kang brought his electric mandolin to the African funk sounds of Chris Berry and Panjea in the Tulsa Scott Room before Kan'Nal rocked the psychedelic tribal groove there. 

But it was the Yonder Mountain String Band that was still rockin' the Music Hall with it extremely energetic newgrass as the first light of dawn cracked the sky at five A.M.  If there were those that were tempted to leave earlier, that temptation ended when Vince Herman came out and joined the band for "Cuckoo's Nest > Jack London" during the second set, including an extended, improvised romp with lyrics about what a dream High Sierra is.


all photos by Susan Weiand 





Read on for Friday


While it was warm again as day two began, temperatures would not again reach the brutal highs of that first day, providing some relief.  Some festivarians chose to hit the nearby swimming hole, while others opted for cold showers even though hot ones were available.  Many others began cooking bacon, which seems to have become the breakfast of choice for serious festival goers.  The combination of stomach-settling grease, water-retaining salt and  energy-providing protein in a candy-meets-meat form was almost as popular as coffee and Bloody Marys for breakfast in camps throughout the fairgrounds.

This morning was when the magic became palpable.  Start wondering where a friend was and they would appear.  Realize you needed something and it would be offered before you spoke.  Think you even wanted something and it too would manifest.  "Careful what you wish for" became a running joke but the reminder seemed unnecessary because the positive vibe was everywhere.

Friday also featured many of the acts of day one on different stages at different times, providing opportunities to see bands missed when the inevitable tough choices among High Sierra's four stages and playshop room all operate simultaneously.  Yonder rocked the mainstage just as they did during their evening set.  The Waybacks, Anders Osborne (again with Kyle Hollingworth), Soulive and Kan'Nal all did it again in the broad daylight.

New acts were also showing up to join the fun.  Brett Dennen was joined by members of ALO in an inspired Big Meadow stage set of his thoughtful, tender and utterly catchy songs.  Xavier Rudd proved himself equal parts Ben Harper, Michael Franti, Keller Williams and tribal rocker as he wailed away on electric dobro and three different didgeridoos; if there is one word that characterizes his music it might be "love." 

The Devil Makes Three is an old time string band on steroids, while the Drive-By Truckers rocked the house in a whiskey-soaked set to close out the mainstage in Southern style again.

The annual Camp Happiness cocktail party earlier in the day was set to feature the New Mastersounds at 4:20.  Their drums were still in transit as the party began.  No worries.  Vince Herman, the very spirit of the festival, had stopped by.  He picked up his guitar (after another rollicking set with Great American Taxi on the Shady Grove stage) had a mic taped to a keyboard, and proceeded to hold court with two members of Eddie & The Roughnecks on bass and keys and Sam Johnston (Box Set) on harmonica for over an hour of unalduterated joyuntil the New Mastersounds were able to take over.

After all that sonic goodness, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk still managed to steal the best act of the day award with a blistering set of funk the way funk is supposed to be played — loud and dirty.  Highlights included an Al Green tribute, A Rolling Stones cover, and the theme song from The Sopranos.  Two basses, a kick drum that could be felt more than heard and some serious shredding from the guitar of Ian Neville had folks dancing for hours and talking for days.

Late night again offered something for everyone as SCI drummer Michael Travis' project Zilla and DJ extraordinaire Bassnectar provided electronica,  The Waybacks and Hot Buttered Rum served up the grass, while The Phix's Phish tribute opened for Garaj Mahal's fusion in another room.




Read on for Saturday


Saturday began with temperatures still high but since they weren't as hot as day one, and people began to adapt, it was becoming more bearable. Some of Austin's finest took over during this day, including Guy Forsyth's Tom Waits inspired madness, Patrice Pike's conscious rock, and perhaps most importantly, Carolyn Wonderland

Wonderland is equal parts Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  She clearly had the single best, most powerful voice at the festival and she can shred on the slide guitar.  All while remaining conscious of what truly matters and humble too.  Why Carolyn Wonderland is not a huge star is and shall remain a mystery.  Her Vaudeville Tent set brought down the house.

Other inspired sets were turned in by ukelele wizard Jake Shimabukuro, the rollicking country of the Mother Truckers,  Nickle Creek's Chris Thile's
solo project How To Grow A Band (featuring Greg Garrison and Noam Pikelny of Leftover Salmon), the African sounds of Asheville, North Carolina's
Toubab Krewe, the jazz of Bobby Previte's Coalition of the Willing, the crazy rock of Les Claypool and the old school bluegrass of Del McCoury.  The Ryan Montbleau Band won many fans for its sweet rock on their first trip to the far west.

Again it was the closing act of the Vaudeville Tent in the midnight hour that stole the show for many, however.  Something happened when JJ Grey & Mofro took the stage that mere talent alone can not account for.  It was that old High Sierra magic that infected that Blackwater swamp rock this night and many jaws were set agape by the Jacksonville, Florida unit's new lineup featuring a horn section.

Before one could fully digest what had transpired, however, the late night fun began indoors.  The funksters headed over to see the Meters inspired sounds of The New Mastersounds (with Papa Mali opening), those seeking heady trancefusion headed over to see the Disco Biscuits, while the largest crowd gathered to see the reunion of Leftover Salmon.

The sold out hall was first treated to Darol Anger's new supergroup, Strings for Industry.  Anger is a true virtuoso on the fiddle, but when he gathered his new Portland, Oregon based unit featuring Tony Furtado on guitar and banjo, Scott Law on electric guitar, Tye North (formerly of Leftover Salmon) on bass and monster drummer Carlton Jackson the magic was flowing again. 

But it was the Leftover Salmon reunion that drew the crowd.  Playing their first gig as a full band since they went on hiatus at the end of 2004 (a gig two weeks before at Telluride was without keyboardist Bill McKay), it was like they never left the road.  The band was on fire from the first notes and the crowd responded in kind.  Drew Emmitt is a spectacular player and singer, and Vince Herman is a force of nature, but something happens when the two of them are on stage together that is far greater than the sum of the parts. 

As if they could not get enough of playing together, the group kept it up until five thirty in the morning, going past the crack of dawn to dawn itself.  As the last notes of "River's Rising" greeted th new day everyone wondered how Leftover Salmon could possibly top that on Sunday, the final day of the festival.

Vince Herman was later seen playing a morning game of kickball with fans rather than heading to bed.  Your reporter managed to catch only two hours
of sleep after the Salmon set, but that is not the reason the majority of things he saw the last day were on the mainstage.




Read on for Sunday


For years now Maria Kelly has handled all the MC duties for the Grandstand Stage, but this year she could not be there. I was among the radio personalities given the honor to announce the acts there on Sunday.  It was an honor and a real joy to do so.  I did manage to catch the first hour of the Gospel Show on the Big Meadow stage while eating breakfast that morning, however, and what a way to start the day.  Carolyn Wonderland, Patrice Pike, Papa Mali, Shannon Moore, Guy Forsyth and others really know how to start a Sunday morning!  Sweet, rootsy, funky gospel goodness replete with prayers for peace is how to do it and they did right, song circle style.  With all that talent on stage there was no way to do it otherwise and, man, did it work.  If church
was always like this I would go every day.

As people started to wake up, however, it became clear that haze obscuring the mountains across the valley wasn't simple fog, it was smoke.  A few scary thoughts crossed everyone's minds until it was learned that the major wild fire creating all that smoke was over 30 miles away, not moving in the direction of the festival, and not being whipped by winds on this still morning.  So the smoke, which had settled into the valley overnight (and mostly dissipated by late afternoon), was an annoyance, not a threat.

Whatever else was going on at the festival (including sets by New Mastersounds, Eddie & The Roughnecks, Ryan Montbleau, Disco Biscuits, Chris Thile, ALO, the Budos Band, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, I was content to be at the mainstage.  After a set by Lynx, a unique young hippie woman whose music combines folk, looping, computer beats and conscious lyrics, Albino, a San Francisco-based Afrobeat band, got people dancing despite the heat and the smoke.  The legendary Mavis Staples was up next, and the gospel theme continued into the afternoon.  An hour and a half break and the evening's festival closing sets were lined up. 

JJ Grey & Mofro were very good, even if they did not quite scale the heights they did the night before.  Phish's Page McConnell (who played a previously unannounced solo piano playshop earlier in the afternoon) brought his new band on and truly rocked the house for two hours of inspired rock.  McConnell may be the best leader to emerge from Phish, and he will certainly prove to be the most consistent unless Trey Anastasio eventually gets his shit together.  I was never much of a Phish fan so it was a great surprise to me just how good this group is.

After some heartfelt thank yous from the festival organizers to the city of Quincy for stepping up to quell the the civil rights violations of the Sheriff's office the last few years and trusting them, and the festivarians, to take care of ourselves, Leftover Salmon took the stage again.  With so little sleep and so much magic happening everywhere, it seemed a little like it was third set of a long Leftover Salmon show with some truly great tweeners as LoS took absolute command of the festival.

If their latenight extravaganza had been great, this was somehow even greater.  It was more focused, tighter and had even more energy, if that is possible. Guests included Darol Anger for most of the set, Chris Thile on mandolin, Page McConnell on keyboards for song, and others, but mostly it was Leftover Salmon proving that they are now and always will be the very spirit of the festival.  The group seems to understand the magic, chaos, joy and energy of the festival and turn it into sound.  It's just that incredible.  I for one hope they never stop playing together, even it is just sporadic summertime festival gigs every year.

Later on I wandered around a bit, tempted by the San Francisco party that ALO and Tea Leaf Green were throwing in one late night hall while Les Claypool or the Everyone Orchestra played in others, but instead went to a party I had been hearing about in Camp Harry in RV area near the Big
Meadow stage. 

What a scene that was as Eddie & the Roughnecks (another UK funk band led by Eddie Roberts of the New Mastersounds) tore it up as people danced and talked.  Eventually, however, I had to give into being tired and realize that it had really happened.  High Sierra 2007 had gone on for four days — almost around the clock — with virtually no trouble, great amenities (note to all other festival producers: the importance of clean portapotties for the entire weekend can not be underestimated and is worth whatever it costs!), great food and drink and most importantly, great people.

The campers not only enjoyed the music and each other's company, they respected the space they were in.  As the tear down began on Monday morning it was clear that people were bringing their trash and recyclables to the proper spots and leaving very little matter out of place for the Clean Vibes crew (who also did an amazing job) to deal with.

Let the news ring out throughout the land: High Sierra is back and believe it or not, better than ever.  The Best Fest in the West is back!





The New Mastersounds bring their UK funk to Colorado

The New Mastersounds

Quixote’s True Blue Cafe

Denver, Colorado

June 1, 2007 


There is no doubt about the indelible impact the late James Brown left on the music world.  His legacy inspired countless musicians to explore the world known as funk.  From early soul to disco and hip-hop to acid jazz, funk has endured decades of musical fads and changing styles.

So it is no surprise that funk would jump the pond and inspire a few boys from England to take that groundwork and produce some intensely groovy, modern instrumental music.  The New Mastersounds brought their soul-funk and jazz experience to a nearly sold-out crowd earlier this month at Denver’s Quixotes True Blue Cafe, and proved that substance has no boundaries when it comes to music.

The group, comprised of guitarist Eddie Roberts, bassist Pete Shand, drummer Simon Allen, keyboardist Joe Tatton, and newcomer Rob Lavers on horns ,seemed eager to show off their skills by ripping through energetic renditions of songs from their latest release, 102%.

The first set sounded very reminiscent of early Meters funk.  Heavy guitar licks by Roberts and precision drumming by Allen carried the group.  Each jam was very tight and cohesive; it quickly became obvious that these boys are definitely on the same wavelength.

After a short break to cool the jets, the band returned to the stage to perform the final set of the evening.  With a still-reeling audience in tow, the group progressed through their jazzier catalog.  This side of New Mastersounds sounded quite similar to what the Greyboy Allstars have been doing the last decade, very fitting as the last time they played in Denver they were opening for them.

This set gave newcomer Lavers his time to shine, and he showed that although he is no Karl Denson he can certainly play.  Silky flute solos complimented his already smoky saxophone sections.  Since he joined the group earlier this year, he has certainly proven to be an integral part of their sound.

The remaining sections of the second set were mostly highlighted by the undeniably astonishing guitar work by Roberts.  At times he is just as good as or better than his funk counterparts Elgin Park (Greyboy Allstars), Jeff Raines (Galactic), or Brian Stoltz (Funky Meters).

The New Mastersounds continue to win over American fans with their exceptional abilities and high-energy performances – evident from this Colorado performance.  With the momentum they are gaining through their relentless touring, they are sure to capture fans of the funk, old and new.