In the unfortunately male-dominated world of mainstream rock and roll, it can be difficult to find women who kick ass — unless, of course, you know where to look. Once again, High Sierra Music Festival has proven to be the place to look for incredible female musicians.
From up-and-comers such as The Accidentals to Sunday night’s The Tedeschi Trucks band, there are badass women from all over the country coming here to play the music they love for people who love it, while simultaneously illustrating what the mainstream rock climate should look like. Here are a few of the Day 1 highlights from the Quincy, California, festival’s 26th year.
The Accidentals — Fronted by multi-instrumentalists Katie Larson and Savannah Buist, this trio — rounded out by drummer Michael Dause — already is making a big impact across the country. While they may have just recently graduated from high school, they have a polished sound that sees Larson and Buist playing just about anything with strings throughout their explosive set. The self-described “orch dorks,” the two met in band class and quickly formed a bond built on their love of all things music. Just a few short years later, they have released two albums, scored three films and played more than 700 live shows.
Their Thursday set at the Big Meadow stage was magnetic. Their supreme musicianship was apparent from the first note they played and while they blew the crowd away with unexpected covers such as Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” it was their terrifically crafted originals that kept the crowd glued to their spot in the meadow. Songs such as “Epitaphs” and “Michigan and Again” have a great balance between pop sensibility and ear-grabbing musicianship. They also reportedly stole the show at last light’s Troubadour Session. The Accidentals were at it early on Friday, playing at 10 a.m. at the Vaudeville Stage.
Gene Evaro Jr. — Hailing from Joshua Tree, California, Gene Evaro Jr. and his six-piece backing band took the Vaudeville tent by storm on the festival’s opening day. Musically landing somewhere between early Maroon 5 and Allen Stone, their eclectic, masterful mix of rock, soul, and reggae kept the crowd guessing.
The set was bolstered by Piper Robison’s bass playing and Amanda Davis’ backing vocals. Both their musicianship and their stage presence enhanced Evaro’s tremendous songsmanship and with being set up on either side of the stage, they were the rocks of the performance.
Samantha Fish — This Kansas City-bred guitar slinger stunned the Big Meadow crowd with her beautiful voice and powerful guitar work. Only 27 years old, Fish is already a presence on the blues and jam circuit and is drawing big crowds nationwide. While her undeniable talent as both a singer and guitarist is formidable, it’s her very obvious respect for the roots of blues and Americana that has so quickly ingratiated her to an ever-growing fanbase.
A highlight of her High Sierra performance was a slow-burning cover of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic “I Put A Spell On You.” She was measured in her approach, smoldering until the song built to a frenzy that left the crowd begging for more.
Liz Vice – Accompanied by just a keyboardist and drummer, soul singer Liz Vice was a palate cleansing experience; a welcome break from the guitargasmic wheelhouse this festival lives in. Her subdued sound and spiritually positive message may have caught the crowd off balance but by the end of her set they left with the energy to move forward and continue loving one another, not just within the festival but life.
Highlights of the set included a deeply soulful, almost haunting “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and her originals “Save Me From Myself” and “Empty Me Out.”
Related story: High Sierra off to sizzling start. LINK