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Roy Carter on High Sierra Music Festival 2014

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Roy Carter co-founded High Sierra Music Festival in 1991 and has been one of it's principal organizers ever since. Roy is Vice President of Operations as well as being the sole talent buyer for the festival, which boasts one of the highest percentages of return visitors around. Whether they come for the music, the mountains, or the incredibly welcoming vibe, most of High Sierra's loyal fans make the annual trek to Quincy, in Plumas County, because they can't imagine beginning a summer without it.

Wendy:

Let's talk about the lineup, beginning with the headliners this year. Two of them - Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Widespread Panic, are High Sierra favorites. They've each played the festival a few times, no?

Roy:

This'll be the fourth time Widespread's been with us. They're very popular on either one of the coasts, come out of the jam act world and certainly a favorite of the festival. Oddly enough, Sound Tribe Sector 9 - I think they're based out of Santa Cruz these days, but originally came out of Georgia, as does Widespread Panic. Sound Tribe started playing the festival when they were a really small band and have grown to be one of the larger bands of their genre in the country, playing huge places.

Wendy:

The other two Main Stage headliners are Beats Antique and Ms. Lauryn Hill, who's not yet played High Sierra.

Roy:

Ms. Lauryn Hill we've never had and are very excited. It's a big production, large band, getting great reviews all across the country. They just sold out The Warfield in advance when they were just through town [San Francisco]. The production they're bringing has about 12 or 14 people onstage; it'll be a very interesting, big sound. Beats Antique we've had in the past and that's an act that is actually Berkeley based, that has over the years has become a large national act. They're to the point where they sell out the Fox Theatre in Oakland and larger venues throughout the country. Trampled By Turtles - I don't think they like to term themselves as bluegrass; it's more of a string band. They're very popular in the indie world as well as the bluegrass world. They too are drawing large numbers around the country. Lord Huron is a new band that's really coming on strong. We're having them back for an encore performance; they played last year, did a really good job for us, were a huge crowd favorite. The next one down the line is [The] Del McCoury Band. Del is someone that we are partners with at a festival on the East Coast; it's called DelFest. Del, this year, is celebrating his 75th year on the planet and is celebrating at various key festivals, like Telluride and High Sierra, around the country all year long. Actually, we'll be doing a workshop at the festival with his two sons, who also play in the band, covering the history of the McCourys and the McCoury's playing through the years. Del just won a Grammy this year also.

Wendy:

That's wonderful. Another band that hasn't been touring for a little while, because The Black Crowes were up and running again, is Chris Robinson Brotherhood. There's always such a good vibe at those performances.

Roy:

Very much so. We had them a few years ago and they were very popular, and I've also had The Black Crowes in the past, so, excited to have them back. On the funk end we have Lettuce who are growing by leaps and bounds; they're one of the big funk acts in the nation.

Wendy:

You've got some unusual sounding artists that I'm intrigued by, like Bill Frisell - GUITAR IN THE SPACE AGE!

Roy:

He tends to put together a lot of special projects and the players he has on this project [Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr, and Kenny Wollesen] are really monster players; I'm excited to hear what they're gonna sound like myself.

Wendy:

Right, he's been doing some residencies here in San Francisco; he'll do a four night stretch and each night is different.

Roy:

Bill's very jazzy [and] can really go out there with it.

Wendy:

Which is great because this way you're expanding the genres, and I see that's something you've done up at High Sierra more and more.

Roy:

We definitely try to mix in a lot of different musical styles, knowing that if you come to hear a band that you like, chances are [that] one of the other acts you're gonna come away a fan of also.

Wendy:

Certainly at least one, and most often very many. Last year I saw several bands that I hadn't seen before that I thought were fantastic, Lucas Nelson and P.O.T.R. for one.

Roy:

We try to do that every year with different artists that are gonna catch people's ear. Shakey Graves, one of the artists on the lineup this year may kind of be that Lukas Nelson type act this year. They're very interesting and, not like Lukas, but traveling up the same street musically.

Wendy:

A couple of years back you had Ernest Ranglin playing and I didn't get to see nearly enough of him. He's a legend; he's got such an interesting musical background.

Roy:

He does. He's also kind of in the jazz field, like Bill Frisell in some ways, but with a reggae leaning. So yes, a huge history in music through the years, definitely known by music connoisseurs.

Wendy:

Hardworking Americans is a band that sounds like a fantastic collaboration of some really solid artists.

Roy:

Hardworking Americans has generated a huge buzz around the country. It features Todd Snider who's long been a singer/songwriter, [a] folksinger, and he teamed up with the bass player Dave Schools from Widespread Panic, Neal Casal, who also plays with Chris Robinson and used to play with Ryan Adams and the Cardinals. Neal's played with a lot of the best of the best. So it's a band put together of people who also have a history with other acts that are very strong. Another [band] like that is Darkwave, where we Have John Medeski, of Medeski, Martin & Wood, with Skerik, who's a staple at High Sierra - horn player. There's Bombino, from Africa; their album was recently named one of Rolling Stone's 50 Best Albums of 2013. They're gonna be a very popular surprise for a lot of people.

Wendy:

Who else might be a surprise or a new find this year?

Roy:

There's Sturgill Simpson who comes out of the country rock field. He's just gonna flat out blow people away and is significantly different than most of the acts we have on the bill. Bluegrass world we've got a woman, Sierra Hull, who's gonna knock people out. Typhoon, a band out of the North West, is another act that's going to - they were on a lot of critics' year end best new album of the year [lists]. Just a tremendous group of people playing this year.

Wendy:

Let's talk about the family area, for anyone who may not realize that you're really family friendly on every level. You've got a separate family camping area; you've got kids' activities; you've got childcare - nannies onsite, that offer slumber parties as well as private care.

Roy:

The Rockin' Nannies. You need to look on our website for the private nanny care 'cause it usually gets booked up. We do have a secure room that we put all the kids in at night [for] parents who wanna check them in at night. The nannies are licensed and bonded. The kids either spread out their blankets and pillows or sleeping bags and go to sleep or they have movies and games that they do and have a great time. I have a six year old and I check in every night there myself, and leave for three or four hours while I'm out taking care of the event; my wife gets a break. So it's something that's great, something that I use. We also have a really nice kids' program that's a combination of music and other planned activities for the kids, all the way to talent shows that the kids do.

Wendy:

That's great. Not only are you giving them something to do while their parents can go and have some time to themselves, but the kids also probably will remember these times as something special.

Roy:

Yeah, the whole festival is very kid friendly, but also very adult friendly. Both worlds live together very well and are respectful of each.

Wendy:

I want to be sure to mention your Outdoor Playshops program, which features different types of yoga and other programs all weekend.

Roy:

A lot of types of yoga and also Pilates, a lot of body movement things, and a lawn area where it's nice grass and it's just a great shaded area where people hang out at after that, during the day.

Wendy:

You also have much healthier food options than a lot of festivals.

Roy:

We put a lot of effort into bringing in food that we would wanna eat. It's kinda the way we treat the whole festival; we try to create the event as something that we wanna go hang out at.

For more information please visit www.highsierramusic.com

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