Ever wonder what it's like to be a festival photographer? Allen David has been going to camping festivals in California for decades. He sent us over action shots from the July 5-8 High Sierra Music Festival, and wrote up his bird's eye view of the Quincy, Calif. happenings -- including his assessment of Hasidic reggae-rapper Matisyahu's child-rearing skills
Last week, I packed up my vintage Beemer with all my camping needs; beers and crazy clothes. My trusty camera and I were headed up to High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy.
My drive took me up State Route 70 along the Feather River, one of my favorite places to cruise in California. Whenever you feel too hot, there is always a spot to pull over and cool off in the churning river. At sunset I reached the will call booth and waited in line with other festival revelers to earn my entry into a weekend filled with music, dancing, drinking, and debauchery.
My first mission after gaining entry was to meet up with Matisyahu for a brief interview. I was running late. Finally backstage, I found his publicist, who told me that Matisyahu was wandering around the festival with his two young boys. He said to stick around for a while, and Matisyahu would eventually show up. I waited with my friend Rachel for about a half-hour, 'til we were really starting to crave beers. But as we were leaving the bandstand we saw a very tall, clean-cut young man walking towards us with two young boys holding his hands. I asked him if he was Matisyahu. He was.
Maybe it was because his kids were running around our feet, but our conversation revolved around fatherhood. He's quite a dad. The way he encouraged his young sons seemed to empower them -- the eldest sang us a song while sitting on dad's lap. Half way through, Matisyahu began to back his son up with some of the greatest beatboxing I've heard.
After our chat, my friend Rachel and I found the rest of our friends from the Samba Stilt Circus camped in a barn, which had a slight smell of pigs and horses. After some thorough investigation we found a stall that didn't smell too bad, and made it our weekend home.
My favorite act of the whole week was a band I never had heard of before. I was spending time at shower camp (the camp that operates free showers for all fest-goers) with one of my best buds, Turner. Off in the distance I heard what sounded like the theme song from the classic TV show Nightrider, only with a Bollywood feel. I was drawn to the music like a rat to the Pied Piper.
When we finally found the stage in question, I was delighted to find that a tuba was being used to replace the electric bass in the band, Red Baraat. The group's horn section, awesome grooves, and stunning good looks kept me shaking for two hours. At one point I checked out the rest of the crowd, only to find one of my other favorite acts from the festival were dancing along with me, March Fourth Marching Band.
As night progressed, and people preceded into the altered dimensions that booze -- and possibly other things? -- give you access to, people seemed to wake up and look for their next destinations. Many people went into the late night venues, yet as I am on a restricted photographer's budget, I found the $30 extra to be a little much for me. I found friends and wandered around the festival enjoying the company of strangers that were on the same page as me.
Monday came, and I had to focus on the sad task of packing up camp. Yet once the Beemer was packed up and we were on the road, the Feather River greeted us with another great swimming hole, washing another great weekend into the past.