A celebration of summer at 5,640 feet
Just a bit downhill from the crest of the mighty Sierra Nevada at Donner Summit, the sixth incarnation of the Guitarfish Festival last weekend hit all the right notes.
The diversified musical itinerary of about 30 acts was led by ALO, The Greyboy Allstars, Orgone, Lyrics Born and the Wheeland Brothers Band. Word of this annual jamboree has obviously spread down to the valley, as dozens of Chico-area revelers were sprinkled about the event.
Presented at the expansive Cisco Grove Campground in the middle of a deep alpine forest along the clear, cold waters of the South Yuba River, Guitarfish musicians and attendees celebrated summer for 3 1/2 days with a shared appetite for progressive music, refreshing mountain air and a bohemian lust for fun and frolic. Unlike many summer festivals with camping facilities that are too cramped or too hot, it was a pleasure to spend time midday at this high-elevation camp (5,642 feet) to relax—or dare I say, nap—without breaking a sweat.
Special musical “discoveries” included a brilliant performance by Dirty Revival, a seven-piece Portland, Ore., soul outfit with commanding beats and brass led by the muscular, soulful vocals of Sarah Clarke. Another Portland product, Crow and the Canyon, turned heads with its irresistible brand of bluegrassy roots/folk. ALO frontman Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz, who was back for the sixth time, also introduced a lot of folks to the songs and jamming of the newly formed Doobie Decibel System, in which Lebo plays with Bay Area musical icons including Roger McNamee, Jason Crosby and Pete Sears.
With most of the music delivered from two neighboring main stages at a naturally converging spot at Cisco Grove called “The Fish Bowl,” the grounds also included a pavilion for yoga and a family camp equipped with kid-friendly activities and its own musical stage (the Banana Slug String Band did a kick-ass version of “Tide Pool Boogie” there). The Jankasaurus, a 35-foot Burning Man-conquering art car/mobile stage equipped with a stately chandelier and two boom extensions for aerial dancing, anchored a small area of its own, dubbed JankyTown.
There are bigger festivals to be sure, but the still-intimate Guitarfish has a strong organic community spirit running through it that, in addition to offering some great music and accompanying fun, makes it ripe for forming lasting friendships. Worth keeping in mind for 2017.