Best of the Fests

By Deb Bolt & Gina Vitali

Reggae on the River. Photo: Zac Mansfield

With summer comes sun, music and festivals to satisfy all your interests. So grab your friends, your favorite coozie, don’t forget the sunscreen, and check out some of the bests below:

The Most Memorable: Kate Wolf Music Festival
June 28-30 • Laytonville • <ahref=”http://katewolfmusicfestival.com”>katewolfmusicfestival.com

Three hours north of San Francisco, tucked in the trees of Black Oak Ranch is the KatSe Wolf Memorial Music Festival. It began as a small tribute concert in 1996 for friends, family and supporters. Now, 18 years later, the festival has become a full-fledged three-day, three-night camping jamboree with a tremendous lineup. Enjoy the rambling creek, the swaying oaks and the folksy tunes on the wind, and send Kate a big ol’ smile “across the great divide.” Artist highlights: The Brothers Comatose, Angelique Kidjo, Wavy Gravy, Love Choir, Marianne Faithfull, John Prine, Sherry Austin w/Henhouse, Quinn Deveaux & the Blues Beat Review and Coyote Grace.

The Biggest: High Sierra Music Festival
July 4-7 • Quincy • highsierramusic.com

High Sierra Music Festival. Photo: Jeffrey Dupuis

Located amid the sunshine and big pines of the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds in Quincy, High Sierra is the 23-year-old king of California music festivals. Like a cross between the family-friendly Strawberry Music Festival and Burning Man, High Sierra is a four-day parade of self-expression and great bands. Bring plenty of tarps and pop-ups to stay cool in Big Meadow Tent Town as the sunshine beams and the days are long. High Sierra has more than 50 performers per day on four stages and late-night venues, featuring jam bands, bluegrass, newgrass, jazz, funk, electronica and world beats. Don’t worry, you can’t possibly hear it all. Beyond music, there are workshops, activities, crafts and food vendors. And if you need to get away from the music for a bit, this sweet mountain town has access to swimming holes and trails to bike and hike. Artist highlights: Primus, Leftover Salmon, moe., The Greyboy Allstars, Gramatik, Thievery Corporation, North Mississippi Allstars, Orgone & The Whiskey Sisters.

New & Homegrown: Seven Sisters Fest
July 12-13 • San Luis Obispo • sevensistersfest.com

A new grassroots event inspired by the homegrown culture that is unique to San Luis Obispo County. We are setting up camp at El Chorro Regional Park and Campground, off Highway One, across from Cuesta College and amongst our area’s beautiful chain of peaks, the Seven Sisters (and yep, we know there are actually 9). Features eclectic, nonstop music, onsite camping, more than 30 craft breweries and artisan wine, food, retail and art vendors, outdoor activities and more! Artist highlights: Robben Ford, Gangstagrass, Honey Island Swamp Band and Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds.

The Most Jammin’: Reggae on the River
August 1-4 • Humboldt • reggaeontheriver.com

Reggae on the River. Photo: Eagle Eye Photography

The 29th Annual ROTR returns to its original venue at Frenchs Camp, located 10 miles south of Garberville on Highway 101 in Humboldt County. Get ready for a weekend of the best reggae and world music the globe has to offer, with almost 30 artists on two stages, more than 80 vendors, and a lively kids zone. Located on the banks of the beautiful Eel River and surrounded by old-growth coast redwoods, you’ll be feeling “One Love.” Don’t forget your swimsuit and floaties. Artist highlights: Julian Marley & The Uprising Band, Morgan Heritage, Tarrus Riley & Blak Soil, Anthony B, J Boog & Hot Rain, Natural Black, Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars, Junior Kelly, Les Nubians and Rockamovya.

The Most Flexible: Wanderlust
July 18-21 • Squaw Valley • squaw.wanderlustfestival.com

Wanderlust CA. Photo: George Mihaly

The world’s largest and fastest growing yoga and music festival series comes back to Squaw in 2013 for its fifth summer! Bringing together thousands of people from myriad backgrounds, Wanderlust provides the opportunity to enjoy the freedom of live music and the spirit of adventure in a spectacular outdoor setting, all the while cultivating a vibrant community of like-minded seekers. Attendees will enjoy yoga, music by top performers, organic food and wine, an inspirational speaker program, meditation and outdoor activities like paddle boarding, hiking, biking and running. Moby, Trombone Shorty, Seane Corn, Shiva Rea, Rod Stryker, Random Rab, Congressman Tim Ryan and more lead this year’s incredible roster of talent.

The Bluesiest & Brewsiest: Bluesapalooza/Mammoth Festival of Beers
August 1-4 • Mammoth Lakes • mammothbluesbrewsfest.com

Soak up some high-altitude sunshine — as well as the country’s best craft brews and top blues performers — amid the high peak splendor of Mammoth. Bluesapalooza is a bubbly combination of blues and brews. Now in its 18th year, it is Mammoth’s biggest party of the summer and is sure to delight all those outdoor enthusiasts looking for a cool brew and a good time. Artist highlights: Joan Osborne, Mavis Staples, John Hammond., JJ Grey & Mofro, Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery and Vintage Trouble.

The Foodie-est: SF Outside Lands
August 9-11 • Golden Gate Park, SF • sfoutsidelands.com

With a list of contributing Bay Area restaurants long enough to drool over, this is by far the best tasting music festival around. Your taste buds will be overwhelmed with choices from empanadas to Louisiana hot links, pulled pork sandwiches to Malaysian chicken rending, flatbread pizza to Korean tacos. Remember to check out Wine Lands for fine fermented grape juice from dozens of wineries. Oh wait, and the music is big-time impressive and just as diverse. Artist highlights: Paul McCartney, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, Emeli Sande, Phoenix, Kaskade, Pretty Lights, Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, D’Angelo, The National, Jurassic 5 and Willie Nelson & Family.

Beer, Jazz & Funk Fest. Photo: Jason Kelley

The Funkiest: Brew, Jazz and Funk Fest
August 10-11 • Squaw Valley • www.squaw.com

Have a brew to benefit a pet and get your funk on … who could say no? This super affordable festival takes place in the stunning mountain setting of Squaw Valley, features fun bands, a great selection of beer, many activities and also benefits the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. And to top off your funk fest, they also have a ropes course, climbing wall, disc golf course and kids zip line. Artist highlights: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Zigaboo Modeliste & New Aahkesstra.

The Most Family-Friendly: Strawberry Music Festival
August 29-September 2 • Camp Mather, Yosemite • strawberrymusic.com

Held in beautiful Camp Mather, bordering Yosemite National Park, with 350 acres of pines and meadows, festivarians can take advantage of all the delights this area offers: swimming, hiking, biking and the best camping of any music venue in the West. The festival has a wide range of musical acts on the main stage, performer workshops, food and art vendors, and an extensive children’s program at the Birch Lake stage. And it is rumored that the best music often comes from the spontaneous camp jams that take place every night after the main stage acts finish. So get on Strawberry time, embrace the Strawberry way and take a Strawberry stroll. Artist highlights: The Del McCoury Band, Peter Rowan & the Big Twang Theory, Ray Bonneville, The California Honeydrops, Mary Gauthier, 10 String Symphony and Sam Baker.

Diana Krall. Photo: Mark Seliger

The Most Swingin’: Monterey Jazz Festival
September 20-22 • Monterey Fair Grounds • montereyjazzfestival.org

Over 500 artists on eight stages for three nights and two days. Now in its 56th year, this renowned festival is a star-studded jazz spectacular. Jazz, funk, rock and soul legends have graced this festival for decades, and this year will be no different. Artist highlights: Diana Krall (in her ONLY Northern California performance!), Wayne Shorter, Bobby McFerrin, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club with Omara Portuondo & Eliades Ochoa and George Benson.

The Cheapest: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
October 4-6 • Golden Gate Park, SF • strictlybluegrass.com

This free festival supplies the best bluegrass money cannot buy. With past performers the likes of Steve Earle, Old Crow Medicine Show, Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, David Grisman, Joan Baez, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and Robert Earl Keen, you get way more than you pay for. HSBG offers six stages with over 80 musicians to choose from and is well worth maneuvering the swarming crowds. Check the website for 2013 headliners.

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OTHER UPCOMING MUSIC FESTIVALS

California WorldFest, Grass Valley, July 11-14 — Features 8 stages of music and dance from around the world, camping, workshops, international food, fine crafts, and a renowned children’s program. www.worldfest.net

Lightning in a Bottle, Lake Skinner, Temecula, July 11-15 — A celebration of art, music, performance, sustainability and life. Featuring world class music talent, performance artists, live painting, workshops, live speakers and a family-friendly entertainment. Papadosio headlines the event. www.lightninginabottle.org

Bear Valley Music Festival, Bear Valley, July 26-August 11 — The BVMF is a non-profit organization whose mission supports great music and education in Bear Valley. BVMF has been bringing incredible classical, jazz, and opera music to this alpine wonderland since 1967 when the inaugural concert opened in the Bear Valley Lodge’s Cathedral Lounge. www.bearvalleymusicfestival.org

Sunset Strip Festival, Los Angeles, August 1-3 — The 6th Annual three-day rock icon explosion! Kicks off with a tribute event at the House of Blues and culminates in an epic street festival. www.sunsetstripmusicfestival.com

OC Music Festival Irvine, Lake, Silverado, August 9-10 — Two days of continuous great music and camping at Orange County’s Lake Irvine. www.oc-musicfest.com

Burning Man Black Rock Desert, NV, August 26-September 2 — A week-long extravaganza and spontaneous community experiment…there is no way to describe this event. 120 miles north of Reno on an ancient lakebed, known as The Playa, for one week a city is built. www.burningman.com

Joshua Tree Roots Music Festival, Joshua Tree, October 11-13 — A rootsicana folkadelic newgrassy experience in the magical Mojave Desert. www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com

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