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03 Jul 2015

Desert Rock Chronicles: As Always, Stoner-Rock Greats Are Part of the Yosemite Music Festival Lineup

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The Atomic Sherpas. The Atomic Sherpas.

Desert summer is upon us, and it’s hotter than Haiti outside!

Many of our local music venues are on auto-pilot—but there are a lot of great live shows and music festivals not too far away that will allow you to escape the heat and get your live-show fix.

As for me … well, stoner rock and way-outside acid-jazz are in my immediate future.

I am escaping the desert heat and heading up the Sierra Nevadas into beautiful mountain surroundings for the Yosemite Music Festival, taking place Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11. The Atomic Sherpas, Green Machine, 3 Leafs and others are scheduled to perform; a weekend pass is $40.

Past performers have included Hungry Bear, Fatso Jetson and Hawks. Also on the bill this year is San Francisco-based stoner rock band Golden Void. The band’s latest release on Thrill Jockey Records is firmly rooted in melody, and the band is not afraid of exploration. The hooks get stuck in your head, and the riffs transport you to the astral plane.

Regular readers know I am a big fan of the Atomic Sherpas, a psyched-out, funked-up groove-based sextet led by the masterful Vince Meghrouni (Fatso Jetson) on vocals/sax/flute/harmonica, and featuring guitarist Anthony Cossa (The Aliens), keyboardist Marc Doten (Double Naught Spy Car), bassist Michael Alvidrez, trombonist Carlos Alvidrez and drummer T. Alex Budrow. The band’s live show is high-energy, artful and guaranteed to put the boogie in your woogie. This summer, the Sherpas will be touring Southern California—and they’re one of the headliners at the Yosemite Music Festivalin Mariposa County for the eighth consecutive year.

Though Meghrouni is a Los Angeles-based musician, he has been a member of the desert’s music scene since the early ’90s. He is featured in the film Lo Sound Desert and has performed here with Fatso Jetson, Brother Weasel and Bazooka over the past couple of decades.

I asked him how he got involved with this annual event.

“The first time we played there, in 2008, I remember pulling up in our rag-tag caravan, looking at the bucolic setting, seeing the sturdy rural folk walking around, and talking to larger-than-life people like Cobra (security) and Hungry Bear,” he said. “As we got set up to the sound of the new bluegrass bands that usually start the proceedings on Friday afternoon, I thought that maybe these good, honest people surrounded by beautiful nature—people raised in a mountain culture of strength and survival—might have no use for our city-slicker fancy costumes, hyped-up stage characters, funny dancing and showy little jazzy fancy-isms. ‘Why don’t ya’ll just be yourselves?’ I imagined going through their minds.”

However, Meghrouni said his concerns were for naught.

“From the get-go, they went hog-wild nuts, and demanded encores—more than one!” he said. “They … streamed down the hill from their comfy camps and lawn chairs and danced like mad! It turns out that our music is rooted in joie de vivre, and that it cuts across. What I perceived as possible differences that wouldn’t enable our communing over the sacred spirit of music was just another veil of illusion manufactured by my own constant self-doubt mind-monkey.

Meghrouni said that today, he and his band mates consider the festival’s organizers and regulars to be family.

“Our pilgrimage every year is to nourish our souls—to dip into the well of our home, our spirit home, and to be among our people,” he said.

The Yosemite Music Festival takes place Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11, at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, located at 5007 Fairgrounds Road, in Mariposa. Admission is $40. For tickets or more information, visit www.yosemitemusicfestival.com. Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

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