Growing up in Quincy had the essential hallmarks of most small-town childhoods: everyone's all up in your grill and knows your business, your parents get a phone call before the cops do, and the only chain restaurant shuts down because it was also a drug hub. You've probably seen enough movies to know the drill.
But growing up in Quincy was also in ways drastically different than "Footloose" defined. We were allowed to dance. Hard.
I remember when High Sierra Music Festival first came to Quincy. The flood of humans, doubling our town population, brought with them dreadlocks and costumes and colors and foreign smells and MUSIC!! I was lucky to be raised in a home with plenty of good music in the cd player and concerts to attend. But HSMF was in a different dimension.
My calendar year revolved around 4th of July weekend. I couldn't wait to be back in the sweaty Vaudeville tent long after the other stages shut down, or wiggle my 5th grade self to the front of the Main Stage and hear Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon let out his war cry "FEEEESSSSTTTTIIIVVVVAAAAALLLLLLLL!!!!!"
In the off season, I would read in my local newspaper about the battle happening over High Sierra, nervous that it might not be able to return to our tiny, mysterious, lucky town. Then I would set the paper down and daydream about Duke's Afro-Caribbean chicken and rice and peas, eating with my family as Sam Bush melted his fretboard and Karl Denson wailed to a PACKED main stage and Steve Winwood??!! and Del McCoury making me realize I love bluegrass and Les Claypool blowing my mind and Brett Dennen playing on a curb and Galactic and Disco Biscuits and ALO and Trombone Shorty and.....
I didn't realize as an elementary aged book worm or a high school band kid the full impact of this music, this culture, this life. I likely will never fully realize. But I knew enough to set up with a couple buddies on the same corner Brett Dennen did, playing trio bebop jazz as Leftover Salmon was on the main stage, all the while wishing I wasn't missing the show.
And I knew enough to wrangle Lumbercat to play on the same curb and then geek out over Lake Street Dive, John Butler, The Wood Brothers, Nahko, String Cheese, the list goes on. That summer was our first tour, and that weekend changed us. We climbed one more ladder rung up in honing our craft, our sound, and our goals.
And I know enough now to say confidently that one day I will be on a stage at High Sierra and inspire some kid in the audience to pay attention to incredible music and realize where love and community is happening.
Thank you Mom and Dad for culturing me. Thank you Quincy for (eventually) welcoming the culture. And thank you High Sierra for years of inspiration.
Here's a video we shot specifically for the High Sierra Music Festival Band Contest. Like it, share it, and help spread some lovin'