Day two in the Sierra foothills above Mariposa begins with the various low frequency rumblings of men waking in bunk beds, said frequencies bouncing off the wood walls of our cabin nestled among dry grass, wildflowers, and oaks and firs in their centuries long competition for this 3,000 foot altitude transitional zone. Our cabin is perched on a dry grass ledge overlooking a steep drop to the little creek valley below. On the opposite valley slope are the Bug hostel cabins poking through the dense tree cover. It’s a beautiful and silent spot. Just gazing out at the trees in morning light is a healing for the addled Angeleno.
We get good eggs and okay coffee at the Bug dining hall, pick up a mic stand we’d forgotten, and head back to our little wood aerie. Rob and Paul L scramble down rocks and red dirt, scratching themselves and picking up several ounces of foxtails, and find the creek and its enchanted waterfall and swimming hole. It’s far from the Bug cabins and tricky to find, plus the hip global tourists are safely on their sleek buses for Yosemite park. We are primeval man. The rocks sloping down to and into the pool are sedimentary, shiny green sculpted slabs with brown veins running through them. The water is cold. RW scales the rocks in bare feet to a rocky perch 20 or so feet above the pool. In a vain attempt to recapture his lost youth he steps into the air, aiming for the narrow deep center of the pool. Adrenaline floods his synaptic region and for a brief moment he is 20 years old again. The icy waters and the weightless fall act a natural defibulator. This time it works and he doesn’t even break his leg. Youth is still in reach.
We scale the steep and crumbling rocky cliff back to our lovely Gypsy Cabin. Indeed we ourselves are gypsies and fit well in this tiny architecturally improvised cabin, section tacked on to section as needed. We dress and head over to the Carter Ranch festival, 7 miles down Highway 140, left at Triangle Road, 2 dusty dirt road miles to the banners and the meadow and the hippies young and old in tents and campers and pickup truck beds, kicked back on the grass listening to a local folkie. There’s the teepee we Hawks spent a sleepless night in back in ’07, awaiting fresh innocent victims. Jembe and leather goods vendors and great smelling barbeque pits ring the upward sloping meadow. This is good vibes. The weather is perfect. A dry humidity.Carter Ranch Fest’s musical lineup is an unwitting (or is it witting?–fest booker Adam is a mysterious and complex cat) sampling of the rootsier elements of the experimental LA music scene, with its roots in the alternative to punk pioneers of the late 1970’s. Double Naught Spycar is here and Carlos Guitarlos, the Atomic Sherpas, and the Hawks. It’s odd to see Carlos and Joe Berardi, strangers to unpaved dirt and portajohns, out here among the trees and hippies. But it’s oh so grand.
PL slips away into the woods with Joe and a camera. An artist and his muse alone in the woods, anything could happen. Time to get the “Joe in Nature” photo shoot underway. The two return with sheepish grins on their faces, proud of their work and then it’s time for the musicians to go to work.** Spycar takes the stage and rocks the meadow with their avantarded musical madness, the idiot-savant of all instrumental bands. Who else would be fearless and twisted enough to give their songs titles like these: janmichaelvincentrehab.com, Marina Del Hayride, Journey to the Center of Guitar Center (Sherman Oaks), or Arrangement with a Dung Beetle? The crowd is delighted and surprised. A new musical paradigm has landed in Carter Ranch.
The Hawks are up next. It’s 4:30 and a nice lazy afternoon vibe is in effect. Shaded by the 300 year old oak above the stage, the Hawks stretch out the solos, jam a bit, and step through the rockers, the two steps, and the waltzes. It’s a friendly crowd, we’ve played up here several times now and there’s lots of old friends in the audience. After the show the Hawks linger beneath the oak and listen to Carlos howl his blues to the appreciative crowd. Somehow Carlos is always louder than anyone anywhere, and will not rest until all eyes and ears are upon him, onstage or off. And he’s great, we reluctantly admit. From there night begins to fall. The Atomic Sherpas, a fierce uberurban band with tight arrangements, funky bass, and powerful horns get the dance party underway. Doten is sitting in with the Sherpas on psychedelic synth and he’s mad, mad mad. Twenty year old Herculean twins on bass and trombone are pushing the Sherpas to a new level. The crowd flips. These hippies came to dance. Then the Tresspassers and their new fiddler bring it home with their haunting modern gothic songs and presentation. This is a new form of hoedown, a new generation sleeping in the dirt. Strangely familiar, and not familiar. There’s more people here than ever before, the Carter Ranch Fest is growing. Back to our Gypsy Cabin and quiet mountain sleep beneath the half moon.
**you can view Joe Berardi In Nature on Paul L’s Facebook page, in all its alienated glory. Here’s a tempting sampling: