Sometimes, I really feel like I'm getting old. Joints ache. Hangovers last. And music festivals can quickly go from being fun to feeling like a huge pain in the ass. The crowds! The dirt! The horribly overpriced beer!
Good thing there's the Huichica Music Festival
that could have been designed solely to shut up my lame crotchety side. Nestled in the hills of the Gundlach Bundschu (that's gun-lock bun-shoe) Winery, Huichica is a well-curated, well-run, perfectly delightful little music festival. It's small. The food is awesome (this year included Salumeria, Craftsmen & Wolves, and Namu Gaji from San Francisco; Rancho Gordo from Napa; and Bunk Sandwiches from Portland). The wine and beer are flowing. The crowd is small, as is the site -- there are just two stages, with the larger one allowing for serious proximity to the stage.
And the music. Is. Awesome. Seriously: this Saturday's lineup included Blitzen Trapper as a headliner, plus the Fruit Bats, Jessica Pratt, Jonathan Wilson, Cass McCombs, and The Donkeys. Oh, and it's a mere $40 for the day.
A hot, sun-drenched Saturday proved to be the perfect setting for Jonathan Wilson's sleepy, bright folk rock, punctuated by the occasional wail of a guitar riff. A band of longhaired babes, the sweeping, lush sound reminded me alternatively of The Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead until... oh, hello Bob Weir! Is that you making a guest appearance for an hour-long jam session? The closing rendition of "Truckin'" was undeniably epic. Per the MC's post-set remark: "Jonathan Wilson and Bob Weir. HOLY SHIT!"
San Diego-based band The Donkeys played Huichica last year, and it's easy to see why they were invited back -- this bad is too damn fun. Their sitar-laced opener, "West Coast Raga," silkily transitioned into a dance-friendly brand of surfer-jam-band-pop-rock. It's definitely a good sign when a set inspires me to scrawl, "Where has this band been all of my life?!" in my increasingly incomprehensible notes.
Damien Jurado's solo acoustic set at the Arbor Stage was as lovely as an afternoon in wine country can get. His searing, powerful voice captivated the crowd, with occasional Neil Young-esque moments backed by delicate guitar picking.
Fruit Bat's frontman Eric D. Johnson is one of the organizers of the festival, and his band's set was a decided highlight. Johnson's distinctive, warbling vocals carried the bands' unique, intoxicating brand of rock 'n' roll. Their set, including great renditions off of 2011's Tony the Tripper
and old favorites like "When U Love Somebody" exemplified how catchy, yet unpredictable, their sound manages to be.
Blitzen Trapper ended things with a bang: the Portland band's big, Americana-rich tunes rang epically into the star-filled night sky, dwarfed by the towering shadows of trees. Punctuated by a ringing harmonica, their country rock sound showcased the musical prowess of every member. Oh, and if that all wasn't enough, their set was capped with a jam sesh rendition of "Season of the Witch" featuring multiple bands.
Best musical festival ever? Maybe. It's definitely at the top of my list right now.