Most popular for the wine-making history, Sonoma, CA has been the home of Huichica Music Festival for 8 years. This year's festival presented by (((FolkYEAH!))) and hosted by Gundlach Bundschu brought a finely curated lineup of artists, musicians, and food vendors to the grassy southwestern hillside of the Mayacamas Mountain Range.
Mapache opened the festival with their California country harmonies reminiscent of early Crosby-Stills collaboration. The band seemed to be the glue holding together the peaceful atmosphere as they played several times across the festival grounds. William Tyler brought his Nashville etherial guitar instrumentation to the West coast where we found him overflowing the Barn Stage with his vast, fingerpicked arrangements. Immediately following, Los Angeles' lo-fi strung-out country outfit The Pesos introduced the festival to their intoxicated beach psychedelia.
Husband and wife duo Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham shared the stage twice during the weekend, playing as Dean & Britta as well as a collection of Galaxie 500 songs from Wareham's heralded past. Identical twins Jarrod and Jonathan Mattson played as The Mattson 2 brilliantly recreating John Coltrane's masterpiece A Love Supreme with a double-neck guitar and a drum set. The evening nostalgia was presented by Beachwood Sparks performing classics from their 2000s records birthed from the tarnished Gold Coast. The alt-country was smothered out of the Barn Stage by the intense delivery of heavy psych rockers Heron Oblivion as the bartenders aggressively offered earplugs to each passing Gewürztraminer customer.
Billy Changer christened the Hillside Amphitheater Saturday morning soundtracking the crowd nursing their wine hangovers laying in the grass on the steep green hill. The early afternoon saw the debut live performance of Christopher Owens' (formerly of Girls) new outfit, Curls. Maintaining Girls' twangy pop, Curls exposed Owens' abilities as a fine craftsman of wonderful pop songs, no matter the moniker or supporting cast surrounding him. We seemed to see the talented Brent Rademaker (Beachwood Sparks, Gospelbeach, The Tyde) on stage at any point in time putting on a masterclass of vintage California-infused songwriting at each set - including a theatrical interpretation of a Great Basin tumbleweed during the Gospelbeach show followed by a brief heartfelt and well-received lecture on getting back up, despite your fall.
Cass McCombs accompanied by guitarist Dan Horne settled the crowds with McCombs' folksy career-spanning tracks. A Roger Miller cover of "Chug-A-Lug" by Horne raised people from their falsa blankets with an energetic rendition of the humorous tune. Allah-Las took the stage just as the golden hour overtook the Sonoma skyline. The band and their tribe of loyal friends and fans crowded the ground-level main stage for an intimate and tireless expression of their Pacific spirits embodied in their music and the exhibition of artist Robbie Simon's groovy wooden ornaments. The festival was capstoned by Cosmic Twang's freeform psychedelic jams lead by Scott Law and Ross James with support from Beachwood Sparks' Farmer Dave Scher and festival organizer Eric D. Johnson.
Huichica Music Festival: GIYL (Go If You Like) intimate venues, a dialed-in collection of musical performances, endless bottles of red wine, short lines for said bottles of red wine, clean bathrooms, wood fired pizza, friendly and helpful staff, audiences refraining from "overdoing it" on stimulants and debauchery, beautiful landscapes of Sonoma Valley, California
In the words of Allah-Las frontman, Miles Michaud, "California is the greatest place in the world."