How Was High Sierra?

The Synthesis editor wanted a piece on the High Sierra Music Festival but with a satirical slant, in keeping with the theme of this issue. That challenge might have been daunting to a lesser writer. After all, a gathering of a whole bunch of latter-day hippies milling around at one of the umpteen gazillion summer music festivals, looking to tap into the seeds and stems left over from Woodstock, is far too serious a matter for satire. These were, essentially, people looking for cosmic truth through chemistry. Failing that, they had hopes of at least getting laid. Or, if that didn’t happen, there was always the chance to find God in a tab of acid—the hippie fallback position since the ‘60s.

At the very least, them High Sierrans were headin’ out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure in whatever came their way: the catechism as preached by Steppenwolf when the template was being handed down to a new generation of American stoners who also wanted to “take the world in a love embrace,” followed by the transformative experience of exploding into space.

Sure, it’s a youth anthem, and therefore kinda dumb—so why was a 69-year-old man creeping around in that forest of tie-dyed tree huggers, lookin’ for adventure in whatever came his way?

Well, like lots of members of his generation, he just couldn’t quite let it go. He was born the same day and the same year as Mick Jagger, so the mandate was to “rock out until you become utterly ridiculous,” just like all those old dudes with hair pulled back into white ponytails with three or four strands of hair left in ‘em, a Harley between their legs, and literal “old ladies” riding behind. Rebels roarin’ against rest homes.

On the first night, I was in the press section under the stage as Robert Plant showed a crowd of mostly Viagra-free young people what geriatric sexiness can look like—a vision of their futures most of them chose to ignore, staving off that bummer notion with a cloud of dope smoke so thick that gophers in two surrounding counties were getting high.

I wasn’t high, except via the same contact that had all the area wildlife stoned, so I was able to see that the sexy Mr. Plant has gone to seed a bit—though he’s still an inspiring figure for us guys who think we still may have a move or two left in us, so long as we don’t break a hip or throw our backs out. He was in fact very good, as one might expect from a guy who’s practiced his craft for so long. He drew nearly all the festees away from two other stages where bands young enough to be his grandkids wound up playing for their immediate families, but minus their girlfriends or wives who had slipped away to see Robert Plant under the cover of darkness.

Other highlights? There were more than a few, but you ain’t getting highlights AND satire. Not from this old dude, anyway. I was lucky I remembered how to get back home.

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