Dennis Cook of Jambase wrote a lengthy review of High Sierra 2013 and had this to say about bandmembers of New Monsoon’s appearances in “Roots of Zeppelin” and “Guitarmageddon.”

Roots of Led Zeppelin July 5th – 1:00-2:15 p.m. – High Sierra Music Hall

Scott Pemberton, Bo Carper, Lebo

Anchored by four-fifths of New Monsoon – Bo Carper (banjo, acoustic guitar, vocals), Marshall Harrell (bass), Phil Ferlino (keys, vocals) and Jeff Miller (electric guitar, vocals) – and Dan Lebowitz, 2013 fest sensation Scott Pemberton (guitar, vocals) and Pemberton’s equally hirsute, shirtless drummer Russ Kliener, this was a delightful hour-and-change lesson in the folk and Delta blues Robert Plant had talked about being “lashed to” in his youth the previous evening. More than the easy shred show it might have been, this playshop lovingly dug up the roots of blues based rock, some of the original uncivilized grit still clinging to the verses, kept a bit dirty by a rotating cadre of players clearly in love with the material and ready to show how it had blossomed in their own craft. Highlights included a blistering, psych-accented Pemberton led take on the Electric Mud version of “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” Miller tearing the heart out of “In My Time of Dying,” and Carper making Bert Jansch smile with his captivating take on “Blackwater Side.” One was reminded of what a reliable pleasure the New Monsoon guys are, as flexible and naturally intuitive a gang of musicians as any here this weekend, and real aces at hitting memorable notes even in familiar territory. It’s been too many years since NM played HSMF and hopefully the warm reception this set and their varied sit-ins elsewhere received will lock them into the 2014 installment, particularly with a new studio album in the works and the group playing tastier and tauter than ever.

Guitarmageddon: Stadium Rock! – July 6th – 4:00-6:00 p.m. – High Sierra Music Hall

Jeff Miller, Lebo, Murph Murphy, Lukas Nelson

Celebrating 10 years of over the top guitar heroics, the ever-shifting aggregate of Guitarmageddon gathered for what may be THE archetypal choice of material for this occasional project. Guitarmageddon founders Sean Leahy and Josh Clark (Tea Leaf Green) held down their usual spots stage right while current bandleader Simon Kurth (aka Huckle) drove some of the best guitarists around – Jeff Miller, Dan LebowitzKiyoshi FosterLukas NelsonJeremy Korpas, moe.’s Al Schnier (who seemed to get a special kick out of this NorCal tradition) and Fruition’s Jay Anderson & Kellen Asebroek – and a crack rhythm team of Phil Ferlino (keys), Murph Murphy (bass) and Ezra Lipp (drums) to appropriately ludicrous heights. But where the Guitarmageddon schtick has sometimes been layered on the source material (the White Stripes and Talking Heads sets come to mind), this assortment of creamy mainstream, FM certified favorites fit them like a glove, the bonhomie onstage increasing song by song, pleasure buttons being slammed repeatedly for the audience, whose faces lit up with an infectious glow at the opening notes of each iconic tune. The eternally appealing sounds of Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla,” Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” and opener Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride” (with some great falsetto from Ferlino decked out in sleeveless t-shirt and head bandana; some of the guys really got into the spirit of the theme, particularly suede tassel vest clad Lipp) drew people in, and the curious were rewarded with surprises like Jen Hartswick belting out Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” better than ol’ Steve Perry can anymore and Johnny Moroko, lead singer of Rolling Stones tribute Brown Sugar, killing it on “Start Me Up.” If you didn’t have a king size blast at this set, which got an additional 45 minutes over allotted time to handle all the widdly-widdly goodness, then I’m fairly sure you’re not wired for a good time. Fun resides in the heart of Guitarmageddon, and this set amped up all the positives about this lovingly ludicrous endeavor.

Setlist (and guitarists/guests on each selection): Free Ride (Leahy, Clark, Miller, Lebo, Kurth), Sweet Emotion (Leahy, Clark, Miller, Kurth), Whole Lotta Rosie (Leahy, Clark, Korpas, Kurth), Fat Bottom Girls (Leahy, Clark, Kiyoshi, Anderson, Asebroek – killer harmonies on this one!), Layla (Leahy, Kurth, Lebo, Lukas Nelson), When The Levee Breaks (Leahy, Kurth, Anderson, Lukas, Al Schnier), Start Me Up (Leahy, Kurth, Schnier, Clark, Moroko), Do You Feel Like We Do (Leahy, Kurth, and an especially excellent Miller on point – Frampton would approve), Any Way You Want It (Leahy, Clark, Kurth, Hartswick), Won’t Get Fooled Again (Leahy, Clark, Miller, Lebo, Kurth, Schnier, Lukas)

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