Herbie Hancock at Sound Summit 2018, by Carolyn McCoy
Herbie Hancock (photo: Carolyn McCoy)

Words by Carolyn McCoy

Up the slopes of Mount Tamalpais, up winding roads that pass by groves of Bay Laurel trees and Manzanita scrub, one comes upon the million-dollar view that surrounds the Mountain Amphitheater — sweeping, panoramic visions of the surrounding Bay Area landscape. Music fans from all over Northern California have come to this magnificent amphitheater to witness the musical joy of Sound Summit. Now in its fourth year, Sound Summit boasts an amazing lineup of musical acts to help support and benefit Roots & Branches Conservancy, an organization benefiting music, arts, environmental and educational causes.

Opening the show was Mill Valley teen songwriter Meels (AKA Amelia Einhorn), who held her own amid the morning crowd. High-energy funk/soul band Con Brio got the crowd dancing under the blazing noontime heat with their positive grooves and their dynamic performance that included not only stellar music but also acrobatic antics from frontman Ziek McCarter. Country songstress Nikki Lane came forth with an endearing southern drawl and who told jokes and stories between her personal and rocking songs.

Sound Summit alumni Bob Weir held a laid back and shimmering acoustic set late in the afternoon with drummer Jay Lane and bassist Robin Sylvester, bringing the crowd of Deadheads into a singing tizzy as he busted out favorites such as “Paint My Masterpiece,” “Friend Of The Devil,” and “Easy To Slip.” When pop-rock goddess Grace Potter took the stage, jaws dropped as she pranced, danced, sang, and headbanged with her amazing band. Her dynamo presence was defiantly a highlight as she plowed through her set, even having Bob Weir sit in for a few more well-loved Dead tunes. The sun was setting behind the mountain as the day ended in a mellow and cosmic manner with Herbie Hancock’s space-jam acid-jazz, which took flight in the dying light and helped our brains move to another level of joy.

Sound Summit is a gem of a festival, not only because of its location high up on the slopes of a beautiful mountain, but because of the intimacy one has with the performers and the music. Julie Andrews said it best: “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” The rolling hills and ridgelines of Mount Tamalpais were defiantly alive with music wafting through the trees for one glorious afternoon.