New Eastern Sierra music festival is serving up country tunes and some good ol' fashioned, no-trace fun
By Hannah Truby
Last June, Nevada's Carson Valley hosted a new music festival; Americana and country tunes with the state's Eastern Sierra backcountry as the mise en scène is what Backcountry Music Festival delivers -- and boy does it deliver.
For three days, more than 25 bands performed at Corley Ranch’s 300 acres, where attendees can camp and enjoy tons of craft beer vendors – and of course, top-notch BBQ.
With its second year just around the corner, I talked with Eric Pilcher who organizes the event, inspired by the tunes of his southern upbringing.
“It’s the perfect valley, right in between two giants, Friel and Job's Peak, which are second-to-none for backcountry skiing and snowmobiling. And then you’ve got the valley, with the most epic dirt roads for dirt biking and motocross. It’s kind of the ideal setting for what we kind of think of as backcountry: outside, listening to country, camped out, in a place that we like the most.”
Skiing brought Eric out west, first to Colorado, and then on to Tahoe for the skiing, the boating, and all the other things the alpine gem offers.
“I moved to Colorado from Alabama, but not having any form of boat life around was kind of tough, so I thought I’d try out Tahoe,” Eric tells me. “I started cooking barbecue because nobody has good barbecue out here.”
Eric now owns a franchise of Moe’s Original BBQ, bringing top quality, southern-style BBQ, soulful sides, beers, and bushwackers to the area, often served with live country and bluegrass music.
“And linking all that together is what we're doing at Backcountry,” he says.
Considering it was the event’s premier debut, last year’s turnout was tremendous, with close to 5,000 attendees. Last year’s ticket holders came from all over: SoCal, Bakersfield, Idaho, the East Coast, even Belize. It’s music and scenery worth traveling for.
Eric hopes that Backcountry soon earns the environmentally friendly reputation upheld by other festivals such as WinterWonderGrass and High Sierra.
“They run these things with a no-trance mentality. And putting that into a country music scene is kind of our intention. You go to a country concert and often your expectation when you leave is that it’s gonna be damn cluttered. So, we want to stay as clean as we can while partying the hell out of it.”
The festival is hosted by Corley Ranch, and while it’s private acreage, it sits just on the edge of BLM land. The scenery and recreation the vast stretches of land offers are likely to draw in attendees, and Eric hopes instilling a no-trace mentality at the festival will translate beyond.
“Hopefully we can change people's narratives so they go into these shows saying, “Yeah, I can put three beer cans in my pocket and throw ‘em away on the way out!”
Eric’s second hope is that the festival will encourage people to make a trip out of it, and experience the many diverse, often unknown places and things the area offers.
“To the west, you’ve got the Sierras. To the east, desert. You go just a little bit up there, and you have one of the world’s best lakes. That's kind of what we're hoping people do – not just come for a music show but wake up in the morning and go for a bike ride or whatever. A scenario could be: we left on Tuesday, we stayed in Yosemite for a night, and then right at the base of Friel and Genoa for a night. And then we got our RV and we met at the ranch with all our friends and we had a blast and then topped it off with a visit to Reno.”
You can buy tickets for the upcoming 2024 festival – lineup will be announced next Thursday, the 21st.