Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is an event that continues to amaze. I’ve been to eight of the nine held. There was only one stage at the first one and about ten thousand people. It was a nice event, but how long would it last? How many people would show up for a Bluegrass Festival? Even for free? It has exploded, and it’s hard to believe it is getting bigger. I can’t remember what year it became “Hardly Strictly” Bluegrass. That opened the door to having acts that attracted a wider range of fans, especially younger fans. Music fans across the country plan their vacations around going to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. It’s usually held on the first weekend in October.
And it’s free! It’s all bankrolled by Warren Hellman. He says it’s a gift to himself. The crowds are huge. Locals complain about the effects on traffic, parking and the Park itself, but it’s become a huge event for the City. The San Francisco Examiner estimated that 800,000 people attended this year. It also reported that there were two arrests for public drunkenness. Some in the crowd may be oblivious to what’s going on onstage, but it is amazing that there aren’t a lot more of the problems that come with a crowd of that size.
This August had been the Fortieth Anniversary of Woodstock. The media had been going nuts with stories about the counter culture milestone. Network news had a Woodstock story every day for a week. NBC tracked down the couple pictured hugging on the cover of the Woodstock album. There was the usual debate on the effects of the counterculture. Hardly Strictly is like Woodstock every year, without the camping out.
The festival goes Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday is turning out to be the best day to go. There’s only one stage going, The Banjo Stage. It opens with a morning show for school kids. MC Hammer makes an appearance. When people see him on the schedule they have to wonder, MC Hammer at a Bluegrass Festival? Well, it is “Hardly Strictly” Bluegrass.
I arrive early. Volunteers at an Information Booth are greeting people by yelling: “Happy Hardly Strictly Bluegrass!” like it’s Christmas. It is Christmas for Bluegrass and music fans.
Warren Hellman comes onstage to open the festivities. There’s a big ovation for the man who pays for everything. “You guys are going to make me cry,” he says. He introduces Poor Man’s Whiskey. They had to be announced as “PMW” at the kid’s show. They didn’t want to use the W word.
We had just seen Poor Man’s Whiskey at Cafe DuNord. Kathy had won tickets from radio station KPIG. They’re one of the bands that brings in a younger crowd. They do a funny song about their parent’s adventures in the Sixties, “Easy Come, Easy Go.” It’s an odd song about life in the Haight forty years ago. The keyboard player had a great long psychedelic solo. “Shanghai” is “A song that has everything ... Whiskey, women and the Barbary Coast.”
They have a CD “Dark Side of the Moonshine” that is a Bluegrass version of “Dark Side of the Moon.” They do each song from the album note for note with banjoes and fiddles. It’s an amusing recording. Two of the singers met at Hardly Strictly last year. They just got married! “This means they can now discuss issues like the one that will be covered in the next song,” “PMS.” Two female singers come onstage to help with this one. They close with “Good Friends of Mine.”
The MC tells us that he was just in Jacksonville, Kentucky. He noticed that everyone there seemed to be a bit depressed. Everyone was “a bit hang dog.” What was going on? “All the Bluegrass has gone to San Francisco.”
The music they play on the PA during the break sounds familiar. It takes me a while to figure out it’s a Bluegrass version of Led Zeppelin’s arrangement of “Hangman!” Then there’s a version of “Whole Lotta Love” with banjoes and mandolins wailing.
There are many Rage Against the Machine and “The Nightwatchman” tee shirts in the crowd. Tom Morello has a lot of fans here to see him. He is very active politically. He’s alone onstage with an acoustic guitar and plays rebel songs for the Twenty-First Century. “One Man Revolution.” “Guerrilla Radio.” “The Fabled City” (“San Francisco IS the fabled City!”) His whole set is solo. He even does one song while playing only a hand held drum. “This is a song I did for the soundtrack to the movie ‘Sicko.’” “Alone Without You”
Steve Earle and Allison Maurer join him onstage for Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” “The REAL national anthem!” Morello is sure using the F word a lot. He’s trying to whip the crowd up for some audience participation. “OK, everybody stand up.” (They do.) He wants them to do some call and response. (They don’t.)
We meet my sister Joan and two of her friends. She’s excited to see John Prine. We spread a blanket pretty far in the back, but she goes up for a closer look. Some fans have come today just to see John Prine. He started playing in Chicago and was a member of “the second wave” of Folk music.
“Picture Show” “Grandpa Was a Carpenter” “Whistle While You Fish”
He does a great version of “Angel of Montgomery.” The crowd seems to settle down for a while and are actually listening. It’s a great song and one of the many highlights of the weekend. “Bear Creek Blues.” “Crooked Piece of Tape” “I Didn’t Hurt Nobody” “Souvenirs”
Prine did demand some respect from the crowd, but as the set goes on the crowd around us starts chattering, maybe because we’re so far from the stage. OK, so it is a bar. There were certainly more people here than when Prine started playing at The Earl of Old Town.
The headliner tonight is Lyle Lovett and His Big Band. It’s an example of how great this festival is. I see acts I wouldn’t go out and pay to see. Lyle and the band look very show business. They are all in suits and ties. The band does an instrumental warm up piece “Jump My Chicken.” “Here I Am” “I Will Rise Up” They do a mournful song from the movie Dead Man Walking, “Promises.” Prine comes back and joins in “Loretta.” “She Don’t Talk To Me Anymore”
Friday’s crowd is not as massive as it will be later this weekend, when there will be five more stages. The crowd is pretty laid back. It’s certainly not a Heavy Mental crowd. There are still some characters. If you’re living in the park anyway, you might as well check out the show. I’ll admit I do have a tendency to dwell on the negative members of a crowd. Maybe you just notice the bad kids more.
There was a group of about thirty near a path in the back. Many had the homeless sun tan. Again, most of the crowd is well behaved, but these guys looked pretty crazy. They looked like they lived in the bushes. They weren’t really doing anything, but they did make a point of blocking the path when an attractive woman walked by. Maybe I just noticed people like this more on Friday. They would get lost in the masses during the next two days. You’ve got to expect to see some crazy hillbillies at a Bluegrass festival!
I spotted a lone San Francisco police officer. He was not with a partner. Kind of unusual. One of the homeless group yelled over to him, “Hey, Officer Fat Ass!” Did this guy just want to get arrested? The lone cop ignored him.
There was a lot of smoking despite announcements from onstage. A couple of years ago all smoking was banned in San Francisco parks. It’s one of those laws that is seldom enforced. People are using the safety of being in the crowd to light up.
Some young ladies were living their Hippie fantasy. They wore peasant dresses and granny glasses. People came over and asked, but it was obvious they certainly didn’t mind having their pictures taken.
The crowd’s attention seemed to wander during some of the quieter, slower songs. Inevitable, I guess. Even this seems better than past years. There’s not as much rampant cell phone use. Maybe it’s because they’re texting. I don’t want to be a total grouch about it. Most of this music did start in bars, but sometimes you have to wonder, why did they even bother coming out here? Oh yeah, they have to make the scene.
Lovett closes with some Honky Tonk Texas style Rock that gets the crowd going.
Friday there is one stage going. Today there are six. The dynamic changes. People show up early to get spots. People set up tarps and wander from stage to stage. It looks like people are not being as obnoxious about taking up space as in previous years. Maybe it’s one of those things I accept about Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. I like to wander, but it is good to have a spot for a while.
I was honored to ride and arrive with two members of The Albany All-Stars, long time colleague John Stuber and The All-Stars’ fiddle player, David Rice. (Check out “The Albany All-Stars” on Youtube. Not to be confused with the Roller Derby team.) Mandolin player Joe Risconi didn’t make it today.
I’ll admit that I’m more of a Heavy Metal guy, so many of these song titles are approximations. Corrections are welcomed. Half the fun of doing this is learning more about the acts I see at Hardly Strictly.
I had taken a look at the schedule on the Hardly Strictly web site. One thing about this event is that there are sometimes hard choices to make. I decided to check out the “rare appearance” by Marshall Crensaw at the Rooster Stage. He had been well hyped in the press that week. He’s been called “the critic’s favorite.”
Sleepy John Estes from radio station KPIG is the MC on the Rooster Stage. It’s 11:00 a.m. when Crenshaw says, “I’m not used to being excited this early in the morning.”
“Fantastic Planet of Love” “Stormy River” “Hurry On” “I’m Never Coming Down”
“Live and Learn. (It’s Your Turn)” “Someday Someway” “Someone Told Me” He does a Richard Thompson cover: “Valerie.”
“Here’s one I wrote with Richard Julian,” “Stormy River.” “Hurry On (Just Passing Through?)” One from the oldies bag: “There She Goes Again.” “There she goes with another guy again. Hope she finds what she’s looking for.”
“Somebody has to do a Buddy Holly song,” Crenshaw tells the crowd. “Crying” (Can’t get you off of my mind.) “I’m Never Coming Down”
A guy is carrying a life sized cardboard cutout of Obama. It would be quite a statement, carrying that thing around all day.
Buddy Miller is the first act on the new Towers of Gold Stage. The new stage would honor Warren Hellman’s grandfather, the first mogul in the family. I’d seen Buddy Miller play at past Hardly Strictly Festivals and didn’t want to miss him. So, I crossed John F. Kennedy drive, which was a maze of cyclone fences and got there in time for the first song, “Daisy.”
“Too Far Gone” I hadn’t noticed it before, but his voice sounds like Alvin Lee! It’s time for the first big surprise cameo of the festival. Emmy Lou Harris joins him for “Gasoline and Matches.” She’s the darling of Hardly Strictly and the crowd has a loud warm reaction to her appearance onstage. They do “I’ve Got a Wide River to Cross.”
I’m tempted to go back to The Star Stage, but decide to hear one more. The crowd roars when special guest Robert Plant is announced. He does a couple of Zeppelinesque yodels to warm up. The song sounds a bit familiar. It’s “Movin’ On” the old Hank Thompson song once covered by the Rolling Stones. Buddy Miller, Plant and the band rock out!
Some in the crowd can’t believe it’s Plant. I can hear them asking, “Is it really him?” Plant did appear at last year’s Friday night show.
“Sea of Heartbreak” “Leave My Woman Alone” Kathy says it’s “Whatcha Going to Do, Leroy” by Lefty Frizell.
I have to admit if I’d missed this one, I would have been mad. The two acts I’d seen already were a great start to the day. It was a great opening for The Towers of Gold Stage.
I go back to the Star Stage for “Roger Knox & The Pine Valley Cosmonauts (Presenting the Aboriginal Country & Western Songbook.)” It’s another example of the width and breadth of the festival. Australian Country and Western! The band is carrying on without Roger Knox who was denied a visa. Immigration officials had decided that he’s some kind of threat to America. Jon Langford does appear with The Cosmonauts. He makes a reference to another wild event in San Francisco, The Folsom Street Fair. “You should see the S and M Fair they have here!”
“I Love a Millionaire” “Ticket to Nowhere” “Taking Me Back” “Seminoles”
There are a couple of members of The Sadies with them. “The Sadies are the best group ever!” someone says from onstage. I’m really winging it with some of these song titles: “Looking Good for Radio” “Get Rhythm (When You Get Blues)” “He Needs a Little Love at Closing Time”
Kathy had gone to the Rooster Stage to see Jorma Kaukonen, but I decided to stay put. I already wanted to give the legs a rest. Kathy reports that he played “Come Back Baby” and “San Francisco Bay Blues.”
We stay at the Star Stage for Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women. They had their debut at last year’s Hardly Strictly. It was an experiment last year, and the band worked well enough to record and tour all year. They start with a jaunty Cajun “Marie Marie.” Laurie Lewis has come over from the Banjo Stage to play fiddle. “She’s the Hardly Strictly cover girl!” Dave Allan tells us. “Weight of the World is on Me.”
Dave Alvin says the band has recently lost a member. Amy Farris, their fiddle player, had passed away a couple of days ago after a long illness. It’s a sad moment, but the band plays on. “Simple Way” “Has She Got a Friend?”
“The next song is a song of sorrow and triumph.” “Bury Me In Potter’s Field.”
Krissy McWilson joins for “Abilene.” Alvin sure does look slick, even in a cowboy hat and jeans. He’s a music business veteran. Alvin tells us that anyone thinking of getting in the music business should be warned: “Being a musician can be harmful to your health.”
“Here’s a song that is one hundred per cent true.” It’s about the old music club The Ash Grove in Los Angeles. “Everybody played there.” Alvin reminisces on hanging out at the club with “The Boss of the Blues” Big Joe Turner. The Ash Grove eventually burned down. Allan returns there every time he plays this song.
They close with a strange one. The old Doris Day hit, “Que Sera, Sera.” “Whatever will be, will be.” I remember hearing it on the radio when I was a kid. They do country rock it up.
We go back to The Towers of Gold Stage to catch some of The Old 97s. This year Stuber was looking for acts he hadn’t seen before. Usually we camp at the Rooster stage, but it was intolerable last year. People kept crowding into a limited space. Most of the other stages have room to spread out, but The Rooster Stage is in Marx Meadow. It’s not a big area and people can’t spread out. Even in Golden Gate Park it can be a bit claustrophobic.
We hear The Old 97s do “A Guilty Thing” and then an old Bob Wills song, “The Bedroom Walls.” “I’m Going Over the Cliff” “I need To Know Where I Stand” “Sweet Blue Eyed Darling.” A big crowd has gathered to see this band. Most seem to be younger folks. Exene Cervenka, the singer from the L.A. punk rock pioneers X joins for “Four Leafed Clover.”
We live near Golden Gate Park. Musicians on several of the stages comment on how great it is to perform in a place that is so beautiful. Each stage has a rustic looking screen backdrop, but it is transparent enough to see the trees of Golden Gate Park through it. It’s clear and sunny, a great weather day in the Park.
We go back to The Star Stage for Nick Lowe. At least they are the two stages “next” to each other. It is a little hike each time we go to another stage. Lowe plays most of the set solo and acoustic.
“Simple Way” “Has She Got a Friend” “Heart of the City” “Same Old Man” “I Live On a Battlefield” “Cruel To Be Kind” “Here’s a song I wrote with Elvis Costello,” “What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding”
Elvis Costello had been a presence at this festival in past years. He usually does his own set and guests during the weekend at other stages. He’s not here this year.
We went back to the Banjo Stage. There’s an unbelievable amount of people there. We went around to the side and even found a picnic table where we sat for a while. It was a bit of a luxury after hiking through the crowds. We couldn’t see the stage much, but we were content to hang out there for Gillian Welch. They did a great version of “Novocaine.” Emmy Lou Harris joined for “It’s Too Easy.” Again the crowd warmly greets her. “I’ll Fly Away” (Old Glory)”
Members of The Old Crow Medicine Show join her onstage for “The Dream Locomotive.” They do a version of The Band’s song, “The Weight.” The crowd really enjoys this one and joins in on the singing.
It had been a great weather day, but the wind started picking up, as it will do in Golden Gate Park in the late afternoon. We could see mini-dust devils whirling around. A small tower that held The Banjo Stage’s schedule on a tall sign almost blew over. This year some of the last acts wouldn’t end until eight o’clock! We started heading back to the car, which was parked past the buffalo paddock. We would stop at stages on the way.
Usually seeing the next act alone would be worth going out, The Flatlanders. “Featuring Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock.” “Hello Stranger” “Baby Do You Love Me Still.” It’s a great group of musicians but things are getting more uncomfortable in the wind and it’s getting cold. We reluctantly move on to The Towers of Gold Stage, which is on the way to the car.
We get to that stage and it’s rocking with Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives. It’s another reason for going to Hardly Strictly. I never heard of these guys. It’s real old Rock and Roll. Marty Stuart looks like a crazy show business cowboy. (Reminds me of the old joke: They do both kinds of music, Country AND Western!) Their music has a Fifties flavor. The guitars almost sound like Surf music at times. “I Met My Baby at the Choctaw Fair.”
Marty Stuart has “big” slicked back hair. These guys are the real deal. They sound like they could play the toughest Honky Tonk in the old days. There are crosses on Marty Stuart’s jacket. Looks like he’s been Born Again, but he still looks like one crazy dude. They do “Branded” another rocker. It’s great Rock and Roll as we make it back to the car at about seven o’clock.
Sunday. We get to the Towers of Gold stage at about 11:15 for Marley’s Ghost with special guest Cowboy Jack Clement. Clement was playing at the Sun recording session when they decided to try something a little bit different, Rock and Roll. There’s some hype in the local press about Clement’s appearance at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. It is a piece of music history onstage. He does look ancient.
“The Story of Job” “The Farmer’s Song” “My Love Will Not Change” “Candy Store” (“She worked in a candy store.”) “What’s that picture in your wallet?” Oh, it’s “Just a Girl I Used to Know”
After the set a young guy comes up to us and wants to talk. We should stay for Dr. Dog. “He’s like if McCartney was still really doing his thing!” Great. I’m glad there’s something for the kids, but we’re going to see Booker T. We walked by Elvis In Dearland at The Star Stage. We didn’t linger. We wanted to get to The Arrow Stage for Booker T & The Drive-By Truckers. I’d seen The Drive-By Truckers tear it up at last year’s festival. They make a great combination with Booker T. They have been appearing and recording together. It was full circle for me. Booker T & The MGs played with Albert King at the first big free show I saw in Grant Park in Chicago.
They play at The Arrow Stage which is at one end of Speedway Meadows. The crowd stretches for a long way towards the Polo Fields. They play old Booker T & The MGs classics and some new songs. It’s great to see Booker T onstage. He’s the master of the Hammond B3 organ. Is there any more recognizable iconic riff than the one from “Green Onions?” Where it all started.
“Time Is Tight” The encore is “Dock of the Bay” and it fits perfectly into a Bay Area appearance. There’s some Sixties nostalgia, with The Drive By Truckers providing a link to today’s music.
We went back to The Star Stage to see The Chieftains. How often do you get to see a historic, legendary act like this? We hear an Irish reel as we get there. There are Irish step dancers onstage in traditional costume. Then they play “Wabash Cannonball.” There is a teaser riff of “Satisfaction.” Some of the Rolling Stones have recorded with The Chieftains. They play “The Rocky Road to Dublin.”
“March Across the Rio Grande” The first of several guests joins: Los Centaurus, a Spanish Folk dance act. Rosa Flores sings with Los Centaurus. Tim O’Brien comes onstage for “Sweet Georgia Brown.” They close with some rocking Irish music. The crowd loves them and The Craic is grand!
We’ve been avoiding the crowded Rooster Stage. Stuber’s goal this year is to see someone new, or at least someone he hasn’t seen before. So, we check out Rodney Crowell at The Arrow Stage. Crowell tells the crowd about his brother who was gay and was turning tricks down in L.A. Eventually he was a victim of AIDS. Crowell plays “Rent Boy.” It’s certainly a sad song, and I have to give Crowell credit for singing about something that must have been very painful to him. Rosa Flores guests and they do “Like a River.”
It’s day three and we’re starting to drag a bit, but we pour it on for the end. It is only once a year. We’ll do one giant lap and catch acts as we go to the Porch Stage, the eastern entrance to the festival. Then we’ll circle back to the car. We decide to see some of “the old guys.”
Earl Scruggs and a great band are playing “Easy Chair” when we get there. They’re at the Banjo Stage. We go towards the back of the stage. At this point we don’t care how close we get. We can’t get into the backstage area, but there’s an interesting view from a small hill behind the stage. The crowd is huge. We get a bit of the musicians view and the crowd looks Biblical in dimension.
What Earl Scruggs appearance would be complete without “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies? That song has to be the first Bluegrass many Baby Boomers heard.
Warren Hellman comes onstage and joins Scruggs and Co. for “When the Cold Winds Blow.” Hellman has his arm in a sling, but he plays banjo anyway. He does make cameo appearances all over the festival. He’s an able musician with a love for the music, and he is paying all the bills. They play an odd version of “Lady Madonna.”
“Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” “All Night Long”
The band really lets loose for the finale: “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”
We headed to The Porch Stage. It has acts that are not as well known. The crowd and atmosphere is very different here. It’s a small stage with a small crowd and a nice break from the huge crowds that are migrating from stage to stage. Any stage at this festival would be a great event by itself. I tell myself that someday I’m just going to sit at The Porch Stage for the whole thing.
The Brothers Comatose are onstage. They’re a young band. “Way to Reno.” “Keith Richards called me last night and asked us to do this song,” the singer tells us. “Dead Flowers.” They do a good and amusing cover. A red tailed hawk swoops overhead. They play a song called “Time To Go.” It’s bad timing on their part. The song sounds like something they use to finish a set, but then they play two more songs: “Turn It Around” and “Y’All Come.” Maybe they were asked to fill some time.
We leave The Porch Stage and start the long trek back to the car. We’ll stop at stages on the way out again. We’ve learned you can look at the schedule and try to plan, but after a while it’s a crap shoot. You just can’t see and hear as much as you want to at this festival. It’s almost a matter of chance what you’ll see.
Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys are jamming at the Banjo Stage. They’re playing “O Death” as we walk up. We stand behind the stage again and get the musicians’ view. The crowd really is impressive. It seems to go on forever towards the next stage.
People near the side of the stage are content to just sit on their blankets. There is a lot of smoking going on. We’re able to walk up and get a closer side view of the stage. They play “Katy Daly” an old Irish song I remember we sang as kids, “Come down the mountain Katy Daly, Come down the mountain Katy do.” It’s another Bluegrass Irish connection.
“Three Time Loser” “Nature’s Call” “Searching for His Grave” The last songs are long picking classics. Each member of the band gets a chance to solo in the spotlight. Each tries to upstage the others with their picking prowess. It’s a rousing finale!
John F. Kennedy Drive divides the festival in two. It has cyclone fences up so musicians and VIPS can scoot from stage to stage. People are now spreading blankets across the street from the part of the Park with the stages. They’ll take the spot even though they won’t be able to see anything. At least they will hear.
We’re headed to The Arrow Stage to see Todd Snider. He’s another guy I learned about at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. He does long hilarious monologues between songs. He tells us about his short high school football career. “Yeah, I played football.” There are laughs. It’s hard to imagine this slacker Hippie dude in a football uniform. “I was on the team!” he declares. He describes American high school football. You get out of school and change into uncomfortable clothes and then pound on each other. Coaches yell and berate you.
Snider began to notice that some students were slipping away into an area behind the football field. “What’s that?” “It’s The Smoke Pit,” another student informed him. “That’s where The Burnouts hang out and smoke cigarettes. He becomes more interested in the Burnouts than football. One day, one of The Burnouts offers him a hit of LSD at lunch time. Snider didn’t really know what he was getting himself into. He didn’t go to practice that day or ever again. He sings “One Shot At Having It All.”
“This is another song about psychedelic drugs and athleticism.” It’s a funny song, “America’s Favorite Pastime.” Dock Ellis was a major league pitcher who arrived at the ballpark one day not expecting to pitch, so he decided to take a hit of acid. (It was the Seventies.) For some reason he was moved up in the rotation and wound up pitching that day. He did walk about nine batters, but there wasn’t a single hit against him. The crowd loves it and exults when Snider sings the last line, “The day Dock Ellis pitched a no hitter while he was on LSD!” The last song is “White Conservative Christian” in which Snider tells us that he’s “A pot smoking, porn watching lazy ass Hippie.”
I see San Francisco’s demonstrating eccentric Frank Chu marching with his picket sign. He appears at just about every big gathering of people in the Bay Area. The top word on the sign is “Tedford.” It’s an odd, puzzling mention of the University of California’s football coach.
Marianne Faithful was appearing at The Towers of Gold Stage. Her appearance is another stretch for a Bluegrass Festival but it is Hardly Strictly. We were curious, but by the time we got to that stage she was long gone.
Kathy pointed out that The Knitters would be playing at The Rooster Stage. We were a bit cautious. The stage in Marx Meadows had been a crowded mess last year. We figured we’d hang in the back. I did want to see Exene, and it really wasn’t that crowded. Maybe it was because many people crowded to the front leaving gaps in the crowd.
Exene Cervenka is the singer from the Punk Rock band X. She and John Doe drifted into “Roots” and Americana music in the Eighties. Dave Alvin joins them. People are just sitting on blankets in the back. The front half of the audience was rocking though. It was more of a Punk Rock and Roll show with Exene, John Doe and Dave Alvin!
“Something to Brag About (With You)” “Poor Old Heartsick Me” They do a Dave Allan song: “Dry River” with the line: “Someday It’s Gonna to Rain” “Poor Little Critter on the Road”
There is some explanation of the next song. “The day after Obama’s inauguration I started thinking, what’s really different? It’s supposed to be a new world. Has anything really changed?” “This is supposed to be The New World”?
Exene: “Let’s do a Porter Waggoner song!” “Way To Go” “In This House I Call Home.” “Wear Some Lillies In My Hair” The band rocks: Fort Lauderdale has burnt to hell! Marx Meadow becomes a punk rock club for a short time.
That was about it for us. It was getting windy. The weather wasn’t as bad as it had been Saturday evening, but it was time to go. We knew that Malo, and then Little Feat would be playing at The Arrow Stage later. It was hard to pass up, but we kept going to the car. Eight hours was enough. People were streaming past us, headed in the opposite direction for the traditional Hardly Strictly finale, Emmy Lou Harris. We stopped for a break at a park bench near the Star Stage. We could hear Neko Case through the trees, but we couldn’t see anything. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival was over for us for 2009.
We had heard great music, but we had missed some great acts. I had wanted to see The Austin Lounge Lizards, always a fun act, do “Too Big To Fail.” Boz Scaggs had gathered an all star band including Austin De Lone and James Cotton, but they were playing at the dread Rooster Stage while we were at Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women. It’s just an example of some of the choices that have to be made. At about the same time former Saturday Night Live comedian Steve Martin had drawn a huge crowd to The Banjo Stage. We missed Hazel Dickens, who we had seen almost every year. Clips started to appear on YouTube that night.