Monday, December 31, 2012

Three Bay Area Blues Festivals 2012

Three Bay Area Blues Festivals. 
Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival. July 7&8, 2012. 
Bay Area radio has not been completely swallowed up by corporations. We still find great shows to listen to despite the demise of KUSF and KPIG. The San Francisco Blues Festival is gone, but we can still hear Tom Mazzolini’s “Blues By the Bay” show on KPFA. KPIG broadcast from Santa Cruz. It was a refreshing change from the computerized programming of most channels, but the station was squeezed out of the Bay Area a couple of years ago.  
  Kathy has been a long time listener of KPOO. She discovered the Monday night radio show “Grinder’s Grooveyard.” Rocking Jim Grigsby plays obscure Rhythm and Blues and Doo Wop classics. Every show is a music history lesson. It’s not your usual oldies show, and it’s certainly not the hits you’ll hear on programmed radio. It’s really brought back memories for us. KPOO is in serious financial trouble. Previous funding has been cut and they rely on money donated by listeners. Check out their web site:
Rocking Jim was filling in for fellow DJ Johnny Brooklyn. He was plugging The Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival and announced he’d be giving away tickets to the next callers. Kathy usually wins these things, but I made the call and won two tickets! Consider this a disclaimer. Yes, we were on the house. 
Hayward is in the East Bay. This would be a good opportunity to see a town we usually rush by. What was Russell City? I found a Youtube clip that was a trailer for a documentary on its history. Ronnie Lewis and the Bay Area Blues Society are trying to get it finished. The short clip gives a capsule history of Russell City. There is more information at:  
Russell City was an unincorporated area near Hayward. Poor farmers found cheap land and settled there. It was around a big railroad connection. World War II brought many Black workers from the South and Russell City boomed. Many dive bars sprung up. Most of them were little more than shacks. It was a remote safety zone for juke joints and a place to let loose. It was the other side of the tracks.  
There were several clubs but the main one was The Russell City Country Club. Big stars played there including Lowell Fulson, Big Mama Thornton, L.C. “Good Rocking” Robinson, and T-Bone Walker. A young Fillmore Slim came over from San Francisco to hang out. Ray Charles drew a big crowd. 
Russell City became known as a place where musicians had to “bring it.” It was a competitive scene. The local sound was heavy on saxophones. Bobby “Spider” Webb was one of the regulars. He still plays gigs in the Bay Area and is a DJ at KPOO. In the documentary there are interviews with Ronnie Lewis, Billy Dunn and Robert Trout about the old days.       
Local officials decided Russell City was ripe for redevelopment. They pushed the locals out by eminent domain. People were cheated on the prices of their homes. Most got pennies on the dollar. 
The documentary interviews Sam Nava and his father Ernesto. Ernesto was the last hold out, “The last house.” He had built it himself and certainly didn’t want to leave. Eventually he gave in. He says that two hours after they left, the house was burned down. 
Downtown Hayward had historic buildings. We could see a big farmer’s market down the street. We got our wrist bands and passed to the other side of a cyclone fence. The stage was in front of a renovated, modern City Hall. Most of the area around the main stage was shaded. Rows of white chairs had been set up. This was going to be civilized. It was a cool day for Hayward, but people still anticipated afternoon heat. Lawn chairs were set up in a ring around the plaza. Later they would be in the shade. 
We got there for the last two songs of Blues Harp Explosion. Sean McGroarty, Wingnut Adams, Silverfox, Bennie Arroyo, Vinnie Flores, Junior Boogie. They were blasting Boogie. It was a great start. 
The next act was a Tina Turner imitator. Keisha Wright is Tina Turner. The program told us that she had been a member of Legends of Las Vegas, a troupe of celebrity impersonators. Keisha had it going. She could really shake it. With the big Tina hair wig, she really did look like her. “I Want To Take You Higher.” It was early in the day, but Keisha was going to start a party. She wanted everyone to have a good time. 
Tina insisted on audience participation. She urged volunteers to get up near the stage and dance. The first “volunteer” was a Black gentleman. He could really dance and the crowd cheered him on. Tina brought him onstage and talked to him after the song. He told us he was fifty years old and from Louisiana. 
Ronnie Stewart leads the East Bay All Stars. They would be onstage all day backing up the acts. There was a great sax solo. “We call him Sweetmeat,” Tina told us.
They play some more Rhythm and Blues classics. Tina tries to start a sing a long, but it’s a little too early. They finish the set with the band pumping and Tina jumping all over the stage.    
There’s some shuffling and confusion onstage. A name is called, “We have your driver’s license. So please come backstage. The police have something for you.” That sounded ominous.
It was a relaxed and friendly crowd. Most of the crowd were older Black people. There is a Russell City reunion picnic every year. Sometimes the atmosphere was more like being at a family picnic. A woman sitting in front of us heard us wondering where the “other stage” was. “Oh, it’s right down that way,” she cheerfully told us. 
The theme for this year’s Festival is “Russell City: The Next Generation,” but I didn’t see many in that demographic today. There were a few youngsters with their families, but The Blues doesn’t attract many young fans today. That has happened and changed in the past. The Blues is just not a cool thing to listen to for most young people today.   
  There were tents set up in the plaza selling clothes and art. A booth sold festival tee shirts and programs. The Bay Area Blues Society had a tent displaying photos of local Blues nightclubs and stars. Most of the pictures are used in the Russell City documentary. Some of the photos already looked faded and it was a sunny day. The women behind the table considered getting them out of the sun. 
Which of the Oakland Blues Divas would sing first? The Oakland Divas are Ella Pennewell, Xymphoni and JNeen. Pennewell goes first and starts with a lustful “I Just Wanna Make Love to You.” She follows with the Etta James song: “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Next is some great Aretha with “Rock Steady.” Pennewell leads a great version of “Turning Point” by Tyrone Davis. She’s got a great stage presence and a powerful voice. 
Guitarist Ronnie Stewart acts as MC. He’s a Russell City Blues scene veteran and the executive director of The Bay Area Blues Society. He tells the crowd the festival lost two big sponsors this year. One of them was Black Oak Casino. He calls out to Olden Harris. Harris is a local politician. He had been one of the “driving forces” in getting this Blues Festival started. Stewart tells us that Harris lost the last election. “He should be OK though. He’s a nuclear scientist.” 
Across from the main stage is a booth for an energy drink: Hext. MC Ronnie Stewart tries to send some business their way. He urges people to get over and try the drink. Maybe it was the cool breeze or maybe it was the price, but they weren’t seeing much business today.  
We scouted out the smaller stage. It’s called the CalPine Community Stage. It was behind City Hall. Young redwoods provide shade. The Mekesmo Band was finishing up. There were about twenty people in the whole back area. Some had set up lawn chairs under the redwoods in anticipation of the afternoon’s sun. We found a couple of folding chairs under a small tree. It was like a private Blues Festival.   
We stayed for Leo & The Blues Crew and heard another version of “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Etta James had passed away early in the year. You usually hear her songs at any Blues Festival. They were especially poignant this year. The sound was great. As the day went on more people found out about “the little stage.” Leo & The Blues Crew do “I’ll Play the Blues for You.”  
We danced to “Sweet Home Chicago.” Wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that one. A few people hung out on the lawn outside the cyclone fence. They were getting a free show. One raggedy looking guy with long hair and wearing a red shirt danced nonstop. The BART station was right across the street. Few took advantage of the free show.     
“I Should Have Quit You.” “Just My Imagination.” 
Lil Jimmy Reed was scheduled for the Main Stage, so I went for the short walk to check him out. I had done a little research. Reed is from Enterprise, Alabama. He wasn’t a blood relative of Jimmy Reed. Legend has it that the original Jimmy Reed showed up for a gig too drunk to perform. The owner of the club had heard Lil Jimmy Reed play and had him replace the star act. It was a wild juke joint scene and few noticed that it wasn’t Jimmy Reed leading the band. Lil Jimmy Reed was hired to do his own gigs.
It certainly wasn’t Lil Jimmy Reed onstage right now. Arthur Adams is heavyset and bald. He was stalking the stage and ripping on guitar.  He was rocking and stalking the stage. “We’re going to Roll!’ “Paying the Cost To Be the Boss.” Next was a song he recorded with B.B. King: “I Can’t Wait ‘Till I Get You Next To Me.” 
Adams keeps moving. He looks like an NFL lineman. During “Funky Broadway” he makes his way to the left side of the stage. He spots a couple of his old buddies hanging out. He gives them a silent greeting and points the guitar at them. They get a big kick out of their acknowledgement from the stage.
Where’s Lil Jimmy Reed? Adams is great, but I go back to the CalPine Community Stage. Lovelight Band is playing. They are tight and solid. They open with “Turn On Your Lovelight.” They must be a popular party band.   
“Tina” (Keisha Wright) is sitting with a group under some trees. She’s just hanging with some friends. It really is a festival atmosphere. After people finish their set they wander around and check out the other performers. Ella Pennewell comes back to check out the action on the “little stage.” 
The singer tells us that the next song is an original. Lovelight Band is from Oakland. They play “Bang Bang.” It’s an anti-gang, anti-violence song. “Stop the killing,” the singer pleads after the song.  
  Lovelight Band does a great version of “Last Two Dollars.” The party continues with “Got My Mojo Working.”
I hadn’t given up on seeing Lil Jimmy Reed. Arthur Adams was more Rock and Roll than I had expected to see today. I went around the back of City Hall to the main stage. Lil Jimmy Reed was sitting on the fender of a U-Haul truck. It was hard for me to tell if he was tired, pissed off or both. Why did he switch spots with Arthur Adams? Would he play today?  
Adams is still playing on the main stage. “Caledonia.” He plays the song popularized by Eric Clapton: “Farther On Down the Road.” 
The next act on the CalPine stage is Hollywood & Company. They’re another great party band. There are two keyboard players. They don’t look like they belong in the band. One guy looks like he just dropped in from outer space. The other looks like a classical musician trying to make a little extra money.
The two guys who came onstage earlier with Keisha “Tina” Wright are dancing near the front of the stage. Buddy Young guests on guitar for the Eddie Floyd song: “Ain’t No Love Like My Baby’s Love.” 
“Dust My Broom.” “It’s Going To Be Such a Lovely Day.” 
They do a great Rock and Roll medley with “Whole Lotta Shaking Going On” and “Lucille.” The crowd gets into it. There’s another version of “Sweet Home Chicago.” 
I still want to see Lil Jimmy Reed and go back to the main stage. It’s easy to get around and it is a short walk. Reed is blasting an Elmore James song. He’s playing a Rock rhythm. 
Reed reminds me of Keith. He’s thin, old and has gray hair, but there’s something wild about him. He’s like a wolf. Is that some kind of rhythm guitar player thing? He plays a repetitive, but powerful riff.  
Reed wears a microphone headset. I don’t think he used it during the first song I heard. Maybe we’re not supposed to hear what comes next. Right before the next song Reed gets into it a bit with one of the East Bay All Stars. “Don’t get jealous. Just sit down and play.” Maybe he was just teasing him a bit. We waited for a punch line that didn’t come. The East Bay All Stars must be commended. They were onstage all day backing up the acts. 
“Rock Me Baby.”  
A tall stage hand with long hair came onstage. I had noticed him working on equipment onstage earlier in the day. He sets up a synthesizer during the song and starts to play. This guy is a versatile athlete. 
“It Must be Sunday Morning.”
There are some characters in this crowd. An older gentleman has a Levi jacket with a biker club patch on the back. “AARPS of Anarchy.” He climbs onstage. He has an artificial leg. He’s with a woman who makes an announcement to the crowd. Reed didn’t bring any CDs! “Let him know you want to buy some!” 
It’s another short walk back to the CalPine stage for Big Cat Tolefree & Hypnotics. “Who’s Making Love to Your Old Lady?” We hear another version of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.” 
More classics: “Midnight Hour” “Knock On Wood” “Reap What You Sow” and “Turn On Your Love Light.”  
“This is the main stage!” someone yells from the CalPine stage. The bands on this stage have been exciting and professional. The sound has been great.    
It’s time to head home, but on the way out, we catch some of Sonny Green on the main stage. He’s wearing a wild red jacket and has a flashy show business style. “Shine On Me” and “Monday’s All Right.”  
We heard many R&B standards today. All the bands sounded great and were “party bands.” The bands on the smaller Calpine Community Stage could have competed with any of the acts on the main stage. A great little festival. Thanks again to KPOO and Rocking Jim Grigsby for the tickets!  

Redwood City Blues Festival. July 27 & 28, 2012
We had a great time at the Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival, but it was good to get back on more familiar ground at Redwood City. We arrived later than we usually do, but we did get there in time for the last song of Ron Hacker and the Hacksaws. The song was a Rocker. Hacker’s slide guitar cut through the air. He waved a hacksaw as he left the stage. It’s great to see him. It brings back memories of seeing him at Bouncer’s Bar or The Lost and Found in San Francisco.  
The Gary Smith Blues Band was up next. The program said that “His band was the first to grace the stage at the inaugural San Francisco Blues Festival way back in 1973.” He’s the Godfather of San Jose Blues Harmonica.
After the first song Smith talks about Blues clubs that were on the Peninsula. “Who remembers The Rhinoceros?” Some brave souls in the crowd yell that they’ve been there. “No, no way. You were too young! How about The Beer Drown?” It’s hard to believe there was a club called this. Smith says they had to change the name after someone really drowned there one night. Smith is an apostle of Little Walter. He plays a couple of Little Walter songs.  
The Festival is held in the plaza in front of Redwood City’s historic City Hall. The plaza was modernized recently, but the City Hall is still a classical looking building. It’s home to a great local History museum. Chairs and tables are set out on the plaza, but most people sit in lawn chairs. There’s a big dance area in front. You can just walk up and get a better look and we do.
Smith plays a song about Little Walter. “Little Walter is still alive,” he sings. There are some tables on the side of the stage where they are selling CDs. It’s where the musicians check in. We see Johnny Ace checking in. He’s his usual cool self wearing a black beret. Smith tells us he remembers his parents rolling up the carpets and dancing to the next song. It was a big hit by Jimmy McCracken in 1956, “The Walk.”  
Two special guests join. Davy Johnson is a harmonica player. Fillmore Slim is the notorious legend from the Fillmore. He looks even more emaciated than the last time I saw him, but he’s ready to Rock! Fillmore’s vocal delivery is a Rap style. He’s not playing guitar. The guests join for one song, a great version of “Dust My Broom.” As Fillmore Slim leaves the stage Gary Smith says he’s “an indigent Bluesman.”
Smith and the band do the old Chuck Berry song, “Memphis.” Parts of it sound like The Faces version. They finish with “Don’t Let Go.” 
We had caught some of Sista Monica’s act at the Fillmore Street Fair. She’s a big, powerful woman who gets the crowd going. She starts with a Gospel song: “Lay My Burden Down.” Next is an ominous, Rocking Blues song: “Living In the Danger Zone.” It’s the title song from her new CD.   
Sista Monica asks the crowd for a show of hands, “How many have never seen Sista Monica before?” Sista Monica assures us we’re in for an experience. It’s party time! They play a long song she calls “James Brown Funk.” During the long jam she instructs us to, “Put it in the crock pot!”  
Sista Monica tells us about the night she sang with B.B. King at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz. She says that B.B. was a late surprise guest, so her name was above his on the marquee “for one night.”   
We take a break in The Little Fox. It’s the small club next to The Fox Theater. It was the site of the Johnny Nitro Memorial. ( A younger band is doing a sound check. They’re playing modern Rock. Are they the U2 tribute band playing here later tonight? It’s an odd billing with the Blues festival wrapping up later. 
Sista Monica had the crowd up on its feet. We found a table near the door where we could see and hear better. They were doing “River Deep, Mountain High.” She tells the crowd that, “I’m going to carry the baton for Koko Taylor! I’m going to carry the baton for Etta James!” The crowd loves her and there are big cheers after the last song.  
The last act is billed in the program as: “Blues Power with Harmonica Blow Off Grand Finale.” The band is a group of North Beach Blues scene regulars. Some are veterans of the Sunday afternoon sessions at The Saloon with King Perkoff. There are two saxophone players. This gives the band a powerful sound. 
Johnny Ace is his usual boisterous self. Bass players are not known for being entertainers. Ace bops around the stage to the beat. He always delivers a show. In the band: Doug Rowan, Terry Forgette, Applejack Walroth, Michael Peloquin, Ron Butkovich, Rick Sankey. 
“Part Time Friends” 
They play a song about Canned Heat. Canned heat was a cheap drug made from Sterno. “It’s like morphine. It gets in your bones.” It’s a hard core song and a bit surprising even for these North Beach veterans. Johnny Ace has been clean and sober for some time, but he sure looks like he’s enjoying singing this song. 
Between songs Johnny Ace points at the marquee of the Fox Theater across the street. A Beatles tribute band will play there next week. “Appearing Wednesday night! THE BEATLES!” Ace’s eyes bug out with sarcasm.    
“I’m Gonna Talk About You.”  
It’s great to see a little of the old North Beach action happening in Redwood City.   
The Redwoood City Blues Festival is another great little local festival. The crowd is not massive and you can relax around the plaza and hear some great Blues. 

Polk Street Blues Festival. September 29&30. 
The San Francisco Blues Festival was usually held on the last weekend in September. It’s gone now, and Polk Street has a Blues Festival on that weekend. It’s a free event that is as unique as the neighborhood. 
Polk Street cuts through some interesting parts of the City. There is still some hustling going on at the end of the street near The Tenderloin. It ends near Fisherman’s Wharf with views of the Bay. I didn’t live far from Polk Street when I first came to San Francisco. There are many apartment buildings in this area. Cheaper apartments still draw people who are new to the City. 
The festival is set up like the Polk Street Fair. We showed up later in the afternoon. We caught the end of The Brown Brothers. They played Jazz and it sounded more like a spoken word performance. We walked around and didn’t hear much Blues. Maybe it’s just an excuse to have a street fair.
There have been changes in the neighborhood. Most of the restaurants have changed. There’s still a line waiting outside Swan Oyster Depot. Mayes’ Oyster House became an Irish restaurant, The Holy Grail. Chicken Cordon Bleu closed. It was one of the first restaurants I went to in San Francisco. 
The Royal movie theater closed long ago. The Lumiere showed art films. It just closed. Will there be a movie theater left outside the mall? Polk Street was the original home of San Francisco’s wild Halloween celebrations. 
There is new life on the street. McTeague’s is a relatively new bar on Polk Street. Painted panels above the bar honor deceased icons. Mayes’ Oyster House has reopened. The Log Cabin has been there for years, but I don’t remember seeing it jammed before. Young people lined up to show IDs.  
The main act today is Bobby Spider Webb and the Smooth Blues Band. Webb is a DJ at radio station KPOO and the producer of The Polk Street Blues Festival. It’s his baby. 
The band starts with a hot instrumental, “Put It Where You Want It.” “Anyone know the title?” Bobby asks the crowd. It’s a Crusaders song, he tells us. 
“Do you know who I am?” Bobby asks the crowd. “I’m going to tell you in a minute.” They play Bobby’s signature song. Webb spells out his name to the beat: B-O-B-B-Y! “Now do you know my name? What’s my name?”
Junior Walker’s “Shotgun” quickly follows. Webb shines on sax. 
The crowd loves the next one, “Let’s Stay Together” the smooth Bill Withers song. We spot some regulars in the crowd. There’s the old Dancing Lady that we’ve seen for years at these events. Another regular is an Asian man who hops up and down to the music all day. A Hippie Couple dances through the crowd wearing carnival masks. They do the old Grateful Dead dance with their arms flowing about. They look like veterans of the Summer of Love.  
  The guitar player takes the spotlight next for “Memphis.” Paul Fair is the bass player and he’s featured on a Blind Willie McTell song: “Statesboro Blues.” The buildings on Polk Street echo to the song that was covered by The Allman Brothers.
They play a party medley that includes “Love Light” and a Sly and the Family Stone song. The crowd loves the old favorites. A guy walks around filming with an iPad. The footage will be on Youtube soon. “That’s the salt on the potatoes,” Webb says. 
It’s five thirty. The rules are pretty strict. Most outdoor shows have to end at six. The special guests won’t have much time to play. Fillmore Slim, Guitar Red and Vinnie Perez come onstage. 
Vinnie Perez is thirteen years old. He solos on the opening song. The crowd gives him loud encouraging applause. He is good and it’s stirring to see a young Blues musician.  
Fillmore Slim has a new CD out, “Blues Player.” During a raucous version of “Dust My Broom” Fillmore praises Etta James. “I asked my baby for a glass of water and she brought me gasoline!” Fillmore sings. 
Stone Crazy: I asked her for a glass of water and she gave me a glass of kerosene. 
Fillmore Slim struts his stuff at center stage. He’s wearing a bright orange pimp suit. He tells us he’s now seventy-seven. “Everything works! And I don’t take pills or anything!” A Black woman in the crowd disagrees: “We know he’s lying!” she yells. They play “Hootchie Cootchie Man.”
Fillmore is not playing guitar today. He says that “the media says I don’t play guitar anymore.” “There’s already a guitar player in the band!” Having another guitar player would be a waste. “When we tour in Europe I play guitar!” He tells us about traveling the world and meeting the Queen of England. He says he gave her the Blues. 
Slim has a large, expensive looking watch on. Snoop Dog gave him the watch. Snoop Dog will star in the biopic that will be made soon. We’ve been hearing about the film for years. There is at least one documentary film about him. A Sixties period piece about an Original Gangster starring Snoop Dog sounds like it would work. 
Bobby Spider Webb tells the crowd that he and Fillmore Slim started playing together in 1955. Fillmore tells us that he really does have the Blues today. His girlfriend, “Since we were 17” passed away that week from breast cancer. It’s a sad moment onstage before the band starts their last song, “Night Train.” Bobby Spider Webb tells us to start making plans for next year’s festival.
Next weekend will be Eventageddon! There will be many events in the Bay Area, including Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Tubes at the Haight Street Fair

The Tubes. Haight Street Fair.
Recommended for Tubes fans! Warning: Flashbacks! 
Several years ago the crowds at the Haight Street Fair got so big and unruly that the event was threatened with cancelation. Steps were taken to regain some control. There were no beer or wine sales from booths on the street. No open containers of alcohol are allowed on the street during the fair. There is no advertising for the fair in the local media. Posters for the event are only displayed in the Haight neighborhood. The fair still draws a huge crowd.
The weather was perfect. We walked through Golden Gate Park to get there. On the way we stopped at the Spreckels Temple of Music to hear a few songs by The Golden Gate Park Band. The Golden Gate Park Band plays in military style uniforms. It was quite a contrast with the acts we’d see at the fair. They were playing in their annual Band Festival. Bands from around California would play at the park today. We sat near a band that had just arrived from Modesto. The music is nice and relaxing. They’re playing on a Victorian era stage. It’s a scene you’d expect in a small town square. It reminds me of the cult TV hit, The Prisoner. 
We crossed Stanyan Street into the fair. There were cyclone fences and a few equipment trucks. Amoeba Records is near the stage. A Punk Rock band called The Nerv was blasting. It must have been strange for them to be playing in the sun.
The fair is too crowded. Haight Street is on a bit of a slant and you can look up the street and see the mass of humanity ahead. Some booths at the Haight Street Fair have products and causes you won’t see at other San Francisco street fairs. There were booths for cannabis products and booths for political causes. We saw many of the same booths from other street fairs. We’re not too interested in the fair itself. We’re here to see the last two acts that will play the biggest stage, the Stanyan Street Stage.
We had time to walk a couple of blocks up Haight Street. This fair is one of the ultimate people watching events. Young guys in gang attire loped down the street next to old Hippies. Many dressed up for the fair. There were odd hats and many feathers. It was a day to get that old Sixties outfit out of the closet.  
We had our traditional order of fried artichoke hearts and grabbed a spot on the pavement. The City’s controversial sit and lie laws would not be enforced today. We did see a pair of San Francisco policemen confiscating beers and pouring them out. There have been crackdowns on drinking at these events before. This time they really mean it. 
A young gypsy traveller rolled a small crystal ball around his fingers. He was set up on a rug seeking donations. It didn’t look like much of an act. He rolled the ball around his body and did show some skill. He wasn’t getting much business. 
We went back to the Stanyan Stage to see Chuck Prophet. Kathy kept voluminous notes while I monitored the crowd. Chuck Prophet could easily blend into most of the bars on Haight Street. He wore a red flannel shirt and a hat.   
The band sounds great. They play powerful Rock and Roll. Prophet is a veteran Punk Rocker. His music is closer to Americana now, but the songs still have Punk roots. Kathy says they’re “Springsteenesque.” Sometimes he sounds like Ray Davies. I learned later that it was his wife, Stephanie Finch, played the keyboards. 
“Storm Across the Sea” is a powerful rocker. “Play That Song Again.” 
We saw the beleaguered Ross Mirkarimi walking through the crowd. He had been elected Sheriff in the November 2011 election. Shortly after being sworn in, he pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence charges. Now the City was spending a bundle of money on hearings to see if he should still be Sheriff. It’s a juicy story, and the local media is having a field day. Few people seem to recognize him, but some do greet him. One guy with long hair goes up to him and shakes hands.
Many of Prophet’s songs are about San Francisco history. Halloween is a holiday for adults in San Francisco. “Castro Halloween” tells how the huge wild celebration on Castro Street was ended by the fallout from gang shootings. “Halloween was here, but now it’s gone.”  
“The Left Hand and the Right Hand” is a song about porno pioneers, the Mitchell Brothers. “And brothers everywhere,” Chuck says. The brothers made a fortune making porno films including Behind the Green Door with Marilyn Chambers. They opened their “couples friendly” O’Farrell Street Theater in the Seventies. They changed the business in San Francisco, but eventually they became another Bay Area tragedy. 
“Willie Mays Is Up To Bat” is a song about a more pleasant side of the past. It includes references to Carol Doda, Bill Graham, and Playland’s Laughing Sal. “No one knows who’ll make it home tonight.” 
It’s back to the dark side with “White Night, Big City.” The song is about the riots after Harvey Milk and George Moscone were killed. Dan White’s lawyers used the Twinkie defense and he was convicted of manslaughter, not murder. After he was sentenced the City erupted. New Mayor Feinstein was trapped in City Hall. Squad cars burned. It became known as “White Night.”  
It was shortly after the tragedy of Jonestown. I had been in San Francisco for three years. I was still learning the native customs. What kind of crazy place is this? The two events changed San Francisco in many ways. 
“Temple Beautiful” is a tribute to a long gone Punk Rock club. The Temple was in the same building on Geary Street that was once the site of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple. It’s a post office now.  
It’s time for the last song. “We’re going to get metaphysical on you.” They do “You Did (Who Put the Bomp?)” It’s an odd song. Prophet’s voice is distorted. Prophet only got forty five minutes onstage. In that short time he gave us a great musical San Francisco history lesson.   
For many locals the fair is an annual invasion. Some stores don’t open. Even some of the homeless resent the intrusion. Tubes fans are gathering near the Stanyan Stage. There is pre-Tubes excitement in the air. Seeing them on Haight Street will be special. Some of the crowd have come for the fair, but people near the stage look like dedicated Tubes fans. 
State Senator Mark Leno does a short introduction. Leno is Gay and a very Left leaning politician. He looks at ease, and he shows some guts getting onstage in front of this crowd. “This is a group that predated the Haight Street Fair.” The Tubes have had many hit records he tells us, including “White Punks on Drugs.” Maybe he just couldn’t say the word “dope.” It’s hard to believe he didn’t really know the title to that song. 
We found a spot near the sound tent. It was a glorious day, but being in the sun could become a problem. It wasn’t a bad view of the stage. The sound man looked a bit stressed out. There was a woman holding a spot in front of us on the rail. When the music started she suddenly left. We swooped in.    
The band plays their “Overture.” It’s a reminder of the zaniness and hilarity to come. The band gets to warm up and stretch it out a bit. It’s not just comedy music. These guys are great musicians. Kathy says their sound reminds her of Zappa. 
The Tubes now are: Roger Steen (guitar) Rick Andersen (bass) Prairie Prince (drums) and David Medd. (keyboards)
Rick Andersen is in a black leather jacket and a sailor cap. Steen has a golf cap on. Prairie Prince is wearing a derby. A hat is a good idea on a sunny day like this. I could only catch a glimpse of David Medd behind some speakers.  
Fee Waybill comes onstage in a white jacket and a golf hat that reminds us of Bing Crosby. He’s carrying a cigarette and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black that has very little left in it. Fee is the friendly romantic crooner.  
I’ve seen him onstage so many times I feel like I know him. Maybe I do. He plays many roles, including the obnoxious Rock star. Even Quay can be friendly in his own extremely intoxicated way. Fee comes across as one of the guys. He’s not a freaky man from Mars or England. Well, not until the end of the show. I saw him play softball a couple of times in the Sunset. He played third base with “Waybill” across the back of his jersey. It was odd to see him in the real world on a softball diamond.  
“I Am Looking For Someone.”   
The second song is a great version of “This Is A Man’s World.” They do sound like James Brown and the Famous Flames. They bring some old Rhythm and Blues to Haight Street. Fee is an entertainer!  
I first learned of The Tubes from an article in Rolling Stone in 1972. Rock became more theatrical in the early Seventies. The Tubes had a reputation for putting on a wild stage show. The article said that Fee Waybill catapulted into the crowd during a show in New York and came face to face with Mick Jagger! The Tubes’ theatrics had gotten Mick curious and he was checking them out. Fee was used to surprising and shocking audiences. He said it was a surrealistic moment to come face to face with one of The Rolling Stones.
Kathy saw The Tubes play at Kezar before Led Zeppelin in 1973. “They were not well received.” It was one of the first Day on the Green shows. It took a while for The Tubes to get their musical and stage acts together. 
Fee lights up another cigarette for “Smoke (La Vie en Fumer.)” It’s another slow lounge lizard song. “The world is my ashtray.” Is he doing all these smoking songs today because he can’t do them in clubs anymore? 
“Welcome to the fucking Thirty-fifth annual Haight Street Fair!” Fee tells us they played at the Twenty-fifth Haight Street Fair and hope they’ll play the Forty-fifth! They play “Amnesia” from the Completion Backwards Principle album.  
Having The Tubes headline The Haight Street Fair is a perfect fit. Fee tells us they used to hang out on Haight Street.
I first saw The Tubes at Bimbo’s, a classic old fashioned night club in North Beach. The Tubes had sponsored a Talent Hunt. They said they were looking for the weirdest act in San Francisco. The Talent Hunt was held at The Boarding House with Martin Mull as MC. Robin Williams was one of the losers. Maybe he wasn’t weird enough. The winners would “open” for The Tubes during their run at Bimbo’s. It was a unique San Francisco event. 
A Tubes show was more than your usual night of Rock and Roll. Each song was a short theater piece. At the Bimbo’s shows twenty-five people appeared in different roles. The Tubes were more of a theater group. They were The Cockettes with a great band. Fee was the center of the act, but I’ll never forget seeing Re Styles, Jane Dornacker and Leila dancing! 
The sound man is scrambling around again. Is there something wrong? He’s fiddling with the dials on the soundboard and pouring sweat. Is he just fussing? He looks about sixty. He works at the dials. He slows down. He’s in control again and stops twiddling the dials. Someone passes him a bottle of water.   
Fee: “Every show we ask this question. We get good answers, stupid answers and crazy answers.” It’s “What Do You Want From Life?” The song examines this philosophical question. It becomes a parody of a game show. Fee lists the things we might want from life: “An Indian guru to show you the inner light? A meaningless love affair with the girl you just met tonight?”
  A long haired guy in front of the sound tent is facing away from the stage and singing. It looks like he’s shouting right at the sound man. He seems a bit menacing. “What do you want from life?” he shouts over and over. It looks like he’s yelling it at the sound man. Do they know each other? 
Fee continues to list products and consumer dreams: “A Las Vegas wedding? A Mexican divorce? ... A Winnebago? A Mazda! ... We’re giving them away!” The song ends with the sound man and many in the crowd answering the song’s question by yelling the last line: “A baby’s arm holding an apple!” 
Fee goes backstage. Backstage was just a fenced off and curtained area on the street. It must have been a mad scramble to get Fee into the next outfit. The band plays Link Wray’s classic, “Rumble.” It’s the primal riff, the theme for juvenile delinquents and gang fights. 
The Tubes played great shows on New Year’s Eve. The first one I went to was at the Berkeley Community Theater. The New Year’s Eve show at Winterland may have been their biggest production. There were at least a couple of New Year’s Eve shows at The Kabuki theater in Japantown. There were always surprises on New Year’s Eve. They were wild shows with wild crowds.
The band plays a powerful instrumental, “Turn Me On.” I used to listen to it every day. It’s an energizing song. Fee comes back out in a thong and codpiece. A small toga covers his torso and he’s wearing a Roman style helmet with a wrestling mask over his face. The helmet has a pink feather mohawk as a crest. From a distance he looks like a bizarre chicken. Fee looks in great physical shape. Kathy remarks that only small love handles betray his age.
Someone throws a plastic bottle onstage. Steen sounds irritated: “What’s that?” Someone says, “It’s Fresca.” A stage hand comes out, picks it up and throws it back into the crowd. Truce?  
“This is a song that was written in and for San Francisco!” “I Was a Punk Before You Were a Punk.” The Tubes were present at the creation of the Bay Area Punk scene. They weren’t too impressed with the tough guy attitude of the newer bands. The band plays a bit of dance music while Fee does another costume change.   
The Tubes reflected what was going on in San Francisco during the Seventies. Disco may have been more popular, but San Francisco had a thriving Punk Rock scene. Even at the birth of Punk, The Tubes had been around for a while. I enjoyed Chuck Prophet’s songs about San Francisco History, but The Tubes ARE a piece of San Francisco history. They played a cover of “I Saw Her Standing There.” What would have happened if The Beatles were a Punk band?
It reminded me of The Tubes show at The Palace of Fine Arts. The Palace was a great venue. The Tubes used technology. There were TVs all over the stage staring back at us and two big screens at each side of the stage. Big screens were rare back then. Fee stalked the stage in his Punk Rock persona waving a chain and beating the stage with it. One of the big screens showed us Quay in his dressing room. The two took an immediate dislike to each other. They screamed “fuck you” at each other. Fee is screaming obscenities at himself on the screen. It was a bit of a Punk pissing contest with himself.
This may sound antiquated now when concerts feature laser bombs going off in computer generated synchronization, but having all those TV monitors onstage showing the band live was a big deal back then.   
Fee comes back in a purple pimp suit with a large felt hat. He’s bare chested under the jacket. “You’re Still the Only One.” The ageless Prairie Prince plays a drum solo.
Fee tells us the band moved here in “Nineteen fucking Seventy. I lived at Forty-Eighth and Noriega for years.” It’s not in the Haight neighborhood, but it’s close enough to get a cheer from the crowd anyway. The band didn’t really start until April of 1972 so, “This year is the Fortieth Anniversary of The Tubes!”
“It’s a lovely day in San Francisco! We expected the fog to roll in by now.” Fee says the crowd scared the fog away. Fee responds to someone yelling in the audience. “Take it off?! What the fuck? YOU take it off!” 
“I Don’t Want To Wait Anymore.” It’s a soaring love song. Steen plays a haunting solo. Fee slips offstage.  
The Tubes never got the commercial success they deserved. Much of the money they made went back into the band. The lavish stage productions cost money. They cut back for a while, even abandoning Quay Lewd for a while. Band members clashed and left the group. Bill Spooner left for his own projects. Michael Cotten went back to the art world. Even Fee left the band. Vince Welnick became a keyboard player for the Grateful Dead and met a sad and untimely demise.  
The band played a familiar riff. It’s Iggy’s “Lust For Life!” It was time. Roger Steen introduces Quay Lewd. He says Quay used to hang out on Haight Street! “He cut his teeth on this street.” Fee struggled onstage as Quay Lewd, the decadent British Rocker. There was pornographic war paint on his face. His white hair towered over him. He wore silver pants and the ridiculous Quay Lewd glasses. QUAY was spelled out with holes for his eyes. Quay was precariously balanced on six inch heels. It took him a while to totter onstage.  
“Are there any White Punks on Dope out here today in the audience? I know you’re out there! I know you’re on drugs! I need a fucking beer!” Fee chugs a beer and tosses the bottle aside.
They hit the first chords of “White Punks on Dope.” They’re an electric signal to the crowd. People in the crowd pump their fists to the beat. They’re jumping up and down. The crowd sings along: “We’re White Punks on Dope!” We used to call it “The National Anthem.” 
Hearing the song’s title still makes me laugh. Did they realize when they wrote it that it would become such a classic? This was the high point, the climax of a Tubes show. Everyone would go nuts! Chuck Prophet is onstage and joins in on vocals. He cracks up at Fee’s antics. Fee stumbles and falls, but slowly rises as the synthesizer simulates an angelic chorus. The crowd chants over and over: White Punks on Dope! Fee has been resurrected again! 
In the old days “White Punks On Dope” was quite a spectacle. At some shows they played in front of a Cityscape that included the Golden Gate Bridge and the Transamerica Pyramid. There would be thirty people onstage. Trapeze artists swung back and forth across the back of the stage. Scantily clad women danced in a chorus line. Giant Quaaludes would chase Fee around. It was theatrical sensory overload. It seemed like anything could happen onstage. 
The Haight crowd let loose. It was a raucous version of WPOD. Fee and the boys gave it their all. The theatrics were cut back a bit, but The Tubes were conquering Haight Street. Half this crowd wasn’t born when The Tubes did this song in the Seventies. They still sang along with veteran fans. 
After the song Quay rants at “All you fucking Hippies!” He says they’ll be right back, but first he has to go backstage and puke. “Or maybe I’ll just use Rick’s hat!” He grabs the sailor hat and they stumble off the stage. I can hear a homeless guy yelling at the crowd, “Get out of here!” He wants his territory back. 
He won’t get it back yet. The MC asks, “Do you want to hear more?” The crowd yells: “Toooobes!” After a short delay they come back onstage. When they return Fee is wearing a garish red and white suit jacket and a white top hat. He’s the carnival barker now. They play what might be their biggest commercial hit, “She’s A Beauty.” “One in a million girls!” Then there’s another rocking song that sticks in your head: “Talk To You Later.” 
As headliners The Tubes got twice as much stage time as anyone else today, but  we still missed some great songs: “TV Is King” “Tubes World Tour” “Mondo Bondage” “Stand Up and Shout” “Boy Crazy” “Sushi Girl” “Telecide” “God Bird Change” There were so many songs and memories. “Don’t Touch Me There” would have been kind of stupid without Re Styles. In 2005 a stash of tapes, photos, posters and other Tubes ephemera were rediscovered in the closet of a former Tubes Fan Club president. Michael Cotten worked on producing a history of the band, The Tubes Project. Plans for a movie and DVD stalled during the economic crisis of 2008. Amazing clips from their early shows can be seen online.
Fee’s in a tee shirt now. They go back to the Sixties for a last surprise, Jimi Hendrix’ “Third Stone From the Sun.” The now ancient jam is an appropriate ending for The Haight Street Fair. Fee plays an enthusiastic air guitar to the instrumental. “White Punks on Dope” may not have had all the theatrical excess of the old days, but the spirit of The Seventies was back today on Haight Street. 

Kathy's Blog is at: 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Warren Hellman Tribute

Warren Hellman Memorial. 2/19/2012. 
The founder and sole sponsor of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival passed away in December. Last year had been the tenth festival. It had grown to an incredible size. Many said it was the best music festival in the country. Hellman had inherited a fortune and built one of his own. He called Hardly Strictly his selfish gift to The City. It was something he really enjoyed. “Why buy another expensive painting?”
Hellman was a generous benefactor for The City. He has been credited with saving many San Francisco City workers pensions. There were many sides to him, but the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival may be his legacy. We hope.   
Hellman looked frail at last year’s festival. He still showed his sense of humor by wearing a large coat with The Star of David. “I wear my religion on my sleeve.” He sounded hoarse. After his death it was said he was diagnosed last year, but put off the surgery to tour with his band, The Wronglers. There had been a service for him at a synagogue. The public had been invited, but there had to be an outdoors music tribute. 
Winter rain made it impossible to have it in Golden Gate Park. A crowd of any size would damage the wet fields. It would be held on The Great Highway along Ocean Beach on the West end of San Francisco. JFK Drive and Lincoln. It was an odd site. The Bay to Breakers race ends there, but I can’t remember any music event being held there.  
John and Tree Stuber were gracious enough to pick us up on their way. We parked on Sutro Heights. We could see the tents and stages set up down by the beach. After a brisk walk we came up to a large sign. I wish I had taken a picture of it. It warned us that we were entering federal property. There were ominous warnings about breaking federal law. There were “dangerous conditions” in the parking lot. Someone said they were trying to protect against lawsuits that might result from someone tripping in one of the numerous potholes in the pavement. 
Saturday had been windy and rainy. Light rain was forecast for today. We couldn’t believe it was sunny and clear. It was early and still a bit cold, but again the Hardly Strictly weather gods were with us. 
An MC got things going. “Warren Hellman had a great life. He was a real, true Christian, although he was Jewish.” The necessary announcements were made. There would be no smoking, no alcohol and no dogs. “That’s right,” said the MC, “just about anything fun is banned.” “This is federal land, so a violation would be a federal case! This is not Warren Hellman Speedway.” Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park, once the home of historic music events in the Sixties, had been renamed Hellman Hollow, shortly before Hellman passed away. “We can’t practice the primitive customs we’re used to here.” 
Then there was another abrupt message. “I’ve been informed that THE BEACH is federal property.” This really confused the legality of any reversion to “primitive customs.” We were on the street. Was that technically, legally City property? Park Rangers did circulate in the crowd. Things did get more lax as the crowd grew. 
There were two stages today. Action alternated between The Arrow and The Banjo stage. It meant there wouldn’t be the agonizing choices that had to be made during Hardly Strictly with its six stages. 
We settled down near the back of the crowd at The Banjo stage. We arrived early, but spaces were already filling up. We were sitting in the parking lot, which meant we were sitting on pavement. It would be a trial as the day went on. I sure missed the damp soft grass of Golden Gate Park. Our spot is on the left near a pair of cyclone fences. A path is kept clear so golf carts can whiz people back and forth to the stages.  A great view of Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean stretch on our right. 
The music started at The Arrow Stage. It was the stage farthest south. Poor Man’s Whiskey was usually the first act to play the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. They play a show for school kids on the day before the festival starts. So it was fitting that they started the music today. They use the acronym PMW for the kid’s show, so the school kids won’t hear the W word. They could use their real name today.   
The singer from Poor Man’s Whiskey gets things started. “Here’s to Warren Hellman, the man who completely revived the music scene in California, especially San Francisco!” The first of many tribute songs today is, “There Won’t Be Whisky in Heaven.” The second song, “Sierra Girl” mentions spots in California including the Truckee River.    
“For this song, we want you to give us your biggest Yee-Haw! We want it to be heard all the way across the ocean to China.” This was a hoe down number, “Let’s Go Out Tonight!”
We could hear the other stage. It was a couple of hundred yards away, and it was  easy to walk over and get a distant view of the stage. There was still much open area between the stages.    
“Here’s a song about Warren Hellman, ‘Let Me Die With a Banjo In My Hands.’” 
It was time for music to start at our stage, The Banjo Stage. John Doe would play with Cindy Wasserman. They played a slow song to start: “You Are the Aching In My Heart.” 
Doe says they don’t have a long time to play. Most of the acts only had a half hour. “The songs aren’t sad songs. They’re love songs,” he says.
The sound is great. It must be tough to get such good sound at an outdoor show next to the ocean. The wind would pick up during the day. I wanted a break from sitting on the cement. We had arrived early and waited over an hour for things to start. 
So, I took a walk and stretched it out a bit. Across the closed Great Highway there were enlarged photos arranged on a cyclone fence. The photographic retrospective showed Warren Hellman at different points in his life. There was a shot of him from 1954 in his U.S. Army uniform. There was a shot of him in a Rasta wig with long draids. He did have a self deprecating sense of humor. The photos were a nice tribute. 
  It was still early and there were only a few people checking out the photos. I noticed a guy looking at them. He looked like a Vietnam vet. Maybe he was a roadie. He was balding with strands of black hair combed back. He had a grizzled, intense look. There are no shortage of these guys in San Francisco, I thought, especially on Market Street. I thought he looked like Steve Earle. He was a bit furtive. I had a hunch he really had known Warren Hellman. I looked at the rest of the photos. Maybe he is Steve Earle, I thought, but he was gone.   
Doe and Wasserman were playing a nice little set. “Here’s a real old C&W song.” “Don’t Forget How Much I Love You.” “I’m Painting the Town Blue” “Pressing On” was a Gospel song. “Pressing on to spread the word of the Lord.” When I got back to our group Stuber told me there were reports that Steve Earle had been spotted wandering the area.  
Kevin Welch, Kieran Kane and Fats Kaplan began playing on The Arrow Stage. “Long Gone from Kentucky.” “Jersey Devil” 
I have to admit that when I heard the bad news about Warren Hellman, my first thought was, what will happen to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass? In 2010 it had been announced that Hellman had created a foundation to pay for future festivals, but what will happen after he’s gone? I heard today that the fund for the festival’s future had five hundred million dollars in it. A provision of the will says that if any heir even tries to change the arrangement they will be totally cut out of the will.   
Welch, Kane and Kaplan play a Hazel Dickens favorite, “Banjo Picking Mama.” When they had finished playing it at last year’s Hardly Strictly Warren Hellman had given them a big thumbs up signal.   
“Too Old to Die Young.” “Postcard from Mexico” Good fiddling. 
The MC from The Banjo Stage announces, “Now it’s our turn again.” We see many acts by chance at Hardly Strictly. I saw Dry Branch Fire Squad perform early hours of the festival years ago. They’re a “real” old fashioned Bluegrass act. They sound like a Bluegrass band from way back, but they all wear suits and ties. The singer and narrator Ron Thomason has a dry understated sense of humor, and he tells great tales between songs.
During the first song, “Little Old Church By the Road” guitarist Brian Aldridge breaks a string. “We’ll just play without him. We may be out of time and out of tune, but that’s what makes it Bluegrass.” “Rovin’ Gambler.”  
“Warren enjoyed old Gospel songs, and he was Jewish. Just goes to show, it’s what you believe, not what you hear.” They do a rollicking “Father Found a Stone.”    
Thomason mentions the passing last year of Hazel Dickens. She was one of Hellman’s inspirations for starting the Hardly Strictly festival. “Hazel was a great singer. Not having pitch or timing never stopped her.” She was a tough woman. “Hazel got the snot beat out of her” several times while fighting for the unions.
Thomason asked Hazel if she would record with Dry Branch Fire Squad. She said she would, “If they didn’t hold back.” So, on this next Gospel song, “Blood of Jesus” there would be no holding back. 
There is a merchandise tent, we’re told, where we can buy CDs and “thought repellant hats.” Thomason says it sounds dumb, “But just think about what you’ve been thinking about.” This gets some laughs. “I didn’t mean to put you in existential angst.”
Thomason cracks: “T.S. Elliot said you have to bring some knowledge to the poem.” There is some applause. “I don’t know what band he played in.” 
“I’m not talking too fast for you, am I?” Thomason said in his slow drawl. 
I didn’t think they would have time for stories, but Thomason did give us the short version of the story of how the band had been discovered by Alan Lomax, “Back when we were younger rednecks.” Lomax had them play at the Washington D.C. Folk Festival. “We told him we didn’t know any Folk songs. He said that we did. We were amazed that he thought we knew something we didn’t know about.” Lomax took them to The Smithsonian where, “He was doing some curating.” They were amazed by the dinosaurs and airplanes hanging off the ceiling, but Lomax pushed them to some caveman dioramas that he had created. They were amazed that Neanderthals had camp fires with plastic light bulbs in them. “Take Me Back to Texas.” 
“We only got one request, so we’ll play it. Really we got two requests, but we’re going to use all our stage time anyway.” “Seven Spanish Angels.” 
Steve Earle starts playing at The Arrow Stage. It’s tempting to go have a look, but the crowd has grown and it’s not as easy to get over there. Buddy Miller will be up next on the stage that we’re camped out at. I’ve learned not to miss Buddy Miller.
Earle has a new song for Warren, “I wrote it on the plane,” he tells us. He plays “Warren Hellman’s Banjo” followed by a powerful “Copperhead Road.” Earle is alone onstage with an acoustic.   
“Can I get away with another new song? We’ll have a new record sooner than we thought. This song should piss somebody off somewhere ... but not here.” “Thinking of Burning the Walmart Down.”
Earle is ecstatic about the weather. He mentions the wind and rain at yesterday’s sound check. “It could have been a challenge.” Earle thinks it was one of Hellman’s “connections” that gave us the great weather. 
“My Old Friend The Blues” “Someday” 
Earle says he grew up in Schurz, Texas. “Someone named Otto was always beating me up back then. “Hometown Blues.” “Nothing brings you down like your home town.” “The Mountain” “Pilgrim” “No need to cry for me, boys.” 
At the end of the set Earle looks skyward. “I’ll see you when I get there, Warren!” 
Earle gets a big response from the audience, but the MC explains that, “There will be no encores today. We’re not scrimping. We just don’t have enough time.”
Buddy Miller takes the stage with Chris Keys on bass and Ken Owens on drums. Owens is sitting in. “We just met yesterday.”  They open with a rocking “ How I Got to Memphis” “Shelter Me Lord” “Roll Around Heaven” 
Emmy Lou Harris joins for a Porter Waggoner song: “Burning the Midnight Oil.” She holds a piece of paper with the lyrics. 
Harris tells a joke she heard from Warren. If a man locks his wife and dog in the trunk of a car overnight, which one will be glad to see him when he gets them out?
“Wide River to Cross” “I Worry Too Much” “It Don’t Matter Where You Bury Me”
Warren’s band, The Wronglers, will try to continue without him. It must be tough. They’re all family and friends. Heidi Clare explains that Warren had a “no jerks policy.” We’ve seen The Wronglers at Hardly Strictly and once heard them play in a high school auditorium during the San Francisco Folk Festival. (A great little event held in June.) Warren was a bit cautious about playing in public, but eventually did play before thousands at Hardly Strictly.   
So far we’ve at least been able to hear what’s happening on The Arrow Stage, but now there’s something wrong with the sound. The wind is picking up a bit. Gusts coming off the Pacific Ocean seem to blow the sound away, but it’s probably a sound system problem. 
“Time Changes Everything” “My Blue Eyes” (Hank Williams song.)  
Jimmie Dale Gilmore joined The Wronglers a couple of years ago. He added a professional touch and took the band to another level. Heidi Clare plays fiddle. She and Warren became close enough in the last couple of years that they had to deny a romantic involvement. Bill Martin is on mandolin. Eric Pearson is introduced as, “Warren Hellman’s banjo teacher.” Colleen Brown is on bass and Nate Levine plays guitar. 
Heidi tells us that they rehearsed at Nate Levine’s house late one night. The lights flickered. “Did that ever happen before?” “No, that was Warren.”
The band can still be ragged at times, but no one minds when they do a restart on “Way Downtown.” They do a murder ballad: “Frankie and Johnny.” The last song is one of the last that Hellman wrote. It showed Hellman’s sense of humor: “Big Twang Theory.”
Warren’s daughter, Avery Hellman, and his grandson, joined for “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” and “Deep Ellum Blues” 
The crowd at The Banjo Stage is excited to see the husband and wife team of  Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. They’re dressed in matching white Cowboy outfits and hats covered in rhinestones. “We brought out the bling for Warren,” Gillian tells us. It brings up the perennial fashion question: “What goes with rhinestones? Everything!”
They start with an appropriate number for this business climate, “Hard Times.” “Hard times aren’t going to rule my mind no more.”
“The Way It Goes”
“We weren’t expecting sunny,” Gillian says. “We got a free micro dermabrasion at yesterday’s rehearsal.”    
“Pass You By.” “I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll.” 
Steve Earle passes us on a go cart. No doubt about it. He’s the guy I saw at the photo tribute.  
Gillian: “Here’s a sad, pitiful song, 'Dixie Line.’” “Elvis Presley Blues” “Six White Horses” 
They get a big response from the crowd when they start “Look At Miss Ohio.” “I want to do right, but not right now.” 
Emmy Lou joins for “Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby.” It’s the song the sirens sing in the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou.” “I’ll Fly Away” 
  We had enough of sitting on the pavement and went to The Arrow Stage for Boz Scaggs. We had missed him at Hardly Strictly and he’s one of Kathy’s favorites. We found an OK spot near the family and friends section and could see most of the stage.   
Boz came onstage and sat down behind a music stand. He’s joined by Jack Woolruff on harmonica and Gil Goldstein on keyboards, including a Wurlitzer electric piano. “Corrina, Corrina.” The next song was a surprising “Rainy Night In Georgia.” “This is a Nancy Wilson song,” “Save Your Love for Me.” Then a Jimmie Dale Gilmore song, “Sometimes I Fly Like a Bird.” Kathy commented that Bluegrass songs had many bird references. Ornithological Bluegrass? They did a great version of “Boots of Spanish Leather.”  
Boz says, “We’ll skip the next one.” I wonder what we missed. Instead they do a Blues song: “As the Years Go Passing By.” Boz does a great set of Old Time Americana Roots music.    
I had a job that night, so our plan was to get to the memorial early and leave early. The crowd wasn’t huge by Biblical Woodstock Hardly Strictly standards, but the afternoon wind was starting to whip off the ocean. People were still pouring in. The crowd was getting looser. The ban on alcohol and smoking was getting harder to enforce.   
We had seen Boz at the southern stage. We would go around the crowd on our way out while watching Old Crow Medicine Show. The crowd is excited and lets out a loud cheer when the band is announced. “C’mon Home” “Cocaine Habit” “I Hear Them All.” The singer says that on his first day in The City, someone came up to him and said, “Welcome to San Francisco! Do you want a pot brownie?”  
“Virginia Creeper” 
“I Want to Dance With Somebody” I heard them say something about Whitney Houston, but didn’t realize this was one of her songs. She had passed away the night before.
“Rockin’ in the Weary Land.” “Caroline” There are cheers after a shout out to Giants fans. “Take ‘Em Away” 
The singer talks about how the group grew with the Hardly Strictly festival. When they first played, it was in front of a crowd of 10,000. The crowds grew to 100,000. “Rock Me Mama” “Johnny Get Your Gun”  
We walked back along the closed Great Highway and jumped on a 31 Balboa bus. It was a MUNI bus trip we wanted to get done before the hordes descended. The event was being webcast. Sometimes live webcasts can be shaky, but the picture and sound were fine. It was weird watching an event on the computer that we had just been at. There’s nothing like being there for live music, but it was OK to get out of the wind and sit in front of the computer.    
Robert Earl Keen did a tribute song to Levon Helm: “The Man Behind the Drums.” “Feelin’ Good Again” “Gringo Honeymoon” “I Gotta Go” “Lay Down My Brother” 
Keen says that Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is the greatest festival in the world! He finishes with the theme for today’s memorial: “The Road Goes On Forever and the Party Never Ends.”  
The grand finale features the sweetheart of Hardly Strictly Emmy Lou Harris. Buddy Miller is also a member of the “Go To Hell Man Club.” “Songbird.” “Grievous Angel.” “Black Hawk and White Dove.” Ken Owings is the drummer. 
Emmy Lou mentions that her mother is here. “She’s an inspiration.” “Orphan Girl” (A Gillian Welch song.) “Your Long Journey.” Heidi Clare and Colleen Brown join for “When We’re Long Gone.” 
Most of the performers from throughout the day join to sing “The Weight” the song by The Band. Warren Hellman’s son, Mick, thanks the crowd. 
It’s been a fitting tribute and Hellman will certainly be missed at next year’s festival. No matter what, Hardly Strictly will be different next year.