With five stages and seven acts on each one, there were 78,125 potential combinations an attendee could have seen on Saturday at Hardly Strictly Blluegrass. My day went like this:
Missed the first set, Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands, Guy Clark & Verlon Thompson, James McMurtry, John Prine, Nick Lowe, The Flatlanders, Boz Scaggs & The Blue Velvet Band, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Belle Monroe & Her Brewglass Boys, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle.
Okay, I managed to fit in 11 performers, mainly by catching only partial sets. I think the only one I saw start to finish was local musical hero Boz Scaggs in his country crooner mode, which was fun (especially with an all-star band behind him) but not especially memorable.
I don't have an official attendance estimate, but my own ballpark figure on the huge crowds is 150,000, or about twice the number of schedule permutations. That means there was probably one other person who followed my same path. I wonder who that was. I saw lots of familiar faces (and ran into friends throughout the day), but I didn't see a specific doppelganger walking in my footsteps.
For me, the surprise best set of the day was The Flatlanders, the three Texas troubadours who mixed and matched each other's songs in a rollicking mid-afternoon performance on the Arrow Stage. When I've seen them before, it seemed like a song swap. Here they really came together as a band. Among their many great songs, the one ringing in my head this morning is "One Road More."
The Flatlanders led a strong Texas contingent on the Saturday schedule, including Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, James McMurtry and expatriate Steve Earle. Add T-Bone Burnett and Jimmy Lafave, who I didn't see, and it was a powerful Lone Star State delegation in Golden Gate Park.
The disappointment of the day was Steve Earle, who finished the day on the Banjo Stage. I should have known that he would be featuring his new material and instrumentation, but I love his Bluegrass Dukes band and I was sorry Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott were not there.
Instead Earle's main backup was a combination synthesizer and looping machine that provided special effects and made up
for a full rhythm section. That's the same kind of stuff Keller Williams was doing earlier at the Star Stage, which I avoided.
It took a while to adjust to seeing one of my heroes putting on electronic effects. Still, in front it was Steve Earle with solo guitar and harmonica singing topical songs. The new songs were interesting, including "Oxycontin Blues" and "City of Immigrants," which used samples of Brazilian forro music.
For an encore, Earle brought out war protester and Congressional candidate Cindy Sheehan for a cameo appearance, and then closed with "Rich Man's War" in dedication to Sheehan's son Casey.
Just before that, another Earl, Robert Earl Keen, put on a great show at the Rooster Stage. He totally connected with his big contingent of Santa Cruz fans with a string of his favorites--"Amarillo Highway," Corpus Christi Bay," "Gringo Honeymoon." Great stuff, but as usual I was rushing off.
Another highlight set for me was James McMurtry, who pleased his adoring clutch of fans with some electric rockers like "Where'd You Get That Red Dress" before switching to acoustic guitar for several songs, including a new ballad "No One to Talk to When the Lights Go Down" to be released on a future record.
Gillian Welch was fetching in her green dress and she and David Rawlings delivered a strong set on the big stage. In addition to a selection of her classics, there was a new song she introduced as "guaranteed to bring you down." The highlight was her version of Neil Young's "Marlon Brando, Pocahantas and Me," which she recorded for an upcoming movie about Jimmy Carter.
Emmylou Harris joined Welch and Rawlings on stage for a three-part acapella on "Go to Sleep Little Baby" from Oh Brother, with Rawlings taking the part of Alison Krauss.
I got over to the Porch Stage for part of the set by local favorite Belle Monroe. I heard her do a cover of "Tear My Stillhouse Down," but with Gillian Welch on the adjacent stage it was just a good cover. More fun was the jug-band classic "Naughty Sweety Blues," which Belle and her band had a lot of fun with. So did I.
As expected, the Blue Angels flew overhead but not as frequently or as closely as last year. I saw more attendees oohing and aahing than giving the one-fingered salute. Boz Skaggs said if he were mayor, "we wouldn't have the Blue Angels flying over my city."
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Posted by Dan Ruby at 10:01 AM