|Not the only way to do it, but certainly the best way to experience HSB|
The 10th Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival rolled into Golden Gate Park this past weekend and though the weather hardly cooperated, it was a glorious weekend of free music for hundreds of thousands of people. With dozens of bands appearing over eight hours on six stages each day, no one experienced the event in the same way- there were simply too many different things going on and this year there was truly something for everyone. I came away from it thinking hundreds of thousands of people has a wonderful time even though it was a very large, diverse, but always calm crowd. People came from far and wide to hear a line-up that was amazingly wide and deep with serious talents from many genres of music. I completely lucked out this year and was able to see it from the "Friends and family" sections of the various stages which made the entire event a relaxing joy, courtesy of Penelope. A big thanks to Warren Hellman for putting it on and to the good folks at Slim's who organized and booked such a great event. Best of all, I found out Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is going to keep going through at least 2025- there's your inside scoop, folks.
For Day 1 I took off work early and even though Friday afternoon featured only three of the six stages and started at 2:00 PM, we were stunned by how many people were already there- the crowd wasn't as large as it would be on Saturday and Sunday, but a lot of people obviously blew off work that afternoon to enjoy the show.
|Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys|
Still, it became evident early on The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue was nothing special, certainly not any better than most bands you could hear at the Saloon in North Beach on any given night. The song selection seemed to be based on the leaders' favorite songs from their youth, which were given a big-band, but ain't we funky, we're rich rock stars who can still get down in a blue-eyed soul kind of way. No doubt these guys can play and sing, but whatever real gifts they brought to this material were mired in a sound mix that left any nuance buried beneath a loud, shiny surface. They sounded like a big bar band, nothing better, nothing worse, but certainly not worth sticking around for an entire set and then having to deal with traffic afterwards so we did what any rational person would do and left to grab some dinner and make the 8:00 curtain for the opera. And we did.