Hardly Strictly 8 Rundown - Rooster Rules!!
Huge weekend in Golden Gate Park!! Read about our complete adventure after the jump...
The first complete song we heard on Saturday was the Waco Brothers' rendition of "I Fought The Law and the Law Won" -- and by following my recent posts -- you can bet that I was singing along rather LOUDLY!
We caught a few minutes of Laurie Lewis while picking up our F&F passes and scrambled over to Arrow for the last couple songs of Santiago Jiminez (not nearly enough.) Bad Livers came on next. We had a sweet spot on the side of the stage and apparently I was sitting next to Mark Rubin's wife. Never thought I'd see the day where I'd be rockin' to Bad Livers at Hardly Strictly in a comfortable wooden rocking chair!! (see attached gallery)
Bad Livers played an amazing set. To my surprise, they opened and finished w/ Rubin on tuba. Simon and Hank were all about "Ghost Train," easily the best train song of the weekend. My favorite tune was "Horses in the Mines" from record of the same name. I always thought this festival was conceived w/ the Bad Livers in mind and it was such a pleasure to finally see them there.
We headed over to see The Desert Rose Band but after two songs we thought they were too soft around the edges so we scrambled to Rooster for solo Nick Lowe, which was a great decision. Who doesn't want to hear "Cruel to be Kind"?
The Rooster Stage always has the best shows. We stayed for Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, and you can download a soundboard recording of the show w/ the link below. Was this the 5th H.S. in a row where I heard "Dry River"? Don't hear me complaining. The best part of the set was "Somewhere In Time" dedicated to the late Chris Gaffney, who led the Hacienda Brothers (Best Surprise Band of the Weekend last year.) I think everyone at Rooster felt it and my spine tingles as I type.
We had to make a tough call here and leave the Rooster, missing Robert Earl Keen w/ Barnes and Rubin from Bad Livers sitting in, and finished the day at Star Stage w/ Mickey Hart's Global Drum Project. This was BY FAR my favorite post-Grateful Dead configuration I've seen Mickey involved with. Usually his drum orchestras are just too big to hear WTF is going on, but this quartet was easier to keep track of who is making what sounds.
Simon and Henry LOVED this show. Now guess who is on the hook for an arsenal of congas?
We showed up early on Sunday and for the second time enjoyed -- quite by accident -- the legendary telecaster blaster Bill Kirchen & the Honky Tonk Gods. His "Hot Rod LIncoln" medley/finale just entertained the hell outta us!! It's always cool to see an old rock star (he was in Commander Cody, went to high school w/ Iggy Pop and Bob Seger) who obviously takes care of his health and just keeps shreddin' better with age. After this set, I was jonesing for some Link Wray, not bluegrass.
Keeping with tradition and in honor of Mr. Hellman's sensibilities we listened to Hazel Dickens at the main Banjo Stage while helping ourselves to chowder and coffee. We also caught a song or two of Moonalice, a hippie superband that includes G.E. Smith (Saturday Night live band), Jack Cassady (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna), Pete Sears, and Barry Sless. Eh, not really my bag these days. Then it was back to Rooster for perhaps the most interesting and memorable set in recent years... Bonnie "Prince" Billy.
Now this Bonnie Billy (actually his name is Will Oldham) is a strrrrrange bird. He looks like a derelict from some twisted canyon in Utah w/ his overalls, trash-white shirt, nearly bald head and huge beard... but can he sing! He had assembled a rather large band for the occasion and we could sense that they were really FEELING their way through the set, knowing Will was going to unleash something unexpected... like a chorus of kazoos. (Kazoo envy, anyone?) The highlight was when the band vamped down and Will noted this was his favorite venue in the world because of the high dog-to-human ratio... and led us through a howlin' tribute to our canine co-conspirators.
The next day I bought a recent album that provided much of the material for this set called "Lie Down In The Light" which I of course recommend to anybody and everybody.
We then headed over to Arrow for The Infamous Stringdusters, a newgrassy conglomerate from back east that likes to play Danny Barnes' songs. Of course we had a tip that Barnes himself was joining them for "Get It While You Can" and it was delivered!
Trying to reassert the original plan, we gave Banjo Stage another swing for Earl Scruggs who is now 85 years old. Henry and I watched most of the set from backstage and I never get sick of hearing oldies like "In The PInes" and "Sittin' On Top of the World" but I could do without "Beverly Hillbillies" which seems like a digression for banjo music. I was interested to see Scruggs shrug off his handlers and insist on walking down the stage ladder by his lonesome. He's such a cool old dude.
We should have stayed here for Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder but got restless and went wandering back to Star Stage for Gogol Bordello (sounds kinda like Manu Chao)... big mistake!! The hard-drinking lumpencrowd has descended and it was lumpenchaos every which way. We couldn't even work our way to the F&F area so we had to bail before Heavy Trash (which I had been looking very forward to.) Oh well... best to not be pigs and we made room for others. Fantastic weekend and already looking forward to #9.
Another interesting tidbit... my good friend Matt Moore (aka Stinkbait and my co-conspirator in Holeworld) was in town w/ his band The Upsidedown warming up for The Dandy Warhols at the Warfield. Wasn't able to make it over there but he sent out some pics so I'll cover that in a new post. Matt turned us on to Ween's "Golden Country Greats" record more than 10 years ago, and we heard it several times as set break music during this year's Hardly Strictly. Almost thinks we COULD get Ween next year, eh? Mr. Hellman?? What do you say? (while I'm at it... cough, gangstagrass, cough... )