Sunday, October 3, 2010

Gillian Welch at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

I sallied forth Saturday afternoon to Golden Gate Park--and by some mystical circumstance actually got a seat on the 31-Balboa. (That abattoir of public transportation systems, the S.F. Muni, has still not figured out that they need to supplement regular service to accommodate the 20K+ fans going to and from Hardly Strictly--God help those condemned to travel on the 5-Fulton).

Since Hardly Strictly has been almost always favored by beautiful October weather, I wondered how it would be in the cold fogs that prevailed this weekend, but the whole thing was lovely, due in part to the absence of the Blue Angel jets that regularly dive-bomb the event each year. Warren Hellman must have bought them off somehow.

I wanted to see Gillian Welch, one of the few performers I'll return every single time to hear. They were moved to the main stage this year, which pretty well destroyed any sense of intimacy given that the audience numbered in the thousands.

They got started with Long Black Veil and a wonderful Blue Sky Boys sunny-side-of-life song (not the Carter Family version), accompanied by good ol' Dave Grisman on mandolin. The set ended with Time's Revelator, and in between were many of their best, including Dave Rawling's I Hear Them All, which brought many folks to their feet.

Then off to the Rooster Stage to see if Robert Earl Keen had come up with some new stuff. His beard was new, as was the absence of the fiddle-player, but he can still progress from trad-sounding country to the maddest psycho-billy you ever heard as quick as you can say Nogales, Texas.

Home again on the 31-Balboa, packed like chickens in force-breeding cages.

Great afternoon anyway, and thanks again Warren Hellman.

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