Hardly Strictly Bluegrass - Day 2
Monday, October 3, 2011 10:37:02 PM
Arrived a little before 11:30; caught the last of Greensky Bluegrass. The entire group was very good-- wish I had arrived sooner (but NooOo! I was blogging for you, dear audience (all two of you...)). They ended with Paul Simon's "I know you don't love me but I feel you could" (or whatever the actual title is) from his Graceland Album. The standup bass player played a line that sounded exactly like the fretless Fender bass on the recording.
Allison Brown came on at 12:30. She was one of three jazz banjo players that I saw this weekend. She's a "reformed" investment banker, like Warren Hellman, who puts on the free concert series every year. She was quite good (albeit no Bela Fleck, who I saw on Day 3). Her piano player was extremely good. My favorite piece was one of her older tunes called, "Voyage of St. Brendan". The piece was in straight four time, but the solos (mostly the banjo) took on the rhythm of a jig. Later she call her two (very young) children out on stage to perform "Old Dan Tucker". The girl, who couldn't have been more than ten, doubled on lead vocal and violin (fiddle). It was adorable.
Then over to the Rooster Stage:
Saw the end of Robyn Hitchcock's set. Hitchcock is a neo-psychedelic singer/songwriter who was popular in the 80's. He was accompanied on vocals by Abigail Washburn and Gillian Welch. The harmonies were good (as one might expect with Gillian Welch singing along), but the music wasn't really compelling. They finished with the Grateful Dead's "Candyman". There was a lot of Grateful Dead influence this year, especially among the guitar players.
Then, Guy Clark came on. Guy Clark is a songwriting legend (he wrote "LA Freeway", among other songs); his singing... not so legendary. He had to stop midway through a couple of his songs when he forgot the lyrics. He did perform a very good slowed-down rendition of "LA Freeway", and told the story of how he came to write the song as he continued to play.
Left Guy Clark a bit before the end of his set so I could go see Merle Haggard & Kris Kristofferson. I read C.W. (aka "Kill the Poor") Nevius in the Chronicle, complaining about how the concert series had become too crowded, and he suggested that the take a year's hiatus. The crowd that came to see Haggard & Kristofferson was (way) too large for the location they were given-- but, although I couldn't see the stage, I did get to hear about four songs (two as I was trying to get out of the crowd). Merle Haggard performed "Pancho & Lefty" by Townes Van Zandt (which he recorded in the 70's with Willie Nelson), and Kris Kristofferson performed "Me & Bobby McGee".
Returned to the Banjo Stage, but on the way I saw a group that had come down from Portland on their own, and who were not officially affiliated with the festival, and who were performing between stages. They were called the Renegade String Band, and they were very good, performing without any amplification. This is the sort of group that should be playing the festival-- up-and-comers rather than people with big names. This would thin out the crowd somewhat without reducing the quality one iota.
More on Day two at a later time...