Hardly Strictly Bluegrass — which takes place in Golden Gate Park this year on October 2, 3, and 4 — is like some strange vision of the afterlife. It’s heavenly in the sense that the music is always fantastic, the crowd is mostly very spirited, and it’s absolutely free. And it’s slightly hellacious because so many of those bands end up playing at the same time so you have to make some hard decisions. Also, because it’s free, some people in the audience don’t feel quite as invested in the music, and so they end up yapping into their cellphones or talking throughout the entire thing. This can be annoying. Last year I couldn’t pay attention during the Gillian Welch set because these drunken dudes in front of me spent the entire time talking loudly about how hard it was to find each other in the crowd. Like, who cares?
Anyhow, this year’s lineup is pretty amazing: among many others, there will be Tom Morello, Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, Galactic, John Prine, World Party, Jorma Kaukonen, Buddy Miller, Robert Earl Keen, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Boz Scaggs, Nick Lowe, Steve Earle & the Bluegrass Dukes, The Flatlanders featuring: Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock, Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Richie Havens, The Tim O’Brien Band, Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers, Guy Clark & Verlon Thompson, Reckless Kelly, Old 97’s, Austin Lounge Lizards, Billy Joe Shaver, Gillian Welch, Booker T. & the Drive-By Truckers, The Del McCoury Band, Earl Scruggs, Aimee Mann, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Mike Farris & the Roseland Rhythm Revue, Amadou & Mariam, Allison Moorer, Doc Watson & David Holt, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Allen Toussaint, Elizabeth Cook, Neko Case, Rodney Crowell, Billy Bragg, The Knitters, Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3. See you there– and please don’t yap during the performance or talk loudly or spill any warm beer on me. That would be hugely appreciated.
One more thing: if you haven’t booked a hotel room, you’d better do that soon. (sorry, but you can’t stay with me. I barely have enough room as it is.)