Still Buzzin’ from Bluegrass….

Four days after the fact, and my head is still buzzing from the aftermath of a truly great musical event.

The Hardly Strictly Bluesgrass 5 festival of San Francisco was a calvalacade of truly great American folk, country, blues, swing, rockabilly, and especially bluegrass musical that has left me with the best possible feeling one could ever have from hearing an abundance of music melodies. It has filled my heart with great joy and re-affirmed my spirit with the idea that 50,000 to 100,000 people can get together with mininal police supervision to enjoy real music without any incidents of violence.

It was impossible to see every single band at this event, which was something like 60 different peformers on 5 stages for two days in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The price for the event was absolutely free, thanks to the generosity of a very wealthy amateur banjo player named Warren Hellman, who thought this type of event would be the closest thing he could ever produce that would be close to his vision of heaven on earth.

Even the dogs, which there were an abundance of at this event, did not display any forms of aggression that I could witness. Well-behaved huskies, collies, terriers, pit bulls, and dachshunds all seemed to co-exist at this festival without any problems, which was pretty damned amazing, if you ask me.

The line-up of musicians was a stellar assembledge of some of the greatest traditional American musicians around in 2005. From the initial event created by Warren Hellman, EmmyLOU Harris has always been a part of this event, bringing in more musicians that continue to return each year for this wonderful annual celebration- Steve Earle, Hazel Dickens, Ralph Stanley, and Gillian Welch to name but a few.

The singer-songwriter circle on Sunday was one of my favorite shows to attend. Joining semi-ringleader Steve Earle at this year’s event was Guy Clark, Dave Alvin, Joe Ely, and Verlon Thompson. Every singer-songwriter told stories about songwriting, and then peformed a song, before passing a turn to another singer-songwriter. One song that truly captivated my imagination was a song by Joe Ely about teaching his Chihuahua to sing, and therby “save the world.” Definitely a keeper!

Elsewhere, there were other great individual songs that stood out. I finally witnessed a rendition of “Wild Thing” by songwriter Chip Taylor when he peformed with his partner Carrie Rodriguez. Kevin Welch, Kieran Kane & Fats Kaplin blew my mind with “Everybody’s Working for the Man…”- a song that seemed absolutely appropriate for all the workers of the world in 2005.

One of the most surreal moments of this event was seeing Dolly Parton on the closing night. Up until this point, I had never seen such a massive onslaught of people at one particular peformance. People were scattered for as far as the eye could see, sititng in the trees of Golden Gate Park, standing room only in the nearby streets. I’d never been to Woodstock, but it sure felt something like in this massive crowd of Dolly fans. She displayed a wonderful sense of humor, and was completely appreciative of the rather pungent odors that seemed more appropriate for a Grateful Dead concert. Peforming a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” was not something that I expected, either.

There were a lot of great moments in these very short two days of this Bluegrass festival. If I have any regrets about this event, it’s that these two days were not enough to see it all. I didn’t get a chance to see Todd Snider, who wrote a great song entitled “Ballad of the Kingsmen.” I also missed Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Buddy Miler, and a band that I really wanted to see.. “Stiff Dead Cat.”

In the meantime, I’m going to do what I can to continue to recycle these memories of a great event…

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>