What a great weekend we just had.
We spent Saturday at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. For those not in the know, this is a huge free (yes free! thank you Warren Hellman) music festival in Golden Gate Park that takes place over 3 days. The focus is Bluegrass but it is hardly strictly so there's room for bands like Elbow and Gomez amongst people like Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, the Punch Brothers, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson and so so many many more. There are 6 stages in amongst the eucalyptus. And there are hordes of good natured people many getting high, drunk and generally mellow in the sunshine while listening to some really good music.
We caught Hugh Laurie first - yes Hugh Laurie - who after all the other things he has accomplished is now also playing and singing the blues. Huge crowd - curious House fans, women with a crush (okay I plead guilty). He was great. Self-effacing, funny and a really good musician with a great band. Then we headed off to Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard. I've heard mixed reports. Unfortunately the crowd was even bigger and I wasn't close enough to judge for myself. But, well. Kris Kristofferson! I know he's getting on a bit these days but he's just about the only guy who could totally carry off that whole 70s too much denim/beard look (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore...) and still look cool/sexy. Then it was off to the Rooster stage for Patty Griffin (great voice) and the Punch Brothers (fantastic).
And then homeward. All tired and happy. Lottie liked the dancing. Not quite sure the girls got the whole sit and do nothing to music in the sunshine thing. Just wait till we take them to the Green Man Festival back in Wales, when they will have to stand and do nothing to music in the pouring rain.
Anyway. That was just the start. Last night, I went out to a gig for the first time in a decade or so. Gillian Welch at the Fillmore. The Fillmore is historic - everybody has played there. Really everybody. There are pictures in the corridor there of everyone from John Lee Hooker to Radiohead to Janis Joplin to Johnny Cash to of course the Grateful Dead. It's a ballroom so no seats and not huge. We got there early and stood waiting and chatting at the front. Yesterday was Gillian Welch's birthday (the audience sang Happy Birthday when she came out which kind of surprised her) and it was the last day of Hardly Strictly so we didn't just see Gillian Welch and David Rawlings - they were joined by the wonderful Nate Walcott from Bright Eyes who played hauntingly on the trumpet, Buddy Miller who sang That's How I Got To Memphis (amazing voice), Robyn Hitchcock who sang Candyman with them, and a guy on mandolin banjo who's name I missed. And yes, I have had to google all these people because I am clueless, but they were awesome. Three hours of fantastic music. May be the best gig I've ever been to. It felt a privilege to be there.