Last weekend, an estimated 700,000 people flocked to Golden Gate Park for the 2014 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. Here are some weekend highlights from our man MBL.
Buckwheat Zydeco rockin’ it on accordion and proving himself equally masterful on the Hammond B3. Friday surely must have been the hottest day in HSB history. It felt like The New Orleans Jazz Festival but with inferior food and a much more beautiful setting.
Yo La Tengo with Roy Loney (Flamin’ Groovies, Phantom Surfers). They played a fabulous “Stockholm Syndrome” and even fulfilled our request for Peter Stampfel and the Unholy Modal Rounders’ “Griselda.”
Brooklyn’s Red Baraat brought New Orleans brass action with a perfect Bollywood twist and gave us the single best hour of the weekend.
Bad Luck Jonathan turned out to be none other than Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers, Pine Valley Cosmonauts)! Who knew? There was some new material but soon original Mekon Sally Timms came on stage and together they dipped into the vast catalog and brought out the almighty “Memphis, Egypt.” Eventually, John chased Sally around the stage and groped her before Bonnie “Prince” Billy came to her rescue (above left).
Birmingham, Alabama must have something in the water (besides farm run-off). St. Paul and the Broken Bones had a tight DapTone soul sound and a singer that made you rub your eyes to be sure he wasn’t a black woman. Hallelujah!
Built To Spill, spilling it all over the Towers of Gold
Mavis Staples played far and away the best selection of cover songs at the festival (with lots of competition – like Bonnie “Prince” Billy doing obscure Everly Brothers). Mavis sang “Slippery People” from the Talking Heads, moving right on to Funkadelic’s “Can You Get To That” and The Band’s “The Weight” before ending the set with her most famous “I’ll Take You There” (written by Al Bell for the Staple Singers).
Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Dawn McCarthy and The Cairo Gang’s Emmett Kelly circled around a condenser mic. Last year, the three of them recorded What the Brothers Sang, a collection of Everly Brothers music. Buy it. Billy apologized for missing last year’s fest, blaming Dawn who was pregnant at the time and proclaiming that “Babies are the cockblocks of Hardly Strictly.”
Tweedy is the latest project from Jeff Tweedy (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo) and his son Spencer on drums. The album, Sukierae, got raving reviews from the oh-so-wise staff of Other Music. The set also included some classics like Wilco’s drunk driving masterpiece, “Passenger Side” & “I’m The Man That Loves You,” “California Stars” from the timeless Woody Guthrie Mermaid Avenue series, and even “Give Back the Key to My Heart” from Uncle Tupelo’s perfect Anodyne.
Emmylou Harris closed out her fourteenth festival bringing some slow tearjerkers alongside Gram Parsons’ “Luxury Liner” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty.”
Bonus highlights from last weekend:
Oakland’s Legs played their best ever set at the Rickshaw Friday night
The Felice Brothers nearly burned down The Chapel Friday night with a fiery set including a surprise appearance from Mr. Bright Eyes himself, Conor Oberst. Killer fiddle, loads of accordion and fabulous harmonies. The best thing that ever came out of the Catskill Mountains.