Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2009 Report

Luckily we arrived before the majority of the people (around 10AM) on Friday, and got a good close up seat to see Poor Man's Whiskey. I love these guys! They get better and better every time I see them. We'll ignore the Tom Morello set and pretend it didn't happen, because it was just a time killer until John Prine came on. As always Prine's set is too short for me. But he filled his time well and invited Hayes Carll as a guest. That must be a big moment for a singer/songwriter, eh? We stayed through half of Lyle Lovett's set. Even though we were loving it, we had places to be and people to see.

Namely, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma. Their very lovely, talented fiddler, Amy Farris, died this past week and the band's emotions were raw. Dave tried three times to say her name and each time had to step away from the mike. When Christy McWilson sang, "Bury Me in Potter's Field" there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Candles and a mike stand wrapped in black where she would stand served as a memorial to her. And then they turned those feelings into a barn-scorching two and a half hours of stunning musical prowess.

We settled on the Arrow stage and had a nice wide patch of our own. On Saturday, we got to see Hayes Carll (a new favorite of mine). Tim called him the Todd of Texas. Austin Lounge Lizards have added two women, who compliment the band fabulously. Reckless Kelly next, they're known as a rock-n-roll band with a fiddle. Cody Braun also sat in with Billy Joe Shaver, who is as much a character as a singer. I loved his whole attitude, giving it his all. Also saw Rosie Flores with Jon Langford & the Sadies. And The Flatlanders closed out the day. Okay, I'll admit that we went sneaking over to the Banjo stage a few times to see Laurie Lewis, Tim O'Brien and Steve Martin too ~ we couldn't resist. Not too bad for one day. We headed out and went straight to bed to rest up for Sunday.

I am absolutely sure the crowd doubled in size this year. The SF Chronicle reported that they closed 19th St. and knocked out AT&T cell coverage. But, undaunted, we know how to work a crowd ~ arrive early and defend your territory. After that it's a piece of cake. We did get trapped at the Steve Martin stage, because who wouldn't want to see Steve Martin?

What could top Saturday? Well, Sunday at the Arrow stage was not too shabby either. Moonalice in the morning, followed by Booker T & The Drive-by Truckers, Rodney Crowell (oh wow!), and Aimee Mann.

But you know I had waited three days to see Todd Snider so I jumped right up and grabbed a hold of the railing and didn't let go for his whole set. We had the bonus of Great American Taxi as the backup band. Todd came out bundled in a jean jacket and a green hat. I was impressed with the intensity of the crowd, many, many thousands, all standing and singing along. Believe me, I was very happy to be in the front row in that crowd. My favorite part was when he sang the last verse of Easy Money twice, so we got to yell, "she never saw that f***er again" twice. I don't think he even noticed.

Only seven songs and he was gone! But it was the best way to end the festival for me, so we packed it up and headed out before the mass exodus. I was sad to miss Neko Case, because I really intended to see her, but there were so many people it was pretty scary. After a short way of powering through the bushes, we navigated through them easily and were out of there fast.

The size of this festival is starting to become an issue. I thought it was bad at 200,000, now they are saying close to 750,000. Since both of my guys are major strategizers, we had a beautiful weekend, with incredible music and good weather and food and drinks. We are good a weaseling around and outsmarting the crowd. I doubt most people there had that much fun.


toomuchcountry said...

Cathy - great write-up and pics. While the festival was happening, I enviously followed several Twitter entries about all the great artists out there. Cool to read your blog as well. See ya on the SHW.

Susan said...

Hey, Cathy ~

Always great to hear about, and see photos of, Todd performances - thanks for the great report... :-)

I would also have loved to have been there for the politic songs in-the-round with Dar Williams, Steve Earle, Allison Moorer and Tom Morello (which I've been reading about) - wow!