Sunday, October 04, 2009

Hardly Strictly 2009

Todd Snider enjoys a moment with the mando player from Great American Taxi.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is put on each year by Warren Hellman, a free public musical festival for anyone who wants to come enjoy it. It features players from MC Hammer to Lyle Lovett, from Little Feat to Robert Plant, from Odetta to Allison Moorer, from Boz Scaggs to the Chieftains.

The atmosphere in Golden Gate Park is relaxed, and a lot of performers seem to look forward to coming back year after year.

At Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, each of the half-dozen stages has a name and an icon to go with it: Arrow, Banjo, Rooster, Star, and so on. Lest you forget where you are, each stage is prominently marked, up high where everyone can see it.

Golden Gate Park’s eucalyptus trees make a great backdrop for Del McCoury and his band.

Warren Hellman likes Emmylou Harris well enough that he always asks her to be the closer for the three-day show, in the final time slot on Sunday. I had never had the chance to see her at the show, because by Sunday night I’m usually hightailing it back home to Southern California to get to work on Monday. This year, I had business in the Bay Area on Monday morning, so I got to stick around and see the final act.

And this year, Emmylou Harris was presented with an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music (in Boston), a kind of lifetime achievement award for everything she’s done in a long, rich musical career. She was joined on stage by Warren Hellman, Linda Ronstadt, and Earl Scruggs, as well as Roger Brown, Berklee’s president, who made the presentation. Linda is an old friend of Emmylou’s, and Earl had played earlier at the festival; both are previous Berklee honorees.

After getting her doctorate, Emmylou traded the robe in for her playing clothes and dug into a great set of older and newer favorites that took us from early evening through the rise of the full moon.

Her final words to the audience that night, after giving her thanks to the band, the audience, and Warren Hellman, were “Yup, there’s a doctor in the house!”

1 comment:

Papa Bradstein said...

Love Del and the boys. Emmylou's not so bad.