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Monday, October 8, 2012

The Best of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Saturday, Oct. 6

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2012 at 12:43 AM

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

See also:

* The Best of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Friday, Oct. 5

* The Best of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Sunday, Oct. 7

* Slideshow: Onstage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

* Slideshow: The Faces of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

It's Red Baraat with the Saturday morning dance party

This Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival definitely felt more hardly than strictly. Red Baraat kicked off the party on Saturday morning, and it didn't matter that they were a full-throttle, self-proclaimed "pluralism"-proselytizing funk band, rather than a chill acoustic duo; the mood they set matched the sunny weather and got the audience on its feet dancing and chanting before noon, no less. With a blazing horn section (complete with sousaphone) and a dhol drummer/emcee running the show, this high-energy New York brass band channeled the "no borders, no walls" multicultural consciousness of '70s groove masters War and Earth, Wind & Fire. Those getting down included the festival's resident hippies, hip-swinging pregnant women, and infants with noise-cancelling headphones. We even saw a dog and a cat sharing a rubber ball together. One love, San Francisco style. -- Sam Prestianni

click to enlarge Robyn Hitchcock with John Paul Jones - DAVE PEHLING
  • Dave Pehling
  • Robyn Hitchcock with John Paul Jones

Rock legend John Paul Jones makes tiny-stage Hardly Strictly debut

One of the few drawbacks of attending a festival as crazy jam-packed with high-quality acts and frequent surprise appearances like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is that you can't possibly catch every magic moment. After missing one of Robert Plant's drop-in guest spots on the Banjo Stage with guitarist/producer extraordinaire Buddy Miller by five minutes, we figured chances of seeing a member of Led Zeppelin live this weekend were slim. Instead, we got major payback and a spine-tingling "Holy shit!" moment when we walked up to the dinky, knee-high Porch Stage for Robyn Hitchcock and were treated to none other than John Paul Jones ably assisting the neo-psych master on mandolin. The two Brits delved into Hitchcock's catalog for brilliant renditions of "Glass Hotel" and "Balloon Man," as well as a killer take on Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue." JPJ would stay busy for the rest of the weekend, playing with Saturday Porch Stage closer Seasick Steve and Howe Gelb's Giant Giant Sand on the Star Stage early Sunday. -- Dave Pehling

click to enlarge Robert Plant performing with Buddy Miller - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Robert Plant performing with Buddy Miller

Seasick Steve also brings out John Paul Jones on the Porch Stage

The sweetest surprise of the festival was Seasick Steve's guest accompanist John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin fame), who added a steady-rollin' electric bass, mandolin, and dobro to the expat bandleader's dirty three-string bottleneck guitar and drums combo. Jones graciously slapped palms with eager fans at the front of the stage and grinned wide the entire set. Mr. Steve, who mentioned more than once how he never gets to play in the States (he lives and works mostly in the U.K.), was stoked to be at Hardly Strictly as well. His easy smile and buoyant spirit seemed strange, coming as it did from the grizzled face of an old bluesman. But he was indeed cheerful, playful even: bringing a girl from the lawn up on stage to serenade with "I'm Steve and I'm your walking man," encouraging singalongs, and bringing the audience to its feet from the first ferocious notes on his one-string custom guitar. He carelessly tossed his instruments around like a birthday boy at Toys 'R Us. It's rare to find a modern blues player who doesn't give a shit and knows how to have a good time. Guess that's why John Paul Jones likes getting into the mix. -- Sam Prestianni

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

Les Claypool takes roots music to thrash-funk school

Les Claypool may deserve some kind of award for bringing his peculiar brand of heavy-rock weirdness closest to the bluegrass bent of Hardly Strictly. Though Primus, Oysterhead, and a variety of other projects have sometimes nodded toward country and roots music, the debut of Claypool's Duo De Twang found the funky maestro switching between an acoustic resonator bass and a heavy-duty banjo equipped with heavy-gauge bass strings. Teamed with '90s thrash-funk era contemporary Mark "Mirv" Haggard (of underappreciated band Limbomaniacs as well as his own eponymous outfit) on slide guitar and dobro, the duo recast some old Primus/Claypool classics ("Highball with the Devil," "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver"), and covered Canuck legend Stompin' Tom Connors' "Bridge Came Tumbling Down" with a fractured country-blues slant. Claypool showed his signature humor, cracking wise about overheating in his stylish southern garb and bowler hat, and apologizing for "getting all Roger Waters" on the crowd when the Blue Angels roared overhead. Bonus points for the thumping version of the Johnny Cash's drug-fueled murder lament "Cocaine Blues" and bringing Star Stage neighbor Chris Robinson out for guest vocals on Johnny Horton's "The Battle of New Orleans." -- Dave Pehling

click to enlarge Cowboy Junkies - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Cowboy Junkies

Cowboy Junkies

Canada's Cowboy Junkies performed their brand of country-folk to a crowd thoroughly engaged in the slow and sensual music. The group, lead by their lead guitarist, Michael Timmins, went off on long jam tangents that had audience members leaning back and forth with their arms raised in the air all free-spiritedly. As the crowd and band jammed out, and singer Margo Timmins issued lyrics about the sky, the Blue Angels roared overhead, performing synchronized tricks and leaving white lines painted against the bright-blue expanse. -- Matt Saincome

click to enlarge Robert Plant - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Robert Plant

See also:

* The Best of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Friday, Oct. 5

* The Best of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Sunday, Oct. 7

* Slideshow: Onstage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

* Slideshow: The Faces of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass


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