The first weekend in October is here and Hardly Strictly, is back for its tenth year. Festival regulars like T-Bone Burnette, Dave Alvin, Emmylou Harris, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, Buddy Miller and Steve Earle (in the songwriter’s circle) have all returned for another round. The festival’s repertoire continues to expand into genres like blues (e.g., Trombone Shorty), klezmerbilly (Margot Leverett) and rock, though it isn’t always a certainty that rockers will be there to rock. Exene from the punk band X will be on hand, but outside X she’s been exploring kinder, gentler styles. The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue includes Donald Fagan (Steely Dan), Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers) and Boz Skaggs which could be great given the talent, or so-so given the tricky nature of getting super-groups to gel. Curiously, Patti Smith has joined the bill. “Curious” because the crowd is going to want the edgy, urban poet-songstress of 40 years ago; a persona she has worked hard, and not particularly successfully, to shed. No complaints though. The price is too right for that.
David Grisman, Peter Rowan, Laurie Lewis, Evie Lauden Band, Hot Tuna (electric), Joan Baez, and the Waybacks (with Sarah Dougas from The Duhks) are among the locals, and of course questions remain about H-S booking more Bay Area bands. HWS has the answer direct from the Slim’s folks who book H-S. It’s not that they don’t want to book more locals, there simply isn’t room when they’ve got world-class performers like Randy Newman, Nick Lowe and others like Iris DeMent and John Prine, both of whom could not return this year, lined up five deep to play H-S. What’s a poor booker to do?
What’s a poor participant to do when he or she wants to see so much, but is limited by personal stamina and the inability to be in two places at once? The following Hicks with Sticks Hardly-Strictly tips might help. First, do not plan so many must-see shows over so many stages over two and a half days that you run yourself ragged. Doing so is a formula for regret rather than entertainment. When you get to a must-see show that’s crowded, be patient. The edge of a crowd is surprisingly fluid and it won’t be long before you can inch up, maybe not to the front of the stage, but at least to where you can see and hear. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquids, enjoy the moment and thank your stars for letting you live where philanthropists like Warren Hellman live.
Find the H-S map, schedule and band bio PDF’s here.