Hardly Strictly Day 1 – PHOTOS ADDED!!!
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I am still adding photos, but there are enough I thought it was high time to join blog with images.
So, my 2011 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was… um… complicated. It featured a last minute 24 hour trip to Washington, DC – red eye Friday after the first day of the festival, crack of dawn flight back to SFO Sunday morning. Considering, it was almost seamless. However, apparently the horror of 300,000 people on Saturday was too much for my ride to consider returning on Sunday, hence destroying my go-directly-to-the-festival-and-leave-bags-in-car-not-missing-a-moment plan. I had to hustle back to Berkeley on BART, and then hightail it back into the city. Wantonly stopping for something to eat, I did not make it to the Towers of Gold Stage until… the walk out music was coming up from what was many folks’ favorite set of the festival, Buddy Miller. Well, at least the festival was decidedly navigable that day, so I got to work.
HSB has been a bit of a reunion weekend for a crew of my New York college friends. Last year, a bunch of us came from all around the western side of the country, convening in Berkeley at the house of one of our posse, the same house that would become my current home just a few months later. I’d likely have been a better co-host this year but for that crazy side trip. But, it is fun tradition regardless. I hope I make it back next year as a guest once again. Did ya’ll hear that I am moving to Austin next month? That, I am.
We headed in on Friday about 1pm, since the out of town arrivals had just gotten in the night before. We were initially perturbed to find that the secret road we parked on every day last year was closed this year. Later, as we walked to the stags, we noted that it was now reserved as disabled parking. Well, in that case, fine. Local author (she of the rock and roll Kinkaid mystery series) and long time Bay Area music scenester Deb Grabien had missed the festival entirely last year as there was precious little parking and shuttles for disabled folks last year. And, that already living quite close to the park and eager to see the great offerings of this one of a kind festival. I heard later from her that all those issues had been effectively addressed (allowing her and others to enjoy), so I am happy to have parked a little further off, still in a “secret” spot, and still getting nearly the same space every day, no matter what time our company turned up on site.
We got in and headed straight for the Mekons set. We were, after all, a posse of eclectic former punk/etc. types back in our NY college days. I LOVED the Mekons performance – a combination of electric and acoustic instruments that ran the gamut. Have they really been at this more or less ceaselessly with me never knowing they were “still around”? I love this festival. And, now I need me some Mekons catalogue. It was a fine and infectiously joyful and energetic start to my personal HSB.
I left my people enjoying them, and shuffled off to enjoy some Del McCoury and Preservation Hall Jazz Bands. Yeeehaw! What a yummy collaboration – just the first of many “I wish I could have seen the whole set” moments that every big festival generates. I slipped backstage due to an appreciated error of the staff and got just enough time there to say hi to some of the folks I most wanted to catch. The first person I saw was Buddy Miller, last seen, if you recall, fair readers, under an arena in St. Petersburg, Russia. I waved at a few crew acquaintances before being summarily thrown out as suspicious girl with camera as Robert Plant arrived before the Band of Joy set. Oh those rock gods! On my way to the Chris Isaak set, I caught up with one my dearest friends who was killing time awaiting his credential keys to the kingdom.
Alas, I had to run. I so wanted to get a somewhat particular shot of Mr. Isaak. A fine old BW of him from (I think) his first solo tour (at Washington, DC’s OLD 9:30 Club) is the oldest shot in my performance portfolio (bottom left image). I have long wanted to replicate it for a then-and-now style diptych. This was a long awaited chance. He has always been such a great entertainer, witty and charming and playful. The sound was great. He played hit after hit (has it really been so long?). The crowd was at its most ebullient when he jumped into the crowd and wandered out and all the way around the front of house board throughout singing Don’t Leave Me On My Own. There was no chance of that. I do believe I got my good shot, and certainly, I got many good shots to stand on their own. For some reason, this time I am feeling the words before the images. They’ll be coming up next. I have been told already (by decidedly prejudiced and yet very picky persons) that my pics are way better than the Chronicle’s were. That is what we like to hear.
Once again, I had to abandon Mr. Isaak and jet on over to get set for Band of Joy. Once again, I was rather eager to get good shots. The whole St. Petersburg Russia show was an amazing experience, but it did leave a little something to be desired photographically speaking. How can I sum up my photographic expedition with Band of Joy this time around? DENIED!!! Oh, yes, those rock gods! And, festival chaos! No photographers in the pit. Get in the front of the crowd. No cameras in the front of the crowd, oh, except for credentialed photographers. NO! Get back in the pit! Out! In! Now just go all the hell and gone away! Sigh. Well, at least I had my biggest and baddest lens. I shuffled over to the friends and family area, attached it and set the whole rig up on my monopod. Even the F&F area was jam packed, so it was not quite fool proof, but I think it likely I did get some good stuff there. Editing shall tell if it beats out St Petersburg. I think so. If for no other reason than the setting sun was glorious and appropriate lighting. And, the set was, as you can imagine, tight. Such a happy crowd. It seems that no one can be entirely jaded around Band of Joy. Too much to love. We should all have it so good.