Hello it’s been so long, I know I know I know. I write you from a new address, with the same old polemic of weird things stirring at my doorstep. I am all set & settled up here in the bay, where motorcycles pump the jams and burritos are not as good as in Sherman Heights (but the pho is off the charts). I’m about a month into grad school at California College of the Arts, where I do important things and stuff. Mark this as my debut post as Sezio’s very official “SF Correspondant”, which means I’ll be checking in from time to time with fresh news from up north—starting now with my disposable coverage of the 10th Anniversary of San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. I've wrangled my roommate/ former San Diegan, Taylor, to help fill in the gaps of this expansive festival.
Jordan Karnes: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is a free, three-day music anomaly brought to the fine citizens of San Fran by either the Masons, Big Oil, or Urban Outfitters. Honestly, I have no idea how this thing is funded, but as a recent bay area resident: thanks! And as a proclaimed skeptic of most music festivals, I am glad to report that it went off without a hitch—which, considering the status and amount of acts performing (Indigo Girls, Joan Baez, Elvis Costello, MC Hammer…), compounded by the non-paying, booze brandishing crowds, is really saying something. Aside from funding, the only thing I couldn’t figure out was how everybody managed to stay so mellow for so long. The festival was composed of around 7 or so stages, set within the lush dunes and misty cypress trees of Golden Gate Park.
Jordan: All I really know about this guy was how much Taylor hated him. And his dog kept picking fights with my friend Ashley’s dog, Max. His dog reminded me of one of the bully dogs in All Dogs Go To Heaven. He was even wearing this punked-out vest with studs on it, which really sends a message when you’re a German Shepherd.
Taylor: First and foremost, you can literally see the dirt caked on his feet. Secondly, he’s wearing Chaco’s (the ultimate multi-terrain adventure shoe) which run about $100 plus. So either he traded his prized hand-made djembe for them or he’s playing down his middle-upper class white-privileged roots. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly to get the full feel for this experience, his lady friend was a dead ringer for Little Orphan Annie, if she grew up and got addicted to whippits and crack.
Jordan: Lessons on playing it cool, bay area style: show you’re interested by packing the stage like sardines, but never for a moment make it look like you’re "hella" into it or anything. Obviously, baby girl in the redish scarf and pony tail did not get this memo. Behind me, Connor Oberst is playing it jam band style with The Felice Brothers.
Taylor: All I’m saying, if you’re going to crawl all up on a festival porta potty, you’ve got to be pretty dedicated to the music, regardless of facial expression.
Jordan: Here’s a picture taken from above a chain-link fence (being tall is definitely a festival goer’s best asset. Apologies to those who are, you know, short). If this picture isn’t satisfying enough, I found this little video on Google while I was looking up forgotten details. I don’t know if that breaks the Disposable Project’s rules, but then again, it’s a free country.
Jordan: This lady. We met this progressive parent and her darling daughter while we waited for Emmy Lou Harris to start. The rad thing about Hardly Strictly was not only the variety of acts, but audience (which is always quadrupled when something is free, duh). We’re talking hippies and hipsters, families and frat boys, old timers and political activists--all of whom had dogs. Seriously, there were so many dogs. Anyhow, as you can see here, quarters were pretty tight, so conversation was inevitable (for better or for worse). We had just sort of crammed ourselves in the last free patch of grass, which this lady wasn’t too stoked about, until she discovered that our friend Annie worked at a Montessori school in Marin. That, of course, changed everything--until Taylor started getting defensive about saving the public school system, at which point I pretty much checked out.
Taylor: I’m sorry, but once this lady started bad mouthing the public school system and touting “alternative education” as a means for her child to get a worldly and cultured education, someone had to step in. I simply reminded her that if everyone as (economically) fortunate as her were to send their children to private and charter schools, then only poor, mostly non-white students would fill our public schools because they have no choice where they get to go.
Jordan: This was as close as I got to the Avett Brothers (which, we learned, is pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable, not the first). “Why didn’t you make it to this show in time, Jordan?” you might ask. Well, dear reader, because I was waiting back at the Emmy Lou stage with the afore-pictured Montessori Mama, while my “friends” were gallivanting with the A-vett Brothers. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jordan was all alone, waiting for friends and food, neither of which ever came. Don’t get me wrong, Emmy Lou was rad. (Also to note, Mayor Gavin Newsom had proclaimed it "Emmy Lou Harris Day" in celebration of this being Emmy Lou's 10th-straight Hardly Bluegrass performance.) Buuutttttt, I could hear the crowd going nuts over at the other stage and eventually went to see what the ruckus was about. You can’t really tell from this pic, but it was pretty packed out, so I cruised over to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings where I have never seen so many white people dancing in my whole life. The Dap-Kings brought it hard, and Sharon Jones gave Emmy Lou a run for her newly acquired title.
Jordan: This happened while I was laying on my back, listening to some old guy with braids play banjo. All in all, it’s safe to say I was feeling pretty mellow at this point.
Jordan: Just another day at the office. Taylor and I were Very Prepared on Saturday. We not only packed beers and snacks, but made a whole pizza in the morning before we left. In the words of my favorite Wilderness Girl, “In the wilderness of life, you can never be too prepared."
Taylor: Never leave home without the shoe phone! How did we ever survive without them?
Jordan: In the excitement of wanting to capture not one, but two hippy ladies working it in their element, some idiot covered nearly half the lens with her finger. Stoops. In any case, there was a lot of this going on throughout the weekend.
Jordan: Celebrity siting number one. Oh my gosh, is that the drummer from The Tree Ring? Yes, ladies and gents, San Diego’s own Darla Hawn was in attendance. Our visit, albeit brief, was maybe the highlight of my Sunday. Too many jokes to remember.
Jordan: Celebrity siting number two. I ran into Mr. Wes Bruce somewhere near the front left of the “Star Stage” where Bonnie Prince Billy & The Cairo Gang put on on a very pleasant show. Actually, let me correct myself. I saw Wes half-running (or “walking with a purpose”) out of the thicket that hemmed the stage/audience area, and I shouted after him, to which he responded, “Oh hey, I just came from the bushes.” To which I responded, “where you were probably building a fort.” Or maybe I didn’t say it, but I certainly thought it. Anyhow, we watched a bit of ole Bonnie for a while, until Wes was off to his next adventure. My biggest regret of the whole weekend happened at this point, when I didn’t take a picture of the guy in a beret standing front of me sketching courtroom-esque characterizations of people in the audience. Very life like.
Jordan: Maybe this is my favorite picture. They start 'em young up here.
Taylor: The cardboard sign next to them reads: “Why lie? I need a cold beer and a fix."
More disposables from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass can be found in the photo gallery below. Keep up with Jordan's SF adventures right here on Sezio.org, and even more frequently on JordanKarnes.com.