There are far too few places in this world where Stetsons and Hammer pants can successfully coexist. On October 2-4, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park will become one of them with this year’s Strictly Bluegrass Festival. The festival, now in its ninth year, has a more extensive, eclectic and full-on excellent lineup than ever. Oh, and did we mention it’s free?
The spectrum of country and folk acts represented on the bill is a diverse and exciting one, from undisputed legends like Marianna Faithfull and John Prine to amber-voiced chanteuses like Neko Case and Emmylou Harris; from new generation indie festival favorites like Elvis Perkins and Okkervil River to folk-punk fascist-killers like Tom Morello and Billy Bragg. Oh, and Steve Martin too.
An interesting and refreshing development is the inclusion of more high-profile international and world-influenced acts. Amadou & Mariam will be on hand to deliver sunny, Conga line-inducing pop by way of Mali; the Chieftans will bring on the Celtic reels and Roger Knox will play his catalog of Australian Aboriginal-inspired country.
And yes, of course MC Hammer is back. His performance last year, while still inexplicable, was a friendly reminder of the fest’s to-hell-with-genres spirit and should be a good time again this year. No one is immune to Hammertime.
Anyway, here’s the full lineup (from the HSB website) for those who haven’t had a chance to gaze at it in a state of Magi-in-a-Nativity-scene-level awe yet:
Doc Watson & David Holt, Robyn Hitchcock, Tom Morello, Billy Joe Shaver, Emmylou Harris, Laurie Lewis, Earl Scruggs, The Tim O’Brien Band, Rosie Flores with Jon Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, The Chieftains, Marshall Crenshaw, Amadou & Mariam, Boz Scaggs and the Blue Velvet Band, The Claire Lynch Band, Robert Earl Keen, Kevin Welch, Kieran Kane & Fats Kaplin, World Party, Kimmie Rhodes, Dar Williams, Neko Case, The Flatlanders featuring: Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock, The Knitters, Red Wine, Mavis Staples, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, Hayes Carll, Abalone Dots, Barefoot Nellies, Guy Clark & Verlon Thompson, Aimee Mann, Old 97’s, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, The Del McCoury Band, Billy Bragg, Roger Knox presents the Aboriginal Country & Western Songbook, Austin Lounge Lizards, MC Hammer, ODC/Dance, John Prine, Buddy Miller, Darrell Scott Band, Nick Lowe, Rodney Crowell, Malo, Richie Havens, Dr. Dog, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Marianne Faithfull, Hazel Dickens, Marty Stuart, Allen Toussaint, Little Feat, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Steve Earle & the Bluegrass Dukes, Moonalice, Marley’s Ghost, Charlie Haden, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Todd Snider, The Wronglers, Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Jorma Kaukonen, Pamela Rose, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Duhks, Reckless Kelly, Allison Moorer, Booker T. & the DBTs, The Fireants, Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women, Gillian Welch, Mike Farris & the Roseland Rhythm Revue, Okkervil River, The Brothers Comatose, Elizabeth Cook, Eliza Gilkyson
And, since by this point you’re probably so excited that you’re flailing your arms about excitedly like some sort of Muppet, it seems only fitting to conclude with Steve Martin dueling “Deliverance”-style on “The Muppet Show”: