This year, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival bid farewell to the usual fog hovering above Golden Gate Park and welcomed the heat wave. The three-day concert series, in its 14th year, featured everything from Emmylou Harris to Mavis Staples. With about 700,000 concert-goers in attendance — according to promoters — and temperatures rising to the 90s, Hardly Strictly had the potential to be one hot mess, but the peaceful music provided a chill, laid-back atmosphere. Check out The Daily Californian’s highlights!
— Addy Bhasin
Nearly 90 years old, Ralph Stanley maintains the same dramatic vocals that he began his career with in the 1940s. Along with the Clinch Mountain Boys, Stanley took the stage in the sweltering heat despite announcing his retirement last year. The set alternated between slow-paced, twangy acoustics and quick, plucky interludes of banjos, mandolins, fiddles and guitars. Both Nathan Stanley and Mitchell Van Dyke performed noteworthy solos — the former in vocals and the latter on the five-string banjo. After Nathan Stanley’s powerful solo, the group’s frontman described Nathan Stanley — coincidentally his grandson — as “the prince of bluegrass.” Van Dyke’s mastery of the banjo went without praise, though his fingers skidded across the strings at rapid fire. Stanley has recently called off his retirement, making it likely that the Clinch Mountain Boys will return for yet another taste of Hardly Strictly in the upcoming years.
— Sasha Chebil
While working on a solo career apart from his band Wilco, Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer teamed up to create a duo named after their surname. The two only recently started collaborating, yet they managed to earn themselves a spot on the festival’s roster after the release of their debut album Sukierae. With Spencer Tweedy on drums and Jeff Tweedy on vocals, the pair presented a different feel from that of those who usually appear on the main stage. Rather than the typical bellowing vocals and remarkable strings, Tweedy played a more relaxed set equipped with subtle guitars and soft, dreamy vocals. Among selections off their album, Tweedy played “Summer Noon,” a track that director Richard Linklater included on the score for his newly released film, “Boyhood.” Jeff Tweedy also performed a handful of Wilco covers as solo tracks, a testament to the fact that he will soon return to the group he planted his musical roots in for their 20th anniversary tour later this month.
— Sasha Chebil
Lake Street Dive
Lake Street Dive, an indie jazz and soul band on the rise, impressed audiences with a selection of songs from its newest album, Bad Self Portraits. The set highlighted each of the band’s four members: Bassist Bridget Kearney elicited whoops from the crowd during a quick-tempo solo, Mike Olson performed seamlessly on both the guitar and trumpet and Mike Calabrese played an upbeat and exhilarating drum solo. Paired with lead singer Rachael Price’s characteristically strong and soulful vocals, the group delivered a unique set influenced by a diverse array of genres that included jazz and ’60s-era soul. The group wrapped up its performance by surprising the audience with its well-known cover of Hall & Oates’s 1977 single “Rich Girl” and ended with a fan favorite, “You Go Down Smooth.” The band, currently on tour, performed at Hardly Strictly before its concert at the Fillmore on Tuesday night and is now headed to the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas.
— Sabrina Werts