Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 5 Reviews
Sunday, October 2
By Sarah Bardeen and Mike Alexis
The Czech five-piece Druja Trava took the stage on the dewy Sunday
morning, opening with "Good Morning Friend" and galloping through
an impressive array of traditionals and originals with the kind of
twangy verve we might have expected only of native mountain boys.
The lead singer crooned in both English and Czech, at one point
setting Czech lyrics to a Peter Rowan song. The crowd gave the group
a lot of love, in part for their enthusiastic performance and in
part because they'd never heard Czechs play bluegrass before. "It
was a really interesting Czech spin on bluegrass that was unlike
anything I'd ever heard before," remarked audience member Colleen
Cassity as she applauded the end of their set. Bluegrass aficionado
Zahavah Levine chimed in: "It's remarkable -- they sound like they're
from Appalachia. Who knows how they were exposed to this music, but
this is the kind of cultural imperialism I can support!"
The crowd swelled just before Vancouver-based favorites -- and Jolie
Holland's former group -- the Be Good Tanyas took the stage. Led
by a soulful trio of female singers, the group delivered a pleasant,
rootsy set marked by their trademark shuffling rhythms and subtle
three-part harmonies. Dancers abounded, but the show was also
enlivened by an incredible and rare event: the sun came out, driving
off all vestiges of fog and forcing audience members to shed their
shoes and extra clothes. "I think we're all just glad it's sunny
and warm," said one concert-goer who only identified herself as
The group's gorgeous rendition of "Don't You Fall" fit the drowsy
atmosphere perfectly, though some audience members regretted the
set didn't include a few favorites like "Junkie Song" and "Lakes
of Ponchartrain." But a bluegrass fan named Emily took the time to
lavish some love on the event in general: "The cool thing about
this event is that they bring in stuff that's really eclectic....Old
punkers who come to see X [former X members are in the Knitters]
will end up seeing Gillian Welch if they stick around." The lovely
Tanyas finally retired from the stage, and the crowd drained away.
Anyone who stayed -- and there were plenty -- got a totally different
experience when Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers took the stage. The
group came out rocking, all tattoos and white wife-beaters, throwing
up devil-horn hand signs as the lead singer abused his harmonica
and shrieked like a demented bluesman over the group's rockabilly
stylings. A skinny whip of a guy, the lead singer mugged all over
the stage, immediately upping the wattage but paradoxically drawing
in a bit of fog. "I thought God wouldn't let Dolly Parton play in
the fog," muttered an anonymous concert-goer, glancing at the sky.
While the group played a lot of originals, throwing everything from
polka to punk into the mix, they did pay some attention to the
traditionals as well, offering a souped-up version of "Rollin' In
My Sweet Baby's Arms." A high-powered performance that stood in
huge contrast to the earlier performances, one anonymous male
audience member found that "They really surprised me; they came in
at a time when I needed a kick. The energy brought up the crowd.
Great showmanship." Another, older man had a comment to make as the
band left the stage: "I think this is the closest thing I've ever
seen to an ethnic festival for Anglo-Saxons."
Half way through the day, the Star Stage field was completely full.
Colorful blankets covered up every inch of grass, looking like a
football-field-sized quilt. With beach chairs and coolers in hand,
many people still tried to make their way down to the front in
search of a highly coveted few square feet of space. There was a
chill in the air, yet tank tops and shorts were everywhere. This
crowd seemed to be willing the sun out of hiding.
The Austin Lounge Lizards took the stage in trademark loud Hawaiian
shirts, breezing through a set full of their good-natured, satirical,
and very funny songs. 2005 marks the Lizards 25th Anniversary and-as
evidenced from this performance--the band hasn't lost its bite.
Deftly able to genre hop, depending on the song's subject matter,
the Lizards tangoed ("Strange Noises in the Dark'), did a Klezmer
number ("What Happened to Susie Rosen's Nose"), and the band's
newest member, mandolin and fiddle player Korey Simeone, even did
rap complete with a beat-box accompaniment.
As if on cue, the sun came out right after the Lizards finished
their set, and to help heat things up even further, Split Lip
Rayfield brought its punk-infused style of bluegrass to the Star
Stage. With a vintage gas-tank configured into an upright bass, an
acoustic guitar, and a banjo, this Wichita Kansas trio barreled
through impossibly fast songs, kick-starting many with the quick
yelp of, "1, 2, 3, 4!" The band played with such intensity, Guitarist
Kirk Rundstrom actually broke the same string twice.
By now we were all fully primed for what many felt was the most
eagerly anticipated performance of the festival. Surrounded by her
12-piece band in matching brown vests, Dolly Parton strutted around
the stage in a bright blue dress studded with blinding silver
sparkles. Opening with "9 to 5" was perhaps unexpected, and it
boldly stated Dolly's intentions: we were to be entertained with
hit after hit. "Two Doors Down" and "I Will Always Love You" received
huge cheers. Also unexpected and very well received were some choice
covers from Dolly upcoming record, including an inspired rendition
of the Kris Kristofferson-penned "Me and Bobby McGee" and a reverent
take on Tony James and the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover." Dolly
had some technical difficulties early on with her banjo and
rhinestone-encrusted dulcimer, but she didn't miss a step.
Throughout the show, the entire crowd was on its feet and the lawn
was no longer a quilt, but a sea of people that stretched way into
the distance. Some found refuge (and a great view) in the trees,
prompting Dolly to say, "Are those monkeys or people up there?" A
group of women towards the front waved a bed-sheet sign that read
"Dirty Dirty Queerdos Love Dolly" to which she replied, "Well, I
love you too."
The sun shone directly onto the Star stage, illuminating Dolly and
her band in a bright orange glow. They ended the day with a sublime
version of John Lennon's "Imagine," enchanting us while the sun
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