Monday, October 7, 2013

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013 - highlights and random thoughts

For a great write up on the highlights go to the SFWeekly Blog and for my take just keep reading. For my playlist for the festival check it out on Hope you were there and enjoyed the show as much as I did.

Just had a great weekend at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco. What always amazes me about the festival is the number of people that show up for some great music and how well behaved they all are. The whole scene is so mellow and perfect it always is a good time. I've been going since 2008, driving up from LA and finding some place to stay for the weekend in town. I've stayed at the Civic Center Inn three times, a friends house in Walnut Creek, and this trip I stayed at the Aida Plaza Hotel on Market Street. Very reasonable rates and a lot of young European visitors staying at this hotel. Hostel like set up for most of the rooms with a shared toilet and shower in the hallway. The view from my room was spectacular!
View from room 409
Aida Plaza Hotel on Market

Crowd gathered for Bonnie Raitt
Most importantly though I discovered a lot of new music this time around. I ended up at stages where I had never heard of any of the bands and spent the days at those stages. This year the Porch stage really delivered and for the first time I actually visited the merchandise tent to pick up some CDs. The highlights for me were of course Bonnie Raitt on Friday night (crowd shot to the right), but First Aid Kit at the Rooster stage before that was also amazing and totally unexpected since I hadn't heard them before. Also discovered for the first time the live webcast streaming #HSB13 which was really cool and once I figured out the major acts were ending up in the Web Archive it let me explore more bands I hadn't heard before. So this year I skipped Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers hoping it would end up in the archive so I could watch it later and sure enough it did. Best line from that performance, Steve Martin says "We're honored to be here at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, performing for your cell phones today."

80's Man
Not to rant on a subject, but man it really is sort unreal to go to shows these days, you look around and all you see are screens held in the air or flashes from phones. I have to admit I've shot a few videos at shows to capture the moment and savor it later, I even queue them up to play back while I'm driving home so I can make the night last a little longer or even relive it on the way to work the next morning. At most I'll shoot one or two videos and if I'm really close I may snap a picture or two, but most of the concert I'm trying to enjoy the moment and music and remember it with my head. Half those photos end up being crap anyway (except the one of 80's man to the left here) and the video isn't usually that great either, but I still post it to YouTube for memory sake. I end up shooting mostly videos for my friend's band which is different, they ask me to do it and they like to see how the show sounded to the audience and where they made mistakes to improve on. I don't think most artists want you sitting there fiddling with your phone the whole show and that's why I think it's important for the professionals to record the show and share the media with the band so they can disperse it on their sites or on social media channels and it looks and sounds great. Then maybe people will stop shooting their own crap (I know I would) and just relive it through the artists channels. Great way to drive traffic back to your site and get people to see what upcoming shows or albums you have and possible show them your latest album or merchandise that they didn't get to pick up at the show.

All that to say that I think an announcement during the show that it is being recorded and will be available at something something dot com later along with photos from the event would free everyone up to relax and enjoy the show. This year's HSB festival is a good example of that, they promoted the livestream on Twitter @HSBFest and noted the video archive would be available as well so you could see the shows you missed. They also mentioned this at the stages (at least at the stages I went to) in between acts. I think it encouraged people to stick around and hear an act they may have skipped in favor of an act at a different stage. That's what it did for me pictured here are two bands I stayed to hear at the Porch stage like Sturgill SimpsonDella Mae and Evolfo Doofeht who were really entertaining. I missed Steve Earle and The Dukes but watched it later, same thing for Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers because I knew I could stream them later. The Porch stage didn't get archived that I can tell so I'm really glad I hung out there to catch some amazing new acts for me. Also seeing the professional photos being tweeted out and on the website and shared around made me just sit back in the grass and enjoy the shows. I can get better media and enjoy it there. If you want a sample of all the photos taken at HSB 2013 check out their instagram feed or just search the #hsb13 hashtag on your social media channels and you're bound to pick up some stuff.
Della Mae on the Porch Stage 
Evolfo Doofeht on the Porch Stage

Another satisfied Bluegrass customer
I think it's safe to say that by Sunday afternoon I was feeling pretty satisfied like the lady to the right here, with the whole event and already excited about getting to next year's. Save the date folks October 3rd, 4th and 5th 2014!

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