Just back from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the free three day music festival in Golden Gate Park. Patti Smith is one of the all time best performers I’ve ever seen. She is a total rockstar, swaggering on stage like Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison, so in control of everything, with her callbacks and clapping, she played the audience like an instrument. When she covers songs you think you know well, they sound like nothing you’ve heard before; she slows it all down, savoring every word. Her “Play With Fire” was intense and beautiful with two stanzas of her own lyrics inserted in the middle. If anyone recorded it (I saw you all!) please post. Smith told everyone how lucky we were to live here and then she recited the prayer of St. Francis, reminding the audience to “Be happy, work hard, love one another.” Listening to her under the swaying eucalyptus, the fog wisping in around us, was a great San Francisco moment.
Elvis Costello and his band the Sugarcanes may have been my favorite this year, probably the tightest band I saw. They had great energy.
Emmylou Harris closes the show ever year and her voice is so incredibly pretty. Yesterday, when I saw Guy Clark I thought his lyrics and voice are just as beautiful as hers. Yesterday, I also saw Richard Thompson who was rocking out more than expected and great. I heard Joan Baez sing “Diamonds and Rust” which is one of my favorite songs. She also did her hilarious Bob Dylan imitation. After Baez, I saw the incredible Gillian Welch who amazes me everytime she performs.
Right as Elvis Costello was finishing playing, about six miles away in one of America’s most beautiful ballparks, the Giants won the NL West pennant. When the announcer gleefully told the audience about the victory, many already knew because they’d been clutching radios to their ears, reciting the score to each other inbetween sets all afternoon.
Shivering in the dark and fog, we got in our warm car. To avoid traffic after Saturday night’s turtle pace, we drove home along the Great Highway. After passing by dense hills of red and green succulents, suddenly there was the foamy ocean, white and bright as a light, my husband saying, “I can’t believe this is right here!” Back in Potrero Hill with the stunning view of downtown and the Bay, we could see all the lights of traffic crossing the bridge, everyone traveling home; we were grateful to be already there.