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One of the world’s great music festivals, for free
by John Mackie
October 8, 2010
Vancouver Sun
Vancouver, Canada

SAN FRANCISCO - Thousands of Vancouverites make the pilgrimage to Seattle Labour Day weekend for Bumbershoot, a fabulous arts and music festival at the Seattle Center Grounds.

But San Francisco’s got a music festival that’s even better.

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival happens at the beginning of October in Golden Gate Park. This year’s lineup included Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Nick Lowe, Patti Smith, Rosanne Cash, T-Bone Burnett, Richard Thompson, Steve Earle, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, the Flatlanders and the Dukes of September Revue, featuring Michael McDonald, Donald Fagen and Boz Scaggs.

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I went down to see my friend Wendy Bird, who was one of the final acts Sunday. She was backed by her beau Colin Nairne, Barney Bentall and Jeff Hatcher, formerly of the Blue Shadows. Ry Cooder drove up from Los Angeles to see her perform, and Pete Thomas of Costello’s band and Austin Delone, who’s played with Lowe, also caught her set.

There were so many highlights it’s hard to pick them out, but Wendy, Barney and Jeff harmonizing on Deliver Me was quite stirring. You could almost hear the late, great Blue Shadows singer Billy Cowsill trilling high harmony from heaven.

Elvis melding You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away into New Amsterdam was also pretty nifty, and hearing the crowd roar when Nick Lowe asked “Are you with me, San Francisco?” during the middle of What’s So Funny ’Bout Peace, Love and Understanding was a flower-power classic. (Although, if the truth be told, it was written as a satire of hippies.)

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