Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the free festival held annually in Golden Gate Park, began trickling out its 2011 lineup early this week. To give eager fans a (small) thrill, instead of simply announcing the bands, the festival's site is hosting a series of song medleys through Soundcloud. Listen to the songs, and you will discover the artists (or you can just look at the scrolling box at the top of the page). While more acts will be announced in the coming days as the festival nears – the dates are Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and 2 – the first batch of bands is already looking pretty great.
Silver-tressed country rocker Emmylou Harris returns again as do Punch Brothers, and of course, The Wronglers – the band includes Warren Hellman, the philanthropist who foots the festival bill. Other acts listed so far include Gillian Welch, Bob Mould (of Hüsker Dü), Elbow, Robert Plant & the Band of Joy, Cass McCombs, and Those Darlins.
Those Darlins, by the way, is a band to check out if you haven't yet. It's stripped-down, guitar-friendly pop. The song “Be Your Bro” is good for a late afternoon pick-me-up. Hint.
So far, the only real head-scratcher on the list, at least in my mind, is Buckethead. I know he's a virtuoso guitarist and this is “hardly strictly” bluegrass, but I just can't picture him out there in the picturesque, dew-tipped green fields of Golden Gate alongside all that crunchy folk togetherness, wearing a big, white bucket on his head. Call me crazy.
Keep checking the Hardly Strictly site for new medleys. At this point, we can only guess as to who might be added to the bill based on previous years. MC Hammer? Elvis Costello? Bonnie "Prince" Billy? It's all just wild speculation.
UPDATE: 10:28 a.m. It seems that the Hardly Strictly organizers were ready to divulge the rest of the lineup by early Tuesday evening. The medleys were no longer on the front page, instead replaced by a dizzying list of truly awesome acts. New revelations include: Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard, Broken Social Scene, Kurt Vile and the Violators, M. Ward, Thurston Moore, Bright Eyes, and the always-entertaining a cappella Leonard Cohen cover group, Conspiracy of Beards. And yes, to those wondering, MC Hammer is back.