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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, & T Bone Burnett @ Golden Gate Park, 10/3/08

October 4, 2008

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is a gift bestowed upon San Franciscans every October. Thank you, Warren Hellman, for one of my best SF moments, seeing Robert Plant for free in Golden Gate Park.

via flickr/gsmattingly

At 5pm on a Friday, the Banjo Stage at the park was full. It was clear from listening to everyone navigating around that they were there to see Plant, who just happened to be playing with some girl, and some other guy, even though those other people are quite good in their own regard. Many were there because this is the closest they will come to seeing Zeppelin.

Standing on a slope behind a sea of people, I see his hair. The man may have aged, but those unmistakable goldilocks make it impossible to miss him, even from far away.

The success of this unlikely pair is hard to deny once you hear Alison Krauss’ voice. Beyond taking up the high end on vocals that Plant can no longer achieve, she made those in the audience who didn’t know her ask who she was. People may be turned off from going to this festival because of the term Bluegrass, but what it really means to me is beautiful harmonies. And that was not just delivered by Plant and Krauss, but also by the instruments wielded by Burnett and Co.

The setlist was a mix of tracks from their album, as well as reimagined Zeppelin and covers the fit the bluegrass theme. During ‘Black Dog’, you could almost hear the audience willing for it to be sped up to it’s original form. But during the first few notes of ‘The Battle of Evermore’, the audience rumbled with glee, a collective “ahhh” spread like a wave through the crowd. Their take on ‘Nothing’, a Townes Van Zandt piece, was also a crowd pleaser.

I normally don’t like festivals, but the caliber of these artists, the vibe of the music, and the fact that it is free will always bring me back to this one. Having Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, and T Bone Burnett start my weekend reminds me that I’m lucky to live in SF.

Rich Woman
Leave My Woman Alone
Black Dog
Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us
Through the Morning, Through the Night
Goodbye and So Long to You
Fortune Teller
In the Mood
Black Country Woman
Earlier Baghdad
Wildwood Flower
Down to the River to Pray
The Battle of Evermore
Please Read the Letter
Gone Gone Gone
One-Woman Man

link to youtubes


  1. Thank you, HRC, for the set list, also.. I was there, about 20 feet to the right and 15 feet in front of the sound equipment area.. I thoroughly enjoyed the set, and felt it exceeded the quality of the album, “Kicking Sand”, which I own and love. Each performer brought so much to the mix.

    I really enjoyed the opening act, too. (Sharon Little.. she rocked. Great singing, lively, sexy performance, songwriting, etc. Her band was tight and stripped down to basics. ( btw, I found her website: http://www.sharonlittle.com/ )


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