Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2022 – Preview and Recommendations

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: A FREE gathering in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco featuring dozens of musical acts on 6 stages.

September 30 – October 2, 2022.


This link above is pretty much all you need to know about this music festival that goes back more than a decade, and is free and unusual.  The now deceased, banjo-playing billionaire Warren Hellman’s fortune keeps it all going and hires the bands and now extensive security. Thanks Warren! The music is an odd mix of genres but comes down to some country and bluegrass bands, old geezer, baby boomer bands, alternative rock and pop bands and a few local bands. For a young band, your way to get the gig is to be in the industry and a hard working touring band that has paid some dues, traveled many miles in a van and probably slept in a lot of Motel 6’s.

Whether you experience Hardly Strictly Bluegrass at one stage with a group of friends, a blanket, chardonnay and lots of stinky cheese and olives or want to catch a lot of stages, travel light and fly solo or with a like-minded buddy or partner in crime is your choice. I tend to go with the fly solo thing as there are so many bands it seems a shame to be tied down to one spot.

Here is my list of people I hope to hear, but as always things change and I may find myself eating brie with some strangers at a stage listening to someone I never knew that then becomes my new favorite band.



AJ Lee is a local band that most people in the Bay Area do not know, which is strange because they are really good.  Santa Cruz bluegrass at its best.


Country swing from West Texas. Nothing like some Dizzy Gillespie thrown in with your Hank Williams


Some Bayou sounds not to miss.


This looks like a really interesting band far from bluegrass.







It is always good to checkout the Bandwagon Stage were the local folk get up on stage. Not as crazy as the other big stages.

Remember to keep hydrated, pack a few extra snacks and maybe a few extra cans of quality beer for when you find yourself next to some other friendly festival goers .  See y’all on Monday.

Catching up With Ralph Nader


One of the podcasts I follow is Sheer Intelligence which features thoughtful and provocative conversations with “American Originals” — people who, through a lifetime of engagement with political issues, offer unique and often surprising perspectives on the day’s most important issues.

Every six months Robert Sheer has Ralph Nader on the show and the two octogenarians muse over the state of politics. The conversations are always  enlightening, depressing and entertaining all at once. Ralph Nadar – the person who made sure cars had seatbelts and the world was a little safer place brings up the dangers of cellphones especially on kids – not something the powers that be want to hear about.


The Great Highway and the Save the Great Walkway Rally

Save the Great Walkway Rally
Start: Sunday, August 15, 2021 • 10:30 AM
Location: Great Walkway at Judah • 1398 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA 94122

If you are interested, attend the march this Sunday.


The Great Highway, due to the pandemic, has been pedestrian-only for about a year and a half. It is a great safe place to walk., catch views of Ocean Beach and the Marin Headlands, and even perhaps muse over the absurdity of life. To the south you see all the way to Pedro Point in Pacifica. Out on the ocean you can often see the large container ships lumbering along. When the air is clear you can make out the Farallon Islands and even see all the way up to Point Reyes.  During fire seasons the air at Ocean Beach is often the best around with the ocean breeze far from the burning forests.

Kids have spent the last year with a place to get out and ride bikes. Runners and bikers of all ages use this highway. There is no reason to give it back to the cars commuting from Marin. They can take Sunset Blvd or 19th Ave or simply work from home.  If we have learned one thing from this pandemic is that it is not business as usual, and time to slow down and enjoy and protect the public spaces. No cars on The Great Highway!

Save the Great Highway for the people. It is better for our health, public safety and our kids.

Some random pics from the last year and a half out along the Great Highway.

Kamala Harris Taking a Stand

“I know predators, and we have a predator living in the White House, and let me tell you, there’s a little secret about predators. Donald Trump has predatory nature and predatory instincts. The things about predators you should know, they prey on the vulnerable. They prey on those who they do not believe are strong. The thing you must importantly know, predators are cowards. I have a background where successfully, I have prosecuted the big banks who preyed on homeowners, prosecuted pharmaceutical companies who preyed on seniors, prosecuted transnational criminal organizations that preyed on women and children, and I will tell you we have a predator living in the White House.”

Kamala Harris
U.S. Sentaor
Presidential Canidate
July 3, 2019

You can point to Bernie’s “billions and billions,” Warren’s epiphany to break up the monopolies in big tech, even Andrew Yang’s idea that we need to move to higher ground, but the quote above speaks to the reality of our current society. There are predators taking advantage of the vulnerable everywhere and it has unfortunately become acceptable and part of business as usual.

Michael Watson and Amazing Musicianship

It never ceases to amaze me how many truly phenomenal musicians call New Orleans home. Most of these musicians are unknown to the jazz world and the rest of the world.  I heard Michael Watson  play trombone and sing  in April 2018 at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans and was blown away.  An incredible trombonist and an extraordinary singer,  it is truly odd that more people do not know of this amazing talent.

We heard him play with Bill Summers and his band Jazalsa. Ben Casey on bass, and one of the many great Batiste family drummers on drums.  The entire band was outstanding.

To get an idea of the breadth of Michael Watson’s musicianship and talent, here are two videos. At the show I heard, his trombone playing was both explosive and extremely sophisticated all at the same time.

I do not understand why these videos have so few views. I must have strange tastes in music.


Mavericks Surf Spot Breaking

There is a large period swell hitting the West Coast of California this week. The Mavericks  Surf Contest may take place on Thursday (1/18/2018) but that does not mean people aren’t surfing all week. The photo above is from Monday morning. If you want to see the waves get a Surfline subscription or head on down to Half Moon Bay with some binoculars.  Afterwards, I recommend the Princeton Harbor Public House and Grill.






2017 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Official Pelican Café Awards

The 2017 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival was blessed with great festival weather – sunny and never too hot or too chilly and the winds never blew too hard. Out at the ocean there was a large short period swell in the water and moderate onshore winds in the afternoon so unlike some years in the past the surfing was not happening. Good thing there were over 100 bands and 6 stages to experience some great music. Coinciding with the festival were the Blue Angels flying maneuvers over the city of San Francisco. Sometimes a single jet would stall right above Golden Gate Park and then shoot like a rocket straight up only to then arch moments later with a big turn. Many oohed and aahed. Some who have seen the darker sides of war and reality and probably have been through this  routine before, looked to the sky with one-finger peace signs on both hands and sneers on their faces. The middle-aged woman M.C. at the new Victrola Stage just sighed and said something about if only we used all that money for the schools. Starting with Billy Bragg on Friday and going through many acts was a theme of political awareness and either concern for the state of things in the world or ways to contend with the fear and despair.

One of the ways was to simply enjoy all the music and friendly company. As you can see by the photo below, the festival began quite peacefully.

Stressful beginning. Victrola stage in background

Francisco Torres solo on Watermelon Man – Trombone

There are no trombones in bluegrass music  that is certain, but at the 2017 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival there were at least two. I heard more saxes, trumpets and trombones than I did banjos.  Both the banjo and the trombone have known to break up marriages as both are actually very hard to play. Francisco Torres plays trombone and plays it very well with Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz group. They played at 11:40 am on Saturday at the Swan Stage.  The crowd,  a bit subdued, seemed like they were either waiting for the coffee to kick in, the neighborhood blunt to take effect or maybe were simply biding time till “that cool band plays at 2:30.” Overall the band seemed a bit under-microphoned but Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz group band is full of veteran-pros and eventually you knew you would hear something great. I have heard Francisco Torres play trombone live before and was impressed. This guy has great chops and outstanding musical sensibilities and can even channel John Coltrane. His solo on Watermelon Man was outstanding.

Don Bryant

People who have been attending the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival for years know that part of the fun is discovering new musicians and bands.  On Friday I heard the The Bo-Keys. The horn section was fantastic playing with impeccable ensemble. The baritone sax had this beautiful fat sound and and held down the bottom like a anchor.  The arrangements were a little unimaginative but I am told that that is the classic R&B style (I guess Tower of Power never got that memo). Anyway, the second half of the set featured Don Bryant and let me tell you this guy is still going strong. Decked out in a gorgeous ornate black and silver jacket, at 75 he gave a clinic on singing R&B. He was channeling the voice of Otis Redding, James Brown and Sam Cooke all at once – all while having a  great time. The style of blues shouting has many casualties in the vocal world and I hear that people who sing in this style are often  frequent visitors to the  Ear, Nose and Throat clinics across the land. It is an especially difficult style to sing night after night. Don Bryant seemed like the Pavarotti of R&B  and for the entire set he  looked like he was having a gas. All the E.N.T. people should really just figure out how this guy does it. Case closed.

I would rather live a short life of love, than a long one of fear

Lucas Nelson

Swan Stage

There are basically two approaches to attending the festival. One is to pack light, stake out your spot on one stage then meander over to other stages. This way you can maximize your band count. I know many people who do this and I have come to the conclusion that if you choose this route it is best to go the the festival solo. Alone, you can head off and hear Allison Brown in a moment’s notice. The other approach is to simply bring enough food and drink for the day and stay at one stage that your party has chosen as the best. Sunday I was traveling solo but nevertheless ended up spending four hours at the Swan Stage around a very friendly crowd. For me, the line-up of Poor Man’s Whiskey, Randy Newman and Lucas Nelson (Willie Nelson’s son) was the highlight of the entire festival. Outstanding!

Most Improved:
Poor Man’s Whiskey

Speaking of which, Poor Man’s Whiskey’s set was excellent. I am not sure if there are new members in the band or they changed their beverage of choice but these guys brought it on – great vocals at times, awesome songwriting and some truly interesting guitar solos. Their sound is many things – a bit country, a bit rock and roll, a little Northern California jam-band. During the set one of the band’s members proposed marriage to his girlfriend. That was pretty special.

It’s play time now. There’s no democracy. Democracy’s gone.

Randy Newman

Randy Newman

When musicians become commercially successful sometimes people no longer take them seriously. Randy Newman’s body of work is outstanding. Sitting at a grand piano playing solo he quieted everyone down and truly delivered. He played some new songs (a funny one about Putin) but also played classics like Short People.

TIE: T-Bone Burnett & Ornette’s Prime Time Band Reunion

The Pelican Cafe has been giving out these awards for six years now and this is the first time that the judges have split their decisions. In the category of Most Avant Garde we have a tie! You had to have been there.  T-Bone Burnett did over an hour of a new direction he is going. Electronic music with prerecorded tracks, a drummer and T-Bone Burnett doing spoken word. There was some mention at the beginning of T.S. Elliot but at a festival like this, subtleties are lost.  Probably pretty cool stuff if you are in the right mood and a smaller venue. At a festival this size you need to paint with a fatter brush. Ornette’s Prime Time Reunion Band played many of the old tunes and sounded really interesting. There were loud like a rock and roll band.  I now am musing over what it would have sounded like if Ornette and Charlie Haden had done the gig as a duo.  Maybe they were up in the clouds flying around in those airplanes. Stranger things have happened lately.


The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco is really like Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Big-name bands, many kinds of music and a festive atmosphere. One of the amazing things about Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is that even though there are tens of thousands of people, it is always a  peaceful event, and in the end people seem to get along just fine and often make new friends. Everyone seems to pack out the trash pretty well too. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Warren Hellman’s party.  Communal music therapy.













In Europe – Photos and Ramblings

It is strange feeling when you are at a place a few weeks before a traumatic event. Barcelona in 2017 is just that sort of place for us. We were there in late July and now in mid-August we read and see of the tragic mayhem on La Ramblas. Sorry to hear about this. Barcelona will bounce back from this. To what end is this act of senseless violence?

Some of my ideas for writing blog posts, I found crumpled on a piece of paper in my wallet from this trip to Europe. Here they are as random ramblings.

The Barcelona Waitress
One night we searched out paella. In one restaurant the waitress/host said that they did not serve paella but that if we went to this other restaurant “they make the best.” After many turns though the narrow streets of Barcelona and up La Ramblas and then another turn we made it to the restaurant. The paella was indeed great and the food was all really good but what got me was the waitress. She spoke five languages really well. Spanish, Catatonia, German, French and English. I began to wonder if there are many waitresses that go on to careers in international relations. This woman, in her mid-twenties seemed a likely candidate.

Paella is not baked, boiled, toasted, steamed, poached or sauteed. Paella is drenched.

The Paris Waiter
Having waited tables for about 20 years in a former life, I am always fascinated by waiters and bartenders. I find a busy bar to be extremely entertaining. It is a place where, because of the business of the place sometimes, becomes a zen zone. Pouring beers while making change while creating a Moscow mule. All done with a rhythm and flow. In Paris one morning we had some coffee and a croissant at a cafe by a metro stop. The waiter, a career waiter you could tell, was perfect. Coffee and croissant in a moments notice, all a bit invisibly delivered. Check at the perfect time. All done. To the train.

French Bike Helmets
Not sure if it a style thing or tradition but people in France rarely wear bike helmets. Middle age men in suits and ties riding their ancient 3 speeds. No helmet. Maybe they just need more fashionable designs? Make one that looks like a baguette, or perhaps like some Camembert cheese. It was great to see all the folks on bikes. We rode the buses and trains.




Norther Spain

The Virgin Guadalupe and I

The Virgin Guadalupe and I

8/11/2006 9:13:38 AM

It was a rather ordinary August afternoon in San Marcos, Guatemala. The sky was beginning to fill with the usual afternoon clouds that would soon make for scattered showers that are so common this time of year. I  was going about town with Lucia, my seven-year-old daughter, doing some errands – a spool of white thread, socks, stop at the supermarket for the usual. Suddenly I saw her. She saw me. Our eyes met and I knew at that moment I had to have her. Her hands were together as though in prayer, and out from the crowded street, she called my name.

“Pablo, how are you these days? I need to speak with you. The matter is urgent.”

I quickly looked around, wondering whom it was that had spoken, when I suddenly realized it was she – the poster of The Virgin Guadalupe. Among the other tacky posters around, two puppy dogs with some corny slogan in beveled font, Don Johnson next to a Mustang looking so cool, she stood out as something of exquisite beauty and value.

“I am fine Guadalupe. And why do you inquire?”

“In the last five hundred years, after my meeting with Juan, we have built thousands of fine temples, and given peace and joy to the down trodden and suffering.”

“I know, there are many fine churches throughout the land now. They ring their bells early and late. Is this something that you can help me with? It often wakes me early in the morning, especially on the weekends. I believe it is recorded bells too, which I find cheap and disingenuous.”

“I hear you clearly my dear Pablo. I find it strange that the bells never make a mistake as well. If they are recorded, the least they could do is play in tune. I will do what I can.”

“But I am speaking to you now as merely a friend. I need your help. I have listened to the weeping, the sadness, the troubles and miseries of the people of this downtrodden land for five hundred years, and to be perfectly honest, I am a bit tired and depressed. Take me home with you.”

“You seem to be a person of great quality but I have never brought someone of your stature home. I think it would also make my wife a bit uncomfortable… you know another woman in the house and all.”

“My dear friend Pablo, I am a virgin and I intend to stay that way. Your wife should not worry. Besides I promise that I will just blend into the wall as best as I can.”

“But what of that little cherubic kid at your feet? Does he have to come along too?”

“Yes, he is my son. The Son of God. I fear waiting here in the bus station any longer will not be good for his health. You see he is not breathing too well the last few days. The fumes from all the buses are affecting his asthma. To be quite frank, because of all the noise, he has missed his nap all week and has been a real pill. He bugs me constantly for suckers and candy from all the venders who pass by. I do not think I can last much longer. Besides that, this Don Johnson guy next to me is really getting on my nerves. He thinks he’s soooooo cool. What an ego!”

“But I thought you were a virgin? Is your son adopted?”

“No he is not adopted. It is a long story and something that Joe, my former husband and I, have had to try to explain so many times… it is complicated. But do not fear. I am a woman of great quality and believe me, a virgin.”

Lucia and I stood on the narrow sidewalk and were truly captivated by the beauty of Guadalupe. We tried to ignore her pleas and walked away more than once, only to be called back by some sort of magical force. She had cast a spell on us. We had to have her. She seemed to be a work of art, unlike no other, in this culture-starved city.

We asked her master what was her price, thinking that perhaps she was holding our dear Guadalupe hostage, and would suggest an outrageous ransom. “Ten quetzals” she replied. I was astonished. A little over a dollar and I could free my new friend and her child from their misery.

As we walked home with Guadalupe rolled up, she continued to speak to me. “Pablo, thank you so much. I promise to look after you and your family. You know that nasty stomach infection you had. It was the water. Always brush your teeth with the bottled stuff. I promise, it won’t happen again.”

When we got home, we let Guadalupe have some space by herself at the end of the hall. She now looks after us daily. Her little kid who always hangs out at her feet no longer whines and is reading Mark Twain for a change. We all feel the arrangement is just grand.

From The Pelican Café Essays from Guatemala

The Pelican Café Essays
from Guatemala

By Paul Lyons
Available as Paperback for $10.00

Hector’s Hauling & Clean Up

Hector’s Hauling & Clean Up – Out with the old, in with the new – (415) 215-9120

Best hauling service in the outer mission district of San Francisco.

Highly recommended! I always get a kick out of Hector’s truck. The hand painted lettering just lets you know this is your guy when you need a bunch of crap moved, and moved ASAP.

Here are the before and after shots of my summer project – replacing a retaining wall. Hector hauled the concrete off to the dump. Swept it all up. Great guy. Excellent listener.

With Fencing – Pros


Need a retaining wall, these guys do it all the time

Lo Buglio Design


Need someone to give great advice on woodworking and construction. Nick is the guy.

Wil Blades Trio at Big Easy in Petaluma, California Thursday, December 1st

If you are in the north bay, a must check out show. Wil Blades is amazing. Joe Bagale is a great drummer and sings from the heart. If you are within 10 miles, drop everything. You will not be disappointed.

Wil Blades Trio
Thursday, December 1st

If you are within 10 miles, drop everything and go hear Wil Blades Trio at Big Easy in Petaluma. You will not be disappointed.

Joe Bagale – drums
Kai Lyons – guitar

Big Easy in *Petaluma*

The Last Doctor’s Lounge Bluegrass Jam – San Francisco

Doctor’s Lounge
4826 Mission St, San Francisco, California 94112
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
8pm to Midnight

For around 3 years the amazing band The Beauty Operators has played a monthly, third Thursday of the month gig at The Doctor’s Lounge. It was one set then an open jam. Sometimes as many as 15 people would get up on “the stage” and join the effort. It has been a fun run.

But alas, the lease ran out and the owner of the building is upin’ the rent 80%. Good grief! Such is life on the Royal Highway now known as Mission Street. The Dr’s Lounge location has been a bar for over 50 years with a lot of history, some memorable, some probably people will want to maybe forget. I remember a few years back in December showing up for the gig and there was a fundraiser – a crab feed to raise money for a school I think. The place was all dressed up. White table cloths. Candles. The crab, garlic and white wine smelled like heaven. We serinaded them with a trio for the first set. Cool gig.

But usually the place is frequented by the locals. Working class folk. Most making an honest dollar. Retired longshoreman. Roofers. Handyman. Cooks and cleaners.

Anyway, if you are in the area – San Francisco, Mission and Onondaga, stop by by for a pint. They are five bucks. If they reopen as a bar I predict some major inflation.

Doctor’s Lounge
4826 Mission St, San Francisco, California 94112

Photos from the last night at the Doctor’s Lounge (click on images)

Nine Out of Ten

In San Francisco, 9 out of 10 people voted for Hillary Clinton. That is remarkable. Did people in San Francisco think Hillary Clinton was the perfect candidate? Probably not. But what they did do was take their responsibility to vote for someone who was a decent human being who spoke in complete sentences.

While there have been many downright creepy and dim-wit presidents, mark 2016 as when the United States of America elected someone who did not even pretend to be a gentleman or show social graces in any way. Reagan, the Bushes, secretive and criminal like many, but at least they appeared civilized. Now we are a barbaric tribe who is becoming more illiterate every day. There was a time when people would read and think about the Bible. Obviously in the Mid-West and South, this is a thing of the past.

On January 20th, Trump will take the oath of office.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

– Section 1:8

I do hope that between now and then he will read and study the Constitution of the United States. Please pay particular attention to these few details.

Section 4
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

I particularly like this little ditty that has been trampled upon in the last 20 years.

8: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

And that freedom of the press thing will be good to go over.

Article [I]
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And now what all the Evangelicals that voted for Donald Trump have been waiting for – the religious posters. Hang these up in your kitchens and above your bed just to remind yourself how incredibly inconsistent you are in your beliefs. This courtesy of the Huffington Post.


Azabache CD Still Available but Most People Stream

Azabache is/was a salsa band from San Francisco, California. Twenty-three years ago the CD was published by Leopard Music. I am guessing that only 1000 were printed. The music industry was in flux as always, and with the rise of Napster and MP3s everywhere publishing was finding its feet.

Since that time, the CD has made its way around the globe mostly streaming, but probably in suitcases as well. A big thanks to Amazon, iTunes and Spotify for their automation, tireless domination and and endless servers and warehouses, otherwise we would be licking stamps and going to the post office.


STREAM AND BUY THE CD at the following retailers:


Where’s the CD Baby Store?
CD Baby retired our music store in March of 2020 in order to place our focus entirely on the tools and services that are most meaningful to musicians today and tomorrow.

(Thanks for letting us know. Does that mean we threw the baby out with the bathwater?)

To order an actual CD, you no longer go to CD Baby. CD Baby is now only a digital distribution facilitator. The music industry is always changing. CDs are now 8-tracks. Jewel boxes in everyone’s basements gather dust until the next wave. A gosar! A bailar!

Chata Gutierrez Mural Celebration

Photos of Soltron, Anthony Blea, Orlando Torriente, Louis Romero and Carl Perazo outside the House of Brakes.
South Van Ness and Mission. 10/10/2015

A minute of Sotron….

Had to be there.

The legacy of the late Chata Gutierrez, radio personality and salsa DJ on KPOO and KPFA, remains in the forefront for Mission District locals. The Chata Mural Project aims to showcase Gutierrez’s cultivation of heritage through an honorary mural by Carlos Kookie Gonzalez — and the proposed location: The Mission.


While the rest of the city was battling the fog, the Mission had a special day honoring the late Chata Gutierrez, a very influential person in the San Francisco music scene. Her shows on KPOO and KPFA informed the entire Bay Area about Caribbean, African and various American musics.

Many local groups played and the 48 MUNI bus keep passing by. Beautiful restored from the late 50s cars were parked out front of the House of Brakes while the music found its groove. The mural is beautiful.  It was the old neighborhood crowd and only they knew the significance. Louis Romero, John Calloway, Karl Perazzo, Anthony Blea on the same stage!! Soltron, full or original material and some solid songs are  building upon the tradition.




As is the case with years past, The Pelican Café gives out awards for the Best of Hardly Strictly. It is a great honor to have been chosen once again for this task.


Joe Spivey with The Time Jumpers Featuring Vince Gill, Kenny Sears, Dawn Sears and Ranger Doug Green

Joe Spivey played some great fiddle on the Banjo Stage during this set on Saturday and for me it came at a perfect time. I had just had an earful of Deltron 3030 with The 3030 Orchestra at the Gold Stage (what a disaster that show was, especially in terms of sound) and needed to hear something down-home. There is something beautiful about bluegrass fiddle when played well. It combines speed, a singing sound and when done well a lot of funky polyrhythms. Joe Spivey has probably been delivering on this and more for years. He sounded great.


St. Paul w/ St. Paul & The Broken Bones

If you like in-your-face, soulful, Aretha Franklin southern Gospel singing, St. Paul is your ticket. He can simply belt out tunes, one after the other like there is no tomorrow. His stage presence, in a dapper blue suit and entertaining banter was perfect for his throwback style. If you are a singer or study voice, you must check out this guy. He does not take prisoners.


Jon Batiste and Stay Human

I must confess that I have a weakness for music from New Orleans. There is a beautiful combination of elements – spontaneity, virtuosity, soul, community, creativity and an artist to audience communication that transcends other music’s. Jon Batiste and Stay Human show at the 2014 HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL was outstanding. It all started with just the drummer coming out on stage playing just a tambourine in a very funky style. He was then joined, one at a time, by other members of the band. Alto sax, then tuba then Jon Batiste on a trumpet looking melodica. They played in a very traditional but polyphonic style. The set was full of surprises. For many tunes they would get behind there instruments, Jon at the piano, the drummer at his kit and just make magic. Funky numbers. Traditional tunes. At one time the sax player picked up a curved soprano and played a tune that harkened back to Sidney Bechet. Other times they would break into a sort of modern jazz, free-jazz thing that would make Ornette Coleman smile, then in the next moment they played a corny 70s tune, Killing Me Softly with just horns. The ensemble playing was impeccable. They closed out the set by heading out to the crowd in a line, playing their instruments, marching band, second line style. Pure magic.


The Lone Bellow

From Brooklyn, New York, The Lone Bellow’s set at the 2014 HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL just made you wonder were this alt-country band will be in a few years. Fine guitar playing and really impressive, authentic vocals by the entire group. Kanene Donehey Pipkin (mandolin, vocals) can really sing this stuff. As group singing goes, The Lone Bellow was amazing. Strong. On pitch. Well rehearsed.


Blue Rodeo

I suppose of you like that sort of formulaic 70s pop tune sound with the predictable hooks and uneven singing this would be your band, but they could have thrown in a “drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry.”


The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival always takes place the first weekend of October in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. In 2014, the weather was superb, with clear skies both days. Unlike some years, it was actually a bit too hot for some people and at many stages people sat far away preferring the shade of the trees. Ocean Beach had a long period swell running, sixty degree water temperatures and east winds so the surf was good. The Giants were in the process of defeating the Washington Nationals in playoff baseball. On Saturday, the festival was not as crowded as usual as the baseball game was in the afternoon. That game lasted six and a half hours and was won by the Giants in the 18th inning on a Brandon Belt home run. Life is good in the Bay Area.

Next year I think I am going to hang out a bit further west at HSB. Closer to the old time stages and the music from Appalachia. Ralph Stanley, winner of a 2013 HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL OFFICIAL PELICAN CAFÉ AWARD played the Banjo Stage on Sunday but I was already parked with my family at the Star Stage listening to Rosanne Cash. The difficult choices we have to make this time of year.

Live Bluegrass in SF as the Beauty Operators play all Weekend

Beauty Operators in the house this weekend. Great song writing. Amazing harp player. A mix of old tunes, originals and interesting adaptions of standards from the 70s and 80s.

What is pretty interesting about these venues, is that I doubt any doctors show up at the Doctor’s Lounge
and I never saw anyone drink milk at the Milk Bar.

THURSDAY 8pm Doctor’s Lounge
The Beauty Operators play at the Doctor’s Lounge the 3rd Thursday of every month. The club has a great pool room in back. Bar food available.

SATURDAY 8pm Modern Times

SUNDAY 5pm Bluegrass & Beyond- Sundays at Milk Bar.

San Francisco bluegrass.

Butterfly Jazz Trio – First Time Around CD


There are still a few copies of this limited release CD. Listen to examples and get the CD at Add to Cart at CD Baby!

Album Notes
Kai Lyons – Guitar
Erik Von Buchau – Drums
Dillan Riter – Bass

Recorded at Granada Studios in Half Moon Bay on August, 29, 2013, FIRST TIME AROUND by the Butterfly Jazz Trio is a spontaneous romp through some funky grooves, subtle ballads and straight ahead explorations. The session was inspired by gigs the Butterfly Jazz Trio played in downtown San Francisco in various bars and hotels during the summer of 2013.

All tunes were chosen like they had been on the gigs – spur of the moment, like many of the great sessions of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Two takes were done of most tracks but invariably the first was the one chosen. Freshness and immediacy was the agenda. There are no click tracks, prefabrications or overdubs of any kind. Just real instruments, listening, talented players and a splendid warm-sounding tube amp built by Rico Macalma, the engineer on the session.

At around 5pm, the crew packed up realizing that we all needed a break. We headed up to the Mission District in San Francisco for dinner. Time to chill before another gig at a hotel off of Union Square.


If you are a fan of the jazz guitar trio, music that swings hard and melodies that stay with you long after you finish that last track, check out the CD. Makes a great gift too. You may just want to listen to it again and again.


There are still a few copies of this limited release CD. Listen to examples and get the CD at Add to Cart at CD Baby!

Engineer & Mix by Rico Macalma, Mastering by Rainer Gembalczyk
Executive Producer & CD Design – Paul Lyons
Unauthorized copying and reproduction prohibited.
Copyright 2013 – Butterfly Jazz Trio – All Rights Reserved – kailyons.com

Monday Nights at The Union Room at Biscuits and Blues – Mike Olmos and Jeff Mars

It is Monday night. You are looking for some great music in San Francisco. Somewhere were you can hear some of the local best tear it up.. Look no further. Mike Olmos and Jeff Mars hold down the Monday night jazz gig at The Union Room at Biscuits and Blues. Starts at 7:30pm. Ends around 11:30pm. Cover from $5-10 depending on your participation energy. A lot of music for your money as the band is never playing it safe and over all the playing is about the best in town. Creative, inventive and virtuosic. To round out his glowing review I must say that the room has excellent sound, the piano is in tune and the vibe is a friendly.

I hear the food is pretty good too.

Mondays – Mike Olmos Jazz
The Union Room at Biscuits and Blues
401 Mason Street San Francisco CA
By Union Square

General admission: $10 ($5 for Musicians)
Door 6pm;
Show 7:30pm – 11:30pm

“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer – Alexander Supertramp – The Real Deal


I was flying back from Mexico and the plane was delayed a few hours. By the time I landed in San Francisco I had finished the entire book “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. This “coming of age” book traces the journeys of Chris McCandless and others including the author. They are all gripping tales and the book is extremely well written. Of course the main story is about Chris McCandless and his American odyssey, hitchin, hopping trains and floating around the west that he undertook after graduating from college. Every so often a character like McCandless comes along, influences people in very positive ways, travels far and wide and then dies tragically. At this point they enter the public conscience and become a sort of symbol for approaches to life, spiritual values, materialism and the meaning of existence.  Of course, how this enters into the public dialog is often just as much about the art that then is created around the person.

Jon Krakuer’s book “Into the Wild” captures the spirit of the topic extremely well. It is seemingly well researched and the inclusion of chapters about various other young explorers and free thinkers, including Karkuer, make it even more profound. One sees the yearning of McCandlesss as not a freak sort of occurrence but as something that is universal and timeless. People have often left civilization behind, with a head full of ideals to live an acetic life enjoying only the simple pleasures. It has an appeal to most everyone on some level.  Krakauer intersperses quotes of various transcendental writers, Thoreau, Stegner, Muir, Tolstoy among others that McCandless was reading that influenced his thinking during the trip. These quotes begin the chapters and give the book a sort of depth and gravity.

On the other hand, the movie “Into the Wild” directed by Sean Penn is but an admirable attempt to take on the subject. The casting is brilliant; the cinematography is spot on, the dialog adequate. Where it falters is that it tries to be too much like the book. For example, quotes of the same transcendental writers flash across the screen but this never has the effect as it does in print. Irritatingly, some of the quotes do not even credit sources.  Furthermore, the sound track is a scrapbook with bits from a Canadian film score guitarist, pedestrian tunes from Pearl Jam and generally a lot of music that does not add to the film. The American West is about open spaces and great silence. The movie could have used this sparseness. Instead, it feels a bit like we are on a high school field trip bus  and it is noisy and rushed.  To be fair, the one piece I liked was some transition music by Kiki King. Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie immensely, it is just that taken as a whole the book, as often is the case, is better.

So if you have already seen the movie, try to forget what you saw and read the book. If you have read the book, read it again. By the end you may want to figure out where your old backpack is in the dusty basement.