Strong winds knocked off Steve Martin's hat and toppled an upright bass belonging to one of Steve Earle's Bluegrass Dukes. "Snuggle up!'' Earle commanded as he took to the stage, sporting his new Hagrid look. The show was dramatic, owing in part to the lightning-fast bluegrass music, and in part to the scary heritage tree (a Monterey cypress) directly behind the stage, thrashing its branches and threatening to fall on the performers.
The wind did all it could to blow the performers off the stage, but their fingers flew and they would not be distracted. Earle peppered the show with provocative comments. After criticizing Obama for making a reference to clean coal -- "coal has blood on its hands,'' Earle said -- he launched into two coal-related Earle classics : Harlan Man and The Mountain. Before launching into "My Uncle,'' an up-tempo draft-dodging anthem, he said, "This is written by Gram Parsons before he died and Chris Hillman before he became a Republican."
At one point, he apparently lost sensation in his fingers.
"That's OK,'' he shouted. "I don't need no stinkin' fingers.''
I shuttled back and forth from Earle's show to Robert Earl Keen's raucous concert nearby, which included some great rave-ups of "I'm Coming Home'' and "White Room'' by Cream. The crowd included some seriously rowdy folks, along with a guy dressed in a robot suit with a sign saying "POWERED BY HUGS." The robot couldn't get anyone to hug him as far as I could see; I hope he had some kind of auxiliary power source.
By the way, I hear (from a family representative) that Nick Lowe was in great form, and that Dar Williams more than held her own at a songwriter's hootenanny featuring Earle, Allison Moorer and Tom Morello.