10 Must-See Rock Bands at the 2015 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

By now you've probably heard that the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival didn't always have "hardly" in its name.

Back in 2010, festival founder and benefactor Warren Hellman (R.I.P.) told Ian S. Port ("Warren Hellman talks about Hardly Strictly Bluegrass"):

The first two years it was called Strictly Bluegrass. The reason I called it Strictly Bluegrass is Emmylou Harris agreed to come. As you know, Emmylou Harris' music has moved through different genres. I really like the Nash Ramblers [Harris' onetime band], and I thought if we call it Strictly Bluegrass, maybe she'll be shamed into doing strictly bluegrass. No way. Then we thought, it isn't Strictly Bluegrass, because of course Emmy wasn't singing bluegrass in those days, so we started adding nonbluegrass acts. We saw how popular they were. And then we just decided, let's make it just a music festival.

I've been attending (and volunteering at) the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass for a decade now. If you love music and have never been, you're really missing out.

In the spirit of the "hardly" part of the festival, here are 10 must-see rock* bands playing this year.


1:15 Monophonics (Banjo Stage)

2:35 Marty Willson Piper's Acres of Space (Arrow Stage)

4:10 Punch Brothers (Banjo Stage)

5:45 Michael Franti and Spearhead (Banjo Stage)


3:05 Joe Jackson (Towers of Gold Stage)

3:55 Paul Weller (Swan Stage)

5:45 Flogging Molly (Swan Stage)


1:45 Poi Dog Pondering (Towers of Gold Stage)

4:05 Robyn Hitchcock & The Sadies (Rooster Stage)

5:00 Los Lobos (Towers of Gold Stage)

* Of course, Punch Brothers are not rock, but they're not strictly bluegrass either. Their covers of Radiohead songs like 2+2=5 and Kid A are proof of that. And they rock in concert.

10 Podcasts To Listen To If You're New to Podcasts

According to Ben Hammersley ("Audible revolution" The Guardian, 12 February 2004), audioblogging or podcasting became a thing in 2004.

2004?! Except for the geekiest among us, podcasting was something people were only vaguely aware of in 2004, let alone in 2014.

And then came Serial.

The momentum created for podcasts since the crossover success of “Serial” at the end of 2014 has continued months after the true crime series became the first podcast to top 80 million total downloads from the iTunes.

President Barack Obama made an appearance on comedian Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast in June, and Tuesday marks a nationwide podcast festival with the live simulcast of “Cast Party” to over 500 movie theaters nationwide, featuring shows from four of the most popular podcast networks.

“Cast Party” co-creator, producer and host Seth Lind experienced the “Serial effect” up close and personal with his job as director of operations for “This is American Life,” whose producer Sarah Koenig was the creator of “Serial.”

“’Serial’ increased listening across the whole medium, including ‘This is American Life,’ ” Lind said. “We got probably something like 200,000 new listeners that could be attributed to ‘Serial,’ which is significant... It was fascinating to see how much bigger it got than any of us thought.”

I was one of those geeks who listened to podcasts 10 years ago, but fell out of the habit.

Why? Listening wasn't that convenient and most programs I heard on my local NPR affiliate were better.

No longer. Listening is now super easy, even when you're offline, with iTunes and apps like Podcast Addict for Android (my app of choice).

And there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of programs you can listen to, some of which are as entertaining as anything you'll find on public radio.

If you haven't yet listened to Serial, give it a go. I liked it. My wife loved it.

Here are 10 other podcasts to listen to if you're new to podcasts.

  1. Reply All
  2. StartUp
  3. Invisibilia
  4. Mystery Show
  5. 99% Invisible
  6. Freakonomics
  7. Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin
  8. Radiolab
  9. The Tim Ferris Show
  10. Ask Altucher

Am I missing any? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy listening!

Outside Lands Festival 2015 Mixtape

The lineup for the 8th annual installment of the Outside Land Music Festival might be the best yet.

It's easy to excuse anyone who looks at the headliners -- Elton John, The Black Keys, Kendrick Lamar, Wilco, Tame Impala, Amon Tobin, D’Angelo, St. Vincent, Ben Harper -- and who thinks, holy shit, this is going to be a kick-ass weekend!

Of course it will be. Hell, even if there was NO music and it was just a weekend spent eating and drinking gourmet food, wine and beer in Golden Gate Park, it would be kick-ass enough.

I judge mega festivals like Outside Lands by the bottom of their bill, not by the top. Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalloza, Austin City Limits, etc all spend a lot of money attracting acts they think will help sell tickets (Mumford & Sons? Sam Smith? Meh.). No surprise. But the bottom of the bill is where the promoters and programmers show off their curation and taste-making skills, introducing attendees to up-and-coming artists, or talented acts that might never become that big.

With this in mind, I like to create "Bottom to Top" Mixtapes, with a focus on artists playing in the early afternoon, before the crowds have gotten thick and the drugs have kicked in.

Here's my Outside Lands mixtape. Enjoy. And don't miss Strand of Oaks, Leon Bridges, or Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Just don't.

Photo of Foster The People at Outside Lands 2011 Day 1 by Brandon Carson from Flickr.