I should have been grading papers, but at the last minute I decided to play hooky for a few hours to see one of my favorites musicians, Richard Thompson, who was "playing real good for free" this afternoon at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Fest in Golden Gate Park.
Traffic was thick and the parking garage I'd found on Google Maps turned out not to exist, but I finally found a tiny parking space on the edge of the park just a few blocks from the stage. I squeezed my little VW Golf into it and hot-footed it into the park.
As I approached the open-air stage, I could hear Richard Thompson striking the opening chords of Bathsheba Smiles. A couple walking in the same direction asked, "Oh, is that Nick Lowe?"
"No," I replied, "that's Richard Thompson."
"Teddy Thompson's dad?"
"Yes, that's him."
On stage, it was just Thompson and his acoustic guitar, putting out enough sound to blow back your hair. He picks so fast and furious it always sounds like there must be two of him.
I found a open spot not too far back and sat cross-legged on the ground. Next up was one of my all-time Thompson favorites, Persuasion. As he sang, a pair of red-tailed hawks circled overhead. All around me, people tapped their feet and nodded their heads in time to the music. Some, like me, sang along on the chorus.
Also on the playlist: Crawl Back, 1952 Vincent Black Lightening, Sunset Song, a lovely ballad, and Dad's Gonna Kill Me, a song about Iraq ("Dad" is soldier slang for Baghdad, he said), and probably one or two others I forgot. He reprised with Valerie.
If you're not familar with Thompson, you can check him out on last.fm at http://www.last.fm/music/Richard+Thompson. Here's a YouTube video of Thompson singing Persuasion with his son, Teddy, who performed in town last month (sorry I missed that).
Tags: Richard Thompson, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass