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The Twang Spectrum

The not-to-miss artists at this year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

Parker Millsap

(1 of 5)

The Sam Chase

(2 of 5)

Malawi Mouse Boys

(3 of 5)

Jonathan Wilson

(4 of 5)

Cibo Matto

(5 of 5)


Our annual free music festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, is back for its 14th year with a lineup that, as usual, runs the gamut from full-blooded bluegrass to bands that you'd never affiliate with the genre—like rap trio Deltron 3030.

Here, our list of not-to-miss performers appearing this year, rated on a scale of relative banjo abundance. Oct. 3—5.

Parker Millsap
This Oklahoma native has a fiddle, an upright bass, lyrics about God and the Devil and meth houses, and a twangy voice reminiscent of early John Mellencamp. All the ingredients for bluegrass perfection.
Bluegrass Rating: Strictly strictly.

The Sam Chase
San Francisco’s folk-rock band has a sound like “a nun with a mouthful of cigarettes and curse words in a lonely bar, drunkenly dancing next to a broken jukebox” (their words, not ours).
Bluegrass Rating: Strictly hardly.

Malawi Mouse Boys
An eight-person African gospel band that hails from Malawi, its members sold barbecued field mice on a stick to passersby (hence the name) until Grammy-winning producer Ian Brenner discovered them.
Bluegrass Rating: Hardly strictly

Jonathan Wilson
Part Bob Dylan and part Pink Floyd, this alt-rocker sounds like he belongs at the Monterey Pop Festival instead of surrounded by banjo-slewing bands like the Dry Branch Fire Squad.
Bluegrass Rating: Hardly strictly.

Cibo Matto
Composed of two female New York transplants from Japan, the electronic duo melds hip-hop samples, pop melodies, and vocals that shift between French and broken English, creating a sound more a kin to Air than to Emmylou Harris.
Bluegrass Rating: Hardly hardly.

Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco

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