Two new venues hosted 2012 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass performers on Thursday night, essentially kicking the festival off a night early.
In San Francisco, the opening night of Preservation Hall West: The Chapel at 777 Valencia opened up for a sold-out performance of the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans.
The 400 people in attendance got the first glimpse of the rough-around-the-edges room that will host Elvis Costello, Bill Kirchen, Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller for two shows on Saturday night for the 6th Annual Richard de Lone Special Housing Project Benefit, an annual all-star benefit full of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass regulars.
In Marin, another new venue affiliated with a legendary musician hosted a Hardly Strictly preview act.
Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael is a beautiful new restaurant with a, fully carpeted, performance area attached to the back.
Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh opened the place a few months ago, and on Thursday night Les Claypool's Duo De Twang played their first-ever gig, with Claypool on bass and M.I.R.V. on guitar.
Fans were treated to a variety of songs from the Claypool catalog, including tunes from Primus, the Holy Mackerel, as well as covers, like Johnny Horton's Battle of New Orleans, which Claypool explained was a song he used to listen to with his namesake Grandfather "Papa."
Terrapin Crossroads had a special menu in the restaurant for the night, with "Too Many Puppies," a rock shrimp & jalapeno, hush puppies, and spicy remoulade concoction, as well as "Pork Soda" a soda braised pork shank, onion risotto fonduta with pickled peppers. Glasses and bottles of Claypool Cellars wine were available as well, perfectly marrying the restaurant with the live music room.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass starts at 10 a.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and goes until 7 p.m. each night in Golden Gate Park.