Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Hey San Francisco Dopers, is anyone heading out to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival? I just got back from Friday’s venue and saw T Bone Burnett. It’s a free concert in Golden Gate Park put on by some ridiculously rich 80 year old real estate mogul. It’s pretty unbelievable, with 4 separate stages and lasts 3 days. This year features the Knitters, Bela Fleck, Los Lobos, T Bone Burnett, Steve Earle, Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby, Earl Scruggs, Dave Alvin and many others. I went last year and it was awesome. This year looks to be even better. Crap, I don’t know whether to go and see Dave Alvin or Bela Fleck as they are playing at the same time.

It’s juxtaposed with the Blue Angels flying in formation over the bay (completely different event, obviously) and sometimes less than 1000 feet over Golden Gate Park. Any of you guys going to be out there?

I’m so jealous. So jealous. :frowning:

Jeez, looking at the lineup they should call it the Embarrassment of Riches Festival. Looks like a blast.

I showed up 3 hours early at the Star stage on Saturday to secure a spot for me and my buddies (People who know me realize that this was a miracle; there were only about 20 people when I got there, but dirtbags had already carpeted the place with tarps to “reserve” their space). We were dead center and less than a hundred feet from the stage. I actually could have been at the very front of the stage if I had so chosen. I think about 400,000 people showed up, which is more than half the population of San Francisco. The Star stage was hardly bluegrass, but that’s why the festival has evolved to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass over the years. The Subdudes opened the show . These guys are a terrific funky rockin’ New Orleans band. Apparently their fame has risen and declined over the years, but I recommend them highly; they are a blast to see live.

I think The Knitters played next, and they are one of my favorite bands of all time. They even tossed in an X song for good measure. They tore it up. I’d never seen John Prine before but it seems that he was the main draw for a lot of the crowd, especially the angry naturally dyed organic fiber wearing lesbians (no offense intended, it’s just that they were notably unpleasant amongst a very happy go lucky crowd) sitting next to me. They put down a tarp the size of a football field, only to show up just before Mr. Prine went on, thus missing two of the greatest bands all day long. John had a shredding guitarist playing with him whose name I can’t remember.

Keller Williams was pretty good and Bela Fleck played a couple of tunes with him. This was good because I fell asleep during most of Bela’s set due to an overdose of red wine. Quite the bummer, I was really looking forward to seeing him. All my friends had taken off to see Michelle Shocked on another stage, so no one was around to wake me up.

Los Lobos ROCKED! The last 2 or 3 times I’ve seen them they’ve been doing the Mexican folklorico stuff, which is good, but I much prefer them doing Rock and Roll. They did a bunch of songs with some of the Knitters (at least John Doe and Dave Alvin that I remember) and it was a near riot.

On Sunday, I showed up late and just sort of cruised around, starting up with Hot Buttered Rum, a real dyed in the wool bluegrass band. I have no idea if they are famous or not, but they were terrific, with fantastic musicianship and really good vocals (they closed a capella).

I wandered over to the Banjo stage which is the hardcore bluegrass venue and also the largest capacity by far. Dave Grisman was playing along with some ancient famous bluegrass dude named Curly Seckler. All great!

I took a break and caught a bus out to the Golden Gate bridge to check out the Blue Angels. I ain’t much into warmongering, but the Blue Angels are pretty damned impressive. It must be pretty frightening to be strafed and bombed by the US Navy. There was about a billion people hanging out around the bridge so I figured I’d have to be pretty aggressive about trying to get back to Golden Gate Park. I bullied my way onto the first bus. I think having had some experience on Tokyo subways helped me out.

I made it back in time to catch most of Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men’s set on the Rooster stage. This venue is notoriously small, but oddly enough, it was no problem getting a really good view just behind the Friends of the Billionaire area. Dave is always great every time I’ve seen him and Sunday was no exception.

I closed the show watching Emmy Lou Harris from about two miles away on the Banjo stage. Love that voice!

All the bands I saw were great, and the only bad thing is that you can’t see them all. It really had a Summer of Love vibe going on. I’ll be back next year.

Eleven years later and the free festival continues. First weekend in October. My favorites in this year’s lineup include Steve Earle, Justin Townes Earle, Steve Forbert, Jeff Tweedy, Jd McPherson and Nick Lowe but there are many more. Six stages.

Never been before but plan to this year… any tips?

Darryl I saw John Prine live about 10-ish years ago and at the time he had a guy named Jason Wilbur (or Wilber?) on guitar who was just freaking amazing. Not sure if it’s the same guy or not – does that name ring a bell?

I’m not anywhere remotely close to SF, but I certainly appreciate a good bluegrass-ish band or 20, and if I’m ever in the area at the right time, I’ll look it up.

I’ve never attended but I would stay way from Fisherman’s Wharf through Market St. (Fleet Week and Italian Heritage Parade) and the Castro Area (Castro Street Fair). It will be better and easier if you access the area from the west side of the city. Come into the city from the south via 19th Ave or Great Highway or from the north via the GG Bridge. Public transportation (MUNI) will be easier than trying to find a parking space. Parking is generally impossible in SF, that weekend it will be worse. The HSB will be at the west side of the park, between 19th and Great Highway.

Here is the website. http://www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com/2018/info/

Have fun!

Park anywhere and take an Uber to the park entrance.