There’s no denying the amount and quality of talent on the bill every year at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. Act-for-act no other festival only event can touch it for some of the finest Americana and roots. Then there’s the breathtaking backdrop of Hellman Hollow in San Francisco’sGolden Gate Park. Oh, and it’s free.
This combination is both good and bad. The quality is high and music plentiful, but the free access brings in droves of folks, and they increase every year.
This 13th year of the free festival does it’s benefactor, the late, great Warren Hellman, proud. I imagine him sitting in heaven, his lanky legs hanging off a cloud, strumming with his banjo with the bands playing below.
With 6 stages many folks choose to pay a blanket at a single stage and stay put. Some, like me, travel through the ocean of humanity to catch key acts and serendipitous discoveries.
With 6 stages brimming with greatness you really can’t go wrong setting up a blanket with refreshments at a single stage. Some (like me) prefer wandering stage to stage through the ocean of humanity sampling the ample musical ware and happening upon serendipitous discoveries.. The full bill really is a bounty to satisfy any roots music vet or for greenhorns looking for an crash introductory course.
Here re some well-known and less well-known acts I’ve circled on my must-see list.
The Felice Brothers: The grittier, and more literate, alternative to Mumford and The Lumineers. Sometimes woozy, oftentimes chaotic, their performances are always passionate and their songs of common desperation and love is reminiscent of The Boss. 2:10pm – Rooster Stage
First Aid Kit: I’m not typically a fan of winsome singers, I’m more of a belter fan. But this Swedish indie-folk duo has won me over Sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg, are winning over U.S. fans with their brand of breezy pop-Americana. 4:30pm – Rooster Stage.
Father John Misty: This ex-Fleet Fox first appeared on Bay Areas musical map after his exhilarating performance at last year’s Outside Lands. Roots stamped with psychedelic overtones and general weirdness. No telling where this could lead. 4:15pm – Arrow Stage
Bonnie Raitt: Is blues Americana? i have my opinion, bit there’s no denying the legendary talent of last year’s Grammys for Americana Album of the year. Expect catchy blues-rock with spicy guitar chops sprinkled. 5:45pm – Banjo Stage
Patty Griffin: This Austin, Texas treasure is touring behind her extraordinary “American Kid” and just before the proper release of her lost gem “Silver Bell.” Show up to hear cuts from these, and her extensive catalog. Also Buddy and “Percy” might show up. 4:05pm – Rooster Stage.
Robert Earl Keen: Many HSB faithful arrive just to see this Aggie put on one of the best truckless tailgate parties ever. Prepare to drink and sing at the top of your lungs. 5:30pm – Rooster Stage
Sturgill Simpson: Simpson is a reluctant contemporary agent of the Outlaw Country aesthetic. This is what makes him perfect for the role. Come hear him and his hot-brand band single-handedly put Music Row to shame. 6:05pm – Porch Stage
Shovels & Rope: The Charleston, South Carolina duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope won the song of the year for “Birmingham” and emerging artist of the year at the recent Americana Awards. Come to see why their brand of gritty soul , ramshackle performance and engaging stage banter make them a fan favorite. 11:00am – Arrow Stage
Mike Farris & the Roseland Rhythm Revue: Like soul? Like Gospel? This is where you need to be. Ferris’
heavely vocals matched with the McCrary Sisters will assure a toe-tapping and booty shaking great time. 11:00am – Banjo Stage
Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott: A decade after their first collaboration these master craftsmen are back with their latest “Memories & Moments.” Come gather around children and sit at the feet of lends and take note at how it is done. – 3:05pm – Banjo Stage
Della Mae: Sure their a band of hotties. But what’s hotter is their chops. Come for a heavy does of strictly bluegrass hold the hardly.