Chief Marketing Officer Tricia makes us all jealous with her amazing experiences at this year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco….
This was my lucky year at HSB13. I had the privilege of having a Friends & Family pass to the 3 day event in Golden Gate Park which gave me access to reserved areas near each of the stages. I am feeling very spoiled by the experience. The weather was absolutely gorgeous-sunscreen required. The music was amazing. Hundreds of artists performing on 5 stages over 3 days. There were record breaking crowds-estimates range from 750,000 -900,000 people attending over the course of the 3 days. The event was so well organized, staff and volunteers were incredibly helpful and security was really low key. It is what I imagine music festivals in Golden Gate Park were like in the sixties. The incredible thing is that this concert weekend is all free to attendees- a gift to the city of San Francisco and the world (as the whole event was on a live webcast) from the late Warren Hellman, an investment banker, philanthropist and lover of the banjo.
The Rooster Stage on Friday before the crowds arrived.
There was so much music to choose from -it was an abundance of riches. I spent most of my time at the Banjo Stage which is Strictly Bluegrass. There were some wonderful surprises. On Friday Jesse Dee from Boston started the festivities- a major talent in the making. Jesse warmed up the crowd with his positive slice of life lyrics Sonoma based musician Jesse DeNatale - a critically acclaimed San Francisco native wowed the crowd and bluegrass legend Peter Rowan, GRAMMY-award winner and six-time GRAMMY nominee, had the crowd on their feet.
Bonnie Raitt rocked the crowd at the end of Friday belting out one memorable song after another.
Saturday morning started with a the music of the Spirit Family Reunion. An immensely talented Brooklyn based band that had the crowd dancing first thing in the morning. After SFR, the former investment banker turned banjo player Alison Brown wowed the crowd with her playing. Emerging artist Christian Sedelmyer played a wicked fiddle with her.
All of this before 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. The highlight of the day was Holler Down the Hollow, a salute to the masters- honoring legends of bluegrass world including Warren Hellman, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson. The hour long set hosted a who’s who of bluegrass music including Emmylou Harris, Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas, Vince Gill and Steve Earle.
A bit weary from a busy Saturday, I arrived on Sunday morning thinking I would just chill at the Banjo Stage sipping my latte before setting off to explore the other stages. Just not possible with Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Revue who delivered a set that was so uplifting that I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes and I could not stop moving, clapping and singing along.
A short trip to The Porch Stage to catch the all-woman band Della Mae who delighted with their down home songs and their exuberant style. Next it was Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers with Edie Brickell. Steve had the crowd in stitches and then impressed them with his mean banjo playing.
A quick trip over to the Towers of Gold stage to catch Billy Bragg. His set was energetic and highly political. Hardly bluegrass but a riveting blend of folk,punk and protest songs. From Billy Bragg. I went hear the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley. By this point the crowd at the Banjo Stage went on forever.
A truly amazing festival- there were 86 performances on 5 stages- music heaven. Best of all, much of it is archived at the Hardly Strictly web-site where I can listen to all of the acts that I did not hear in person. I am so grateful to Phil Davis for inviting me and the whole gang at Hardly Strictly for realizing Warren Hellman’s vision.
2 hours from Sacramento
In San Francisco
Over 6 hours from Los Angeles
Sharon Meadow (in Golden Gate Park)
320 Bowling Green Dr.,
San Francisco, CA 94118