Hardly Strictly City emerges in Golden Gate Park

By Connor Malone
Flapjack Chronicle staff

The Lumineers play at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco.

An ocean of humanity filled the park, reclining on colorful blankets, dancing to the blaring panoply of music, or hanging from the trees. It seemed the entire city of San Francisco had convened in Golden Gate Park for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, held Oct. 5-7. Music lovers and festival goers alike crowded the park, attending concerts by dozens of bluegrass, folk, and rock artists.

HSB, as many of the insiders call it, was the brainchild of Warren Hellman. The billionaire investment banker created the event out of his affection for the genre. The festival has been an annual event in San Francisco since 2001. Initially known as the Strictly Bluegrass Festival, the increasing musical diversity of subsequent years inspired the addition of ‘Hardly’. In recent years, the festival has exploded in popularity, drawing over 750,000 people a year.

John, Jenny, and Nate, living in San Francisco, were among the crowd anticipating the performance of The Heartless Bastards. Amidst the roaring sea of people the band could be heard performing sound checks on stage.

Jenny explained that they came to Hardly Strictly for, “Convenience, booze, bands, and fun.”

“Any excuse to hang out with friends,” Nate added.

As the interview was wrapping up, the Heartless Bastards began to play their set. A preemptive strum of the guitar ushered a cheering response from the crowd.  The festival was alive as ever. Sounds from both across the country and through the generations mingled through the trees of the park; each stage drawing its own respectable crowd and streaming it’s own, unique, sound.
Dylan Keel and Natalie Williams gave their reasons to going to HSB.
“We’ve been going for years now, and it’s a bit of a tradition,” Keel said.
Williams added that it is a great time to meet up with old friends. This most recent outing had been their fifth consecutive year going to the festival and, to them, it is as good as ever.
Keel and Williams managed to listen to a number of sets during their time at HSB, listing off a number of bands. Of course, there were many acts that stood out amongst the others.
“The Chieftains were fantastic,” Keel said. “Ralph Stanley, Keller Williams, Todd Snider, and The Time Jumpers– everyone was really good.”
“I remember the first couple times we would go– we never even sat down all three days. We would run from stage to stage to stage to stage to stage and it probably had something to do with all of the bands we wanted to see at different stages at different times but we would sprint and do cartwheels from stage to stage,” Keel said.
When asked if they would be returning, both replied, “Oh yeah.”


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