review | Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival



Photo Courtesy of Shawn Reiss & The Bam Team

During the weekend of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, it is likely that the majority of the city was in Golden Gate Park. Hoards of people from all walks of musical interests and styles migrated into and out of the park throughout the three day festival, which happened to be the hottest days the city has seen in its late summer season. Much like ants, the crowds trailed in from all possible entrances and trails to experience one of the most loved free annual events San Francisco has to offer.

Bands that graced this year’s stages included classics such as Chris Isaak, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, a host of members from the Wainwright family, tribute bands consisting of family members and genre mainstays (Martha Wainwright was a big one). Even Steve Martin took to the stage armed with his banjo and wit. People danced with their dogs, held children on their shoulders, and hoola-hooped where there was space. Crowds enjoyed bands from the front of the stage all the way up to the hills of the park. Some of the stages (the Arrow Stage in particular) became tight and claustrophobic with people jammed shoulder to shoulder. Each band took chances between songs to thank the crowd, Warren Hellman for creating the festival, and all of those involved in keeping it alive. Every musician expressed their love of the city of San Francisco.

For many of the main performances (including Calexico, Gogol Bordello, The String Cheese Incident, and more), the crowd devolved into a giant mass of dancing and singing. Once the hot sun began setting behind the trees, people stood up from their islands made of blankets and snacks and commenced in celebration of shade. Gogol Bordello in particular had success in transforming the entire grounds into a party. The audience moved like a giant wriggling wave. On the sunset of the final day, the sky seemed to explode in red and purple, and as the final bands belted out their last number, the audience raised their hands in the air making chants and woops as goodbyes.

As always, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was a success and a chance for the people of San Francisco to show their colors while enjoying beautiful live music.


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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Official Website

See More Photos of HSB from Shawn Reiss and The Bam Team

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