The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Hardly Strictly Music Festival enters 14th year of free bluegrass and more

Crowds dance in front of the Banjo Stage of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival on Oct 7. Hardly Strictly is a free music festival held yearly in Golden Gate Park. John Ornelas/ Xpress File Photo.

Well into the fall semester, unemployed students living off the Dining Center’s food and scraping away the leftovers from their financial aid checks may find themselves broke and bored, wishing they had somewhere to go. Luckily for the SF State student body, the cost- and commercial-free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival will return from Friday, Oct. 3 to Sunday, Oct. 5.

To many in San Francisco, the thought of dropping $200 on one of the many three-day music festivals throughout California may seem obscene. Thanks to the late local venture capitalist, banjo-picker and bluegrass-lover, Warren Hellman, the gigantic Festival, held in Hellman Hollow in Golden Gate Park, is entering its 14th year.Glen Hansard, singer/songwriter from Ireland graces the Rooster Stage with an energized performance that got the seated crowd off their blankets and lawn chairs into a singing and dancing frenzy for the upbeat songs and swaying and swooning to his heart-ached ballads at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Oct. 7, 2012. Photo by Adrian Rodriguez / Xpress

The annual celebration of bluegrass (and some not bluegrass) is one of the most sought after events in the Bay Area, drawing a crowd annually that exceeds the population of San Francisco according to Tracey Buck, a publicist for the Festival.

Hellman founded the “Strictly Bluegrass Festival” in 2001 with the intent to solely invite bluegrass musicians, but added “Hardly” to the name in 2004 after non-bluegrass artists asked to perform.

“I think it’s a combination of every possible genre – from gospel to rock – and everything in-between (that Festival-goers look forward too),” said Buck. “But everyone walks away having made a new discovery.”

Freshman Gabby Ramirez is “stoked to have somewhere free to go see music. I’m most excited for Carlene Carter’s performance and am going to try to get all of my family to come up to see her.” Ramirez explained how worried she was that she wouldn’t be able to go to any events in the city before moving up here from her hometown, because she’d always heard how expensive the city has become.

In addition to being admission-free, the Festival is commercial-free, meaning that from its foundation Hellman subsidised all costs of the Festival to remove any influence from sponsors. Various corporations approached Hellman over the years, offering to sponsor the event, but they were always turned away.

“When you go to a festival like Outside Lands you find yourself bombarded with in-your-face advertisements,” said Fabian Ramirez, who returns to Hardly Strictly every summer since his first experience in 2002. “It’s nice not having all of that nonsense in your face when you’re just trying to enjoy the music.”

This year, guests will get to enjoy a variety of tunes, from alternative hip-hop supergroup Deltron 3030, to the alternative folk rock of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down and the food-concerned lyrics of Cibo Matto.

Festival-goers are welcome to bring their own food and drink, but all will have the option to consume quality meals from over 50 vendors. Alcohol, however, will not be sold.

Hardly Strictly begins on Friday, Oct. 3 from noon to 7 p.m. and continues on Saturday, Oct. 4 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 5 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Hellman Hollow and Lindley and Marx Meadows in Golden Gate Park.


2014 Line Up:

Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

Lake Street Dive

Blue Rodeo

Ryan Adams

Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds

The Apache Relay

Jesse DeNatale

Steve Earle & The Dukes

Chris Isaak

The Waybacks


Parker Millsap

Sarah Jarosz

Reckless Kelly


Hot Rize Featuring Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers

The Aquabats!

Carlene Carter

Blackie and The Rodeo Kings

Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin with The Guilty Ones


Social Distortion

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Alison Brown Quintet

Shelly Colvin

Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun

Peter Rowan’s Twang An’ Groove

Dave Rawlings Machine

Bruce Cockburn

The McCrary Sisters

Hurray For The Riff Raff

Bad Luck Jonathan

Lucinda Williams

The Mastersons

Willie Watson

Caitlin Rose

The Sam Chase

Justin Townes Earle

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

The Lone Bellow

Chuck Cannon

The Go To Hell Man Clan

Yo La Tengo

Holler Down The Hollow: A Hardly Strictly Salute To the Masters (Dickens, Hellman, Reed, Scruggs, Seeger, Watson & Winchester)

The High Bar Gang

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

Poor Man’s Whiskey

Jason Isbell

Chris Smither

Built To Spill

The Time Jumpers Featuring Vince Gill, Kenny Sears, Dawn Sears and Ranger Doug Green

Rose’s Pawn Shop

Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express ‘Strings In The Temple’


The Flatlanders Featuring Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock

Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys

Deltron 3030 with The 3030 Orchestra

X Acoustic

Malawi Mouse Boys

Buckwheat Zydeco

Cibo Matto

Buddy Miller’s Cavalcade of Stars: Kate York, Striking Matches, Nikki Lane, Shawn Colvin, Tony Joe White, Buddy Miller & Friends

Emmylou Harris

Jerry Douglas Presents Earls of Leicester

John Prine

Robbie Fulks

Mavis Staples

The Felice Brothers

Sun Kil Moon

Kevin Welch

Kieran Kane & Fats Kaplin


Red Baraat

Robert Earl Keen

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas

Dwight Yoakam

Dry Branch Fire Squad

Conor Brings Friends For Friday Featuring: Waxahatchee, The Good Life, Jonathan Wilson, Sharon Van Etten, Dawes, Conor Oberst

Rising Appalachia

Rosanne Cash

T Bone Burnett

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Golden Gate Xpress Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The Student News Site of San Francisco State University
Hardly Strictly Music Festival enters 14th year of free bluegrass and more