|Gathering at the Banjo Stage for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass|
in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
Each year, as my wife and I map out our cultural calendar, we reserve the first weekend of October for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco. There's no better place to be than in the natural beauty of Golden Gate Park for this annual admission-free festival, which has become one the country's premiere music events.
Somehow, the autumn weather at the beginning of October always seems to be just right for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, the late Warren Hellman's music gift to The City. Although the Bay Area billionaire investment banker and benefactor – himself a spirited banjo player and a lover of bluegrass music – died in 2011, he left an endowment to ensure its existence for many years to come. There are no corporate sponsors. In 2012, one of the meadows was renamed Hellman Hollow to honor the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass founder's memory.
|Valerie June performed on the Banjo Stage|
at the 16th Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival.
|The Rebirth Brass Band|
|Vince Gill with The Time Jumpers|
|Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch|
As Hardly Strictly Bluegrass turned 16 this year, once again, the HSB festival organizers out-did themselves to make it one of the most outstanding – and uniquely satisfying – music festivals in the country. Somehow, it keeps getting bigger and better without becoming too commercial. It remains joyously unwieldy. There's a carefree vibe and a sense of inclusiveness to go along with the clear blue skies and beautiful weather. While admittedly crowded, everyone seemed to have a good and fun time without becoming rowdy or obnoxious. Each day, we packed a gourmet picnic complete with California red and white wines and a variety of cheese and crackers and other satisfying snacks to enjoy. The music and the atmosphere is what makes us look forward to returning next year and doing it all over again.
To see a complete list of artists who performed at the 2016 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival as well as to link to the webcast archive of selected performances:
All photos: By Michael Dickens © 2016.