Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Gabrielle Pope
Where: San Francisco, Calif.
When: October 1-3, 2010
Why: 750,000 people can't be wrong, a free weekend of bluegrass in the park is a lovely weekend indeed!

The Scoop: This year marks the 10th Anniversary of San Francisco's annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. A bluegrass nut and enthusiastic purveyor of all things free, I've been excited for the festival ever since I stepped off the plane back in the summer. That my boyfriend, Jay, was here visiting for the weekend, and that I live just one block from Golden Gate Park where the festival is held, were just icing on the cake.

With more than 80 acts playing on six stages, one needs a schedule, map, and a plan in order to get the most of what the festival has to offer. This is my advice to myself for next year, because Jay and I were more than a little bit disorientated and indecisive heading to the festival on Saturday after a brief stop in at the SF World VegFest, which was also held in Golden Gate Park. With acts such as MC Hammer, Patty Griffin, Joan Baez, Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes, and my personal favorites Railroad Earth, Yonder Mountain String Band, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The Avett Brothers, and the David Grisman Quintet to choose from, how am I supposed to make a decision while thousands of people are vying for spots of green to sit down?

We decided to start off at the smaller Porch Stage, where we caught a little bit of Exene while we planned our next move. Considering we were mainly at that stage to gather our thoughts, I really enjoyed Exene's music, which heavily features my favorite instrument, the fiddle.


We then headed down to the much larger Banjo Stage and were completely overwhelmed by the crowds. The festival attracts all types of people, from aging hippies to teenagers sneaking Pabst Blue Ribbon, and there was definitely an electric feeling in the air just as Joan Baez was about to go onstage. We ended up taking a break from the crowds to buy some yucca fries and watch a quartet of cute busking children play folk tunes before returning to catch the David Grisman Quintet. Jay took me to see David Grisman on our very first date years ago, and we always try to see him every time he is playing a nearby show. I just can't get over what a master he is of his mandolin, which is probably why I failed to snap a pic during his set!

A more relaxed scene at the Porch Stage

Despite being crazy for the music, I don't do too amazingly with crowds, and I needed out! After a jam-packed afternoon featuring lunch at namu restaurant and an evening concert at the Fillmore with Railroad Earth, we were ready to head back to the park on Sunday for more. The Arrow Stage was definitely our scene, so we sat back with some snacks (Stonewall's Jerquee and Trader Joe's Chocolate Almonds, yum!) and enjoyed the Yonder Mountain String Band's set. I've seen the band play several times before, and it always amazes me that they have no percussionist, because they create such a prominent rhythm with their strings. We were able to catch the very impressive first half of The Avett Brothers' set, but when our tummies started growling (when I need food, I need food) we headed to the nearby Marnee Thai restaurant in the Inner Sunset for some satiation.
Our solution for the lines at bike storage!

Next year, I vow to be more organized and catch many more acts, because this event is probably one of the best festivals I've ever been to!

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