Saturday, January 16, 2021
Arts + Culture Music Hardly Strictly Bluegrass announces full lineup—and $1 million artist...

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass announces full lineup—and $1 million artist relief

The beloved fest returns online with archived and new performances, and direct help for musicians


If you are a veteran attendee of the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass outdoor music festival—held the first weekend of October in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for free since 2001—you may have taken joy in skipping work and going to see MC Hammer perform at the Friday morning kickoff-slot kids show.

Being one of 750,000 attendees over the course of three days partaking in the feel-good juju going around. Stretching out on blankets, watching children experience possibly their first real concert, not some Disney MmmBop baloney. Laughing at the manic excitement of pups losing their four-legged minds running around on the green fields of Golden Gate Park, snagging hot dogs everywhere, while the non-stop twang of string instruments burrows through the lush green space.

That’s just good clean American fun, people. 

Unfortunately, due to the COVID, public health experts say the Bay Area is at least a year away from large gatherings such as music festivals returning. That’s right, there will be no Hammertime for anybody this year. It’s not just in The Bay either. This week, the sprawling South by Southwest festival announced a full six months in advance that their annual variety cluster of film, interactive media, music festivals, conferences, and panels, that usually take place mid-March in Austin, Texas, shall be moving to 100% digital in 2021.

Such a bummer.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass has also converted to digital this year. Organizers will provide fans with Let the Music Play On, a virtual festival scheduled to stream live on Saturday, October 3 at 2pm, featuring new and archived performances by a slew of Hardly Strictly veterans. As usual, there’s a variety of genres and and mixture of big names and up-and-comers, hopefully bringing that same expansive, sunny feeling into your home.

The broadcast will feature Buddy Miller hosting the Rooster Stage from his studio with “Cavalcade of Stars”—Emmylou Harris, The War & Treaty, Ashley Monroe, Kieran Kane, and Rayna Gellert, The McCrary Sisters, and Jim Lauderdale. The performances will be accompanied by select archival moments and interviews highlighting the festival’s rich history. It will also include sets from Tim O’Brien and Dennis Crouch, and first-time performers Birds of Chicago, Sierra Ferrell, and Tré Burt and returning performers Carrie Rodriguez, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock.

As part of the Let the Music Play On initiative, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass also announced a charitable partnership with Artist Relief, a fund created by a coalition of national arts grant-makers, to support musicians affected by the COVID crisis. In this partnership, the festival has donated $1 million in immediate relief for musicians across the country and will work with Artist Relief to raise awareness and funds for musicians affected by the COVID-19 crisis leading up to and during this year’s festival. Tax-deductible donations can be made here.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass streams Saturday, October 3 at 2pm. Click here for more info.
See some great photos from last year’s fest here.

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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