May 21, 2024


Buzz The Music

Rarely Strictly Bluegrass new music festival 2023 insider’s guidebook

Indie rocker Kurt Vile performs onstage during Barely Strictly Bluegrass at Golden Gate Park on Oct. 8, 2017 in San Francisco. Vile will be undertaking at the free of charge pageant once more in 2023.

Scott Dudelson/Getty Photos

The annual totally free tunes festival, which harkens back again to a San Francisco society of outdated, will take more than Golden Gate Park from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 this year —specifically in the park’s Hellman Hollow and Lindley and Marx meadows. After the requisite COVID-closure decades, 2022 observed the festival’s return and organizers are hoping to construct on their momentum.

“Past year’s celebration was astounding,” Sheri Sternberg, executive producer of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass informed SFGATE. “Not only was it particular I consider for the attendees, but the artists — the joy that they experienced in returning to the park and returning to kind of common environment with men and women that they were being applied to looking at every year was this sort of a excellent homecoming that they collaborated in a way that they haven’t in a long time previous.”


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Brian Judd and Mary Miscisin dance as Fantastic Negrito performs at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Oct. 6, 2019.

Brian Judd and Mary Miscisin dance as Wonderful Negrito performs at Rarely Strictly Bluegrass competition at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Oct. 6, 2019.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle through Getty Illustrations or photos

Why is it referred to as Hardly Strictly Bluegrass?

Barely Strictly Bluegrass demonstrates the breadth of genres it showcases — but it was substantially, nicely, stricter, when it initial started out.


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The event started in 2001 as the desire of the late SF enterprise capitalist Warren Hellman. A substantial supporter of bluegrass new music, Hellman originally referred to as the competition Strictly Bluegrass and intended it to be a showcase of that style. He funded the first version on his possess and attracted big-name stars like Harris and Alison Krauss, as well as genre legend Hazel Dickens, to complete at Golden Gate Park throughout what was billed as a modest solitary-working day display that was scheduled for five hours of songs.

The competition expanded to two times in 2002 and its lineup more than tripled in sizing. By 2003, it stretched to address a few times and had modified its title to Rarely Strictly Bluegrass, as the monthly bill commenced to contain musicians from adjacent genres like Americana, country and folks, including Willie Nelson, Dave Alvin, Joe Ely and Gillian Welch.

Prior to Hellman died in 2011, he ensured the continuation of the pageant as a non-corporate entity via an endowment. He after referred to as the event his “egocentric present” to the world.

Jason Isbell performs with The 400 Unit on Nov. 7, 2022 in Oslo, Norway. Isbell will be among the biggest names performing at San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in 2023.

Jason Isbell performs with The 400 Unit on Nov. 7, 2022 in Oslo, Norway. Isbell will be among the the greatest names performing at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass pageant in 2023.

For each Ole Hagen/Redferns


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Who is playing at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2023?

Whilst we are nevertheless ready for the remaining lineup of artists at Rarely Strictly Bluegrass 2023, confirmed performers so considerably contain Jason Isbell and the 400 Device, Rufus Wainwright, Steve Earle, Valerie June, Kurt Vile, Rickie Lee Jones, Gaby Moreno, John Craigie, Neal Francis, Bahamas, Leyla McCalla, The Church, Lucero, Chuck Prophet, Carrie Rodriguez, and other people.

“Owning Jason Isbell come back again this calendar year is a big emphasize for every person that operates the party,” Sternberg stated. Isbell, who’s extensive been hailed as 1 of the ideal songwriters lively nowadays, last performed the pageant in 2014.

If you want to get to know the artists a minimal far better, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass has been releasing artist medleys on its application and site. Three have dropped as of this composing. The to start with is headlined by Isbell, the next by Prophet and the 3rd by Earle. A fourth medley is scheduled for launch on Sept. 5.


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The last lineup announcement will be produced on Sept. 12 and the detailed pageant plan will occur out on Sept. 19, 10 days right before the gates open up.

How will Barely Strictly Bluegrass be distinctive in 2023?

Sternberg explained to us the competition will transform its structure a bit for 2023. The Porch Stage, which supplied personal concert events on a tiny system near to the floor, has moved to Arrow Meadow from its former home in the vicinity of the entry point at John F. Kennedy and Transverse drives. The phase alone will also be a bit even bigger.


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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is also including a new phase this year termed Horseshoe Hill that will host poetry and spoken phrase performances, carried out in partnership with City Lights.

“The programming up there is the variety of things we’ve under no circumstances had the option to do due to the fact it’s tough to pull off in a noisy environment or a larger area,” Sternberg stated.

Chuck Prophet performs on the swan stage during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco on Oct. 4, 2019.

Chuck Prophet performs on the swan phase during the Barely Strictly Bluegrass competition in San Francisco on Oct. 4, 2019.

Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury Information through Getty Illustrations or photos

You do not need tickets for Rarely Strictly Bluegrass


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In addition to staying totally free, Barely Strictly Bluegrass necessitates no tickets or advance reservations. If you want to arrive, all you need to have to do is clearly show up. The entrances will open at 11 a.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Sternberg mentioned the competition will have amplified security in contrast to previous years, and guests will be required to wander by means of overall body scanners to enter the grounds.

The pageant will be fenced in this year, with 4 entrances obtainable:

  • John F. Kennedy and Transverse drives 

  • Fulton Road and 30th Avenue

  • JFK Drive and 36th Avenue

  • South Polo Discipline

Sternberg notes that the most greatly employed entrance is at John F. Kennedy and Transverse drives, so if you want to expedite your journey you could want to find 1 of the other 3.


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Sukha sits and watches Elvis Costello on Saturday, at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

Sukha sits and watches Elvis Costello on Saturday, at the Rarely Strictly Bluegrass Competition.

Chris Partin/Special to SFGATE

Can I carry beer to Barely Strictly Bluegrass? And other burning concerns

You can definitely bring your have beer to Rarely Strictly Bluegrass, furnished its not in a glass container or carried in a cooler (neither are allowed). If you have medication that needs to keep chilled or toddler-care things that have to have refrigeration, you can pack them into a modest comfortable-sided cooler. Blankets and short-backed chairs are authorized but are matter to lookup, as are collapsible wagons. Bicycles, scooters, skateboards, Segways, and other motorized units are not allowed inside of the festival.

When alcoholic beverages is not “officially” offered within the pageant grounds, it really is not rough to uncover enterprising people who will promote you a can or a smoke if you might be tricky up. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass organizers say the party will have enhanced concessions this calendar year in anticipation of improved community require.


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“We have a general shop that we’re adding in for all objects that folks might fail to remember at property,” Sternberg mentioned. “Factors like sundries, and ice, and drinking water and sunscreen.”

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is also dog-helpful, producing it the scarce audio competition that will allow you to rock out with your pup.

This tale was edited by Hearst Newspapers Associate Editor Clint Davis you can call him at [email protected].