This weekend: 16th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park

Photo by Kathleen Anderson

Photo by Kathleen Anderson

This Friday marks the beginning of the most popular, free music festival in San Francisco – Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. The 16th annual event will take place Friday, September 30 through Sunday, October 2 in Hellman Hollow (formerly Speedway Meadows), Lindley & Marx meadows in Golden Gate Park (11am-7pm each day).

Headliners and / or noteworthy performers across the 6 festival stages include Cyndi Lauper, Chris Isaak, KT Tunstall, Emmylou Harris, Mavis Staples, Boz Scaggs, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jackson Browne, CAKE, and The Brothers Gibb (view full schedule or PDF).

Each day starting at noon, there is also a “Silent Disco” where attendees are given a pair of wireless headphones to listen to performing DJ’s.

There will be street closures inside Golden Gate Park leading up the event and afterwards during cleanup. See the map below or the event’s website for more information.

Street closures in Golden Gate Park during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

Street closures in Golden Gate Park during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

Self bike parking and valet bike parking will be available. Download the festival map for locations.

This year marks the 16th year for the festival which seems to grow in popularity every year. Late philanthropist (and banjo player) Warren Hellman started and financed the festival for his own passion for bluegrass music.

When he passed in 2011, the festival continued with a rumored, never-ending endowment from his estate. We found out this year the endowment was a bit of an urban legend, but his family who head the Hellman Foundation has assured fans in a recent interview that they’re “it for the long term.”

“I think there are a couple of things attributed to the success. First, the nature of it being free – maybe it creates more self-sufficiency with people. If you attach a price, you have to cough up the resources,” Mick Hellman, son to the late Warren Hellman, told SF Sounds.

“Second, it’s intended to be an artist’s festival… We want an atmosphere where they’re getting something other than just money and can play and socialize off-stage. That’s something that was really important to my parents.”

If you can’t make it to Golden Gate Park, check out the festival website each day for webcasts (not all acts, but some!).

If you live in the neighborhood and experience any issues due to the festival, use the Hotline number 415-650-3080.


Like with Outside Lands, several schools in the neighborhood will make their lots available for parking fundraisers (Saturday and Sunday only):

ARGONNE ELEMENTARY – 680 18th Avenue
$30 per day, 10am – 10pm. Cash or credit cards accepted.

LAWTON SCHOOL (SUNSET) – 30th Avenue & Kirkham
$20 per day, 10am – 8pm. Cash or credit cards accepted.

The two above confirmed their details to us, and these lots are usually also operating during the festival:

LAFAYETTE ELEMENTARY – 4545 Anza Street @ 36th Avenue Hours

GEORGE WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL – Enter on 30th Ave between Geary & Anza

Enjoy the free music!

Sarah B.