The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park is one of the Bay Area's early autumn treasures. Get there on transit and enjoy some of the finest music from bluegrass and beyond the weekend of Oct. 3-5 -- and it's all free.
The bigger-name headliners include Robert Plant and Alison Krauss featuring T Bone Burnett on Friday; Steve Earle & The Bluegrass Dukes on Saturday and Emmylou Harris on Sunday. But tucked throughout the weekend are other great acts like Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, Jerry Jeff Walker and Iris Dement. And living up to the "hardly, strictly" of its name, the festival includes Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Iron & Wine, two Jayhawks (Mark Olson and Gary Louris) and, in the "most unlikely to appear at a bluegrass festival" category, M.C. Hammer.
For a complete schedule of performances go to http://www.strictlybluegrass.com/.
If you're thinking -- "The music part of it sounds great, but dealing with a crowded festival can be a drag" -- yes, you are right about that. But arm yourself with the tips below and you may be rewarded with a transcendant experience. A gorgeous location, amazing lineup of musicians, all free ...what's not to love?
- Pick your targets: Most likely, you will not even begin to see all the acts you want to. Manage your expectations accordingly. Choose a few of your favorites and plan your day around those. If you want a good viewing spot for the most popular acts, you will probably need to go to that stage well BEFORE the scheduled start. You'll end up seeing some performers who might not have been on your list, just to hold the spot for the one you really want to see. Look at the bright side: Maybe you'll find a new favorite!
- Practice good festival etiquette: Don't take up more space than you need, be kind to your neighbors, keep your kids and pets under control, don't overindulge on substances to the point that YOU are out of control. HSB has a pretty mellow vibe as festivals go, so if you follow the golden rule and do unto others as you would have them do unto you, a good time will be had by all.
- Bring creature comforts: Bring a pack with water and snacks if you want to avoid high prices from vendors. And as always in San Francisco's fickle weather, dress in layers. A balmy day can become a frigid night. A cushion, blanket or short-back, stadium-type chair is good for hours of sitting on the hard ground. Remember to dispose of or pack out your trash.
Take transit. Parking and dealing with traffic at a festival can be a hassle. There are several options to get to Golden Gate Park from BART:
From any one of the downtown San Francisco stations, stay underground and transfer to the Muni outbound N-Judah. Exit at 19th and Judah, and walk two blocks north to the park. Enter at 19th Avenue and Lincoln Avenue and cross over on Transverse Drive to Speedway Meadows.
Or to catch a bus:
From Powell Street Station, go upstairs to Market Street, take Muni Bus #5 to 25th Avenue and Fulton Street. Enter the Park at 30th Avenue and Fulton Street and enter straight into Lindley Meadow.
From Civic Center Station, go upstairs, walk to the McAllister Street and go to the Hyde Street (in front of Hastings College of the Law) bus stop to catch the Muni #5 Fulton.
From Daly City Station, board Muni Bus #28, which will travel down 19th Avenue to Golden Gate Park.
From BART Balboa Park Station, board Muni Bus #29.