Skip to main content
Arts & Entertainment

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass day 1: Fiddlers, jugglers and positive energy return to Hellman Hollow

Lizzi Dierken dances during Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. | Brian Feulner for The Standard

By early Friday afternoon, a patchwork of picnic blankets had already formed on Hellman Hollow as people sauntered into Golden Gate Park for the first day of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Fans gathered for a full afternoon of bluegrass, country and folk that will culminate tonight with headliners Drive-by Truckers and Charley Crockett. Early birds may have caught the soundcheck for Crockett, a singer-songwriter from Texas, at the Towers of Gold stage. (Judging from that preview, fans can expect a cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" tonight.)

Over at the Banjo Stage, singer Stephen Fearing of Canadian alt-country outfit Blackie and the Rodeo Kings reminisced about his psychedelic voyages of yesteryear. 

"One time I accidentally took two hits of acid and went to a Yes concert," Fearing said. "I was there for seven days."

This afternoon marked Hardly Strictly's in-person return after two years of livestreaming. Always a free, easygoing time thanks to its late benefactor, Warren Hellman—whose banjo can be seen on display—the festival is a beloved highlight of fall in San Francisco. And if you can’t make it, you can always listen or watch from home.

Michael Pedro, a festival-team docent since 2013 and an attendee since the very beginning, in 2001, told The Standard that HSB 2022 feels like a homecoming. 

"We're ecstatic that it's back," he said.

Pedro added that he's particularly happy to see perennial headliner Emmylou Harris play crowd-pleasers like "Two Bottles of Wine." 

There were also a few off-the-lineup talents wandering the meadow. Adorned with a sticker-covered electric guitar and miniature amp, busker Harry Perry said he'll be playing original music all weekend. A few passers-by recognized Perry by sight as a raconteur who's electrified Venice Beach for decades.

Perry said he's here for one simple reason: "How many places can you see this much great music for free?"

Photos by Brian Feulner for The Standard