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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2023: Photos From San Francisco’s Free Music Festival

Written by Amaya EdwardsPublished Sep. 29, 2023 • 6:54pm
From left, Mollie Herrmann, Oliver Anderson and James Nicovich juggle during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival held at Golden Gate Park on Friday. | Source: Amaya Edwards for The Standard

A light drizzle and slight chill didn’t stop people from showing up in full force for the first day of San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

A crowd of people gathers at the Towers of Gold stage Friday. | Source: Amaya Edwards for The Standard

Thousands of attendees flocked to Golden Gate Park for the free three-day event, which launched in 2001 as Strictly Bluegrass before rebranding two years later as Hardly Strictly after opening up to other genres. 

Thousands of people flocked to Golden Gate Park for the first day of the weekendlong music festival, which continues through Sunday. | Source: Amaya Edwards for The Standard

This year brings more than 70 performers to six open-air stages that are expected to draw tens of thousands of festivalgoers to the green, eucalyptus-lined expanses of Hellman Hollow and Lindley and Marx meadows just east of the park’s Polo Fields.

READ MORE: Hardly Strictly, Film Festivals and Other Fun Events in San Francisco This Weekend

On Friday, San Francisco resident Karie Rubin was excited to see John Craigie during the first day of the weekend-long festival.

Linda Gordon places a hat on her golden retriever, Brixton, a therapy dog, on Friday’s kickoff of Hardly Strictly. | Source: Amaya Edwards for The Standard

“I’m bummed about the weather, and it almost kept me away,” she said. “But then I was like, ‘No, I gotta see my John Craigie.’”

John Craigie performs at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Friday. | Source: Amaya Edwards for The Standard

Genevieve Krauss, who came to the festival with her friend, said she’s been to Hardly Strictly a few times.

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram performs to an audience of thousands of attendees who showed up Friday despite the unseasonable chill and light drizzle. | Source: Amaya Edwards for The Standard

“It’s always super magical, and I really connect with the people or bands, but it’s always random for me,” she told The Standard.

Jon Noe takes a photo during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Friday. | Source: Amaya Edwards for The Standard

Krauss’ friend, Jessica Mericle, said she's been going to the festival since 2008.

“I love that this is free,” she said. “I am so amazed and impressed by the talent that’s come through here. I’ve seen Robert Plant, I’ve seen Patti Smith as well as, like, so many other bands I love. It’s one of my favorite things about living in San Francisco, this festival.”

From left, Hardly Strictly attendees Emily Goldenberg and David Cain pose for a portrait Friday, where they joined thousands of others picnicking under foggy skies at the open-aid music festival. | Source: Amaya Edwards for The Standard

People of all ages, from infants to elders, crowded around each of the stages on Friday for performances from artists such as Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Vetiver, Peter Rowan and many more.

Michelle Yahn, of Santa Cruz, buys a handmade daisy chain for her hat from Peace Love and Halos, right. | Source: Amaya Edwards for The Standard

The event continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, go to

Correction: The name of a juggler was corrected.

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