Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2018

7 10 2018

We are in San Francisco for what is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Due to the incredible generosity of Warren Hellman and his family this event continues to be free for the public even after his passing. Thank you Warren is always a message I send up to the heavens while soaking up incredible love and warmth of spirit from the crowd and bathing in the beautiful tones of the artists.

You may be thinking this is a small concert but it’s really massive in scale, three days, multiple stages, so many bands and lots of logistics. It runs annually without so much as a hiccup at least from the perspective of the guests, partly due to the organizational skill of my friend Bradley. We met while working on Eat Drink SF and it’s always great to see him each year.

We have a core group of Bluegrass goers who have done the festival yearly with us, it’s truly like a motley little family. The core are all people I’ve met at The Mint karaoke lounge, someone nearby we were chatting with called us a karaoke family. This group has grown quite a bit and includes people we went to college with, colleagues from the wine business, basically everyone is welcome.

Friday afternoon we usually keep simple with light snacks and not quite as much infrastructure. While some like to move around through the various acts, Daddy David holds down some real estate at the biggest “main” stage, the Banjo. There’s always room on the blankets for us. This year I was there to see Mavis Staples and my ultimate favorite Allison Krauss. From our spot slightly on the rise of the hill we have a perfect sight line.

Saturday and Sunday we go big. We take over a bigger footprint as my husband Mike bravely and tirelessly heads out during the overnight with tarps to secure our area. He returns in the morning with coolers, blankets,’chairs, cards and fake dog poop (to protect the perimeter of our area. He’s an expert… we usually have a space along the railing halfway between the stage and sound booth. From that base camp we can visit other stages and we welcome our friends who drop by.

Yesterday, day two, was truly special with bright sunshine followed by dappled shade and then bright sun again. I got into the park later than I wanted to but was happy to see our cheery group already munching on snacks. Hooray for the Riff Raff was first and gave a very passionate performance. The stage we chose was Star, a little easier to get in and out from… when we choose Banjo that’s always a big commitment and god forbid you have to go to the bathroom! That’s the one thing our camp doesn’t provide!

Star stage toggles with Towers if Gold which means when one act finishes they go directly to the next act and pipe that into the other stage that’s “dark”. Next was I’m With Her and then the highlight for me, the Wailin’ Jennys. Their harmonies were incredible, true siren song. I even bought a CD which they were kind enough to sign.

I took a walk, I like to be alone sometimes even though I really enjoy our crew sometimes it’s good to peel away, so I caught a little Rodney Crowell and then got back in time to hear Don Was and friends, including Bob Weir. After awhile we started to be swarmed with friends dancing among our piles of food and by the time Graham Nash played we’d gotten buzzed and teary-eyed. Just so much love felt here, the energy so uplifting in such a difficult time. Our friend Steph has three daughters who we’ve seen growing up at this festival and she was playing with our friend Katie’s two year old, throwing her up in the air to make her giggle. I was struck by the fact that the future for these girls is uncertain, and that for all the advances our mothers and grandmothers made, have we let these girls down? Or will we? Is it too late? Were we complacent and so comfortable we didn’t see what was slipping away? I don’t regret choosing to not have children. I’m grateful I had the choice to abstain from being a more traditional woman so to speak. I respect those that have kids but wow am I afraid of this world we are passing along to them.

Graham Nash closed with the perfect song, Teach Your Children.

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