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What Makes Hardly Strictly Bluegrass so Very San Francisco

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass came back in full force this past weekend. The free concert has been around since 2001. It celebrated 20 years virtually last year and this year came back with sunshine, playfulness, amazing music, and smiles all around.

Beyond the stacked roster of talented acts that graced the stages all weekend, there were a few other details at Hardly Strictly you may have noticed. These are what make Hardly Strictly so very San Francisco.

Arguably the best seat in the entire festival – complete with La Croix close by.

Dogs in hammocks

There were dogs in tiny coats, with pink hair, dressed in costume, and enjoying all the pets from strangers. The happiest dog award goes to the pup enjoying the show from the comfort of a hammock. Cozy, VIP pup seating, and relaxing with a La Croix nearby… what could be more San Francisco than that?

Brixton poses with his guitar on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

There was such a parade of dogs that SFGate even did a story about it – photo by Chris Partin/Special to SFGATE

Dad-approved Fashion Choices: A Sea of TieDye

My friend turned to me at one point during the day and said “Isn’t it interesting how Grateful Dead tie-dye t-shirts are still the number one fashion here after all these years?” And once you see it, you can’t unsee it… the amount of tie dye at Hardly Strictly was astonishing. From tees to hats to umbrellas and beach chairs… if it could be tie-dyed, it was at Hardly Strictly.

Tie-Dye came in a rainbow of colors throughout Hardly Strictly

Squishin’ Pennies at the Hardly Strictly Museum

Everyone loves kitschy souvenirs like a squished penny. At the far end of the festival was a little hidden treasure, the Hardly Strictly museum. It comes complete with Nostalgic photos of past concerts, founder Warren’s famous jacket, and a hand-crank penny squisher. No extra money was needed for this fun little activity. Volunteers had a bucket of pennies ready for anyone to use who wanted to participate.

The museum included portraits of past performers (this one is of Justin Townes Earle who passed in 2020), signed concert posters, fun activities, and more.

More Free Entertainment: The Pinwheel Raver

Walking around the festival, you’re sure to find the rarest of creatures. Look beyond the sea of blankets, strollers, collapsible wagons, and clear backpacks to find this delightful performer. The Pinwheel Raver. Easily distinguishable from all other performers by his SF classic top (aka the Grateful Dead t-shirt), bucket hat, and ability to hold three pinwheels in each of his hands while dancing endlessly to the music in the atmosphere.

Never has there ever been a more skilled pinwheel dancer

Dancing Robots Provide Premier Entertainment

Robot Dance Party is a Bay Area legend. Swaying from side to side from music blasting out of his belly, this jovial robot is usually seen at Dolores Park on a sunny day. They strayed from their usual dancing grounds to grace Hardly Strictly with their iconic dance moves. It was a shock when he found him naked on Saturday afternoon. To protect the anonymity of our beloved robot, we choose not to show his face in this publication.

Always the life of the party: SF’s legend, Robot Dance Party

More classic Bay Area moments that made me smile during Hardly Strictly Bluegrass:

  • People have gotten pretty clever about how they pack their gear. I saw a woman with a clear backpack on that was larger than her body.
  • Saturday’s overcast weather created the perfect sneaky sunburn weather. My friend walked around casually peeking into clear backpacks until she saw sunscreen and then asked if she could borrow some. Could this be an added benefit to the clear backpack?
  • One guy near me full-on meditated during the full Arooj Aftab set on Sunday. I couldn’t blame him, her set was gorgeous.
  • At that same time, I was full-on distracted by the tween next to me complaining that The Switch Witch gave her a crystal last year. “Like, that’s sweet and all but yeah… not worth it.”
  • If you missed the festival this year, 2 out of the 5 members from The Talking Heads (Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew) played “Remain in Light” in its entirety on Saturday along with an all-star band. A concert of a lifetime – for free!
  • Wally! Wally is a rescue pity who was making his rounds around the festival. His handler was helping Wally show off his skills with treats at the ready. His top skill, looking adorable, being sweet, and catching treats mid-air. He’s still available for adoption or fostering, here.

Wally – the rescue pup at Hardly Strictly was using All Dogs Allowed to his advantage.

Until next year, Hardly Strictly, thanks for showing everyone the best time.

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.