Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2017 Survival Guide

This weekend marks the 17th anniversary of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, a free music festival in Golden Gate Park featuring over 90 artists across seven stages.

The event, introduced by Warren Hellman in 2001, was originally intended to showcase "strictly bluegrass" music, but has evolved over the years to include a variety of genres.

This year’s lineup is no exception; artists range from fiddler Laurie Lewis to rockers Cheap Trick. Festival-goers will also see the return of Randy Newman, Lucinda Williams, and Kurt Vile (this time joined by Courtney Barnett), who have each played the festival once before.

Although generally regarded as more low-key than Outside Lands, Hardly Strictly attracts a larger crowd. In previous years, as many as 750,000 attended over three days, compared to the city's population of about 865,000.

Here are the essentials for festival attendees and neighbors:

Community Hotline

Music begins at 12pm Friday and continues throughout the weekend, running from 11-7pm on Saturday and Sunday.

A community hotline will be available for Richmond and Sunset residents to report any issues related to the festival: 415-406-9014.

Questions may also be directed to questions@hardlystrictlybluegrass.com.

Parking and Traffic

Taking public transportation is highly encouraged, but those driving near Golden Gate Park this weekend should be prepared for heavy traffic, especially around park entrances leading to Hellman Hollow and Lindley Meadow.

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft will have a designated drop-off and pick-up location at Balboa Street and 30th Avenue next to George Washington High School.

There will also be taxi stands located along Fulton Street (between 28th and 29th as well as 35th and 36th Avenues), and Lincoln Way (between Sunset Boulevard and 25th Avenue).

Festival map courtesy of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Several schools in the Richmond and Sunset are offering parking; all proceeds raised benefit student programs.

Participating schools include:

  • Argonne Elementary: Entrance at Cabrillo between 17th Ave. and 18th Ave.; $30 per day
  • George Washington High: Entrance at 30th Ave. between Geary & Anza
  • Lawton Alternative School (Sat & Sun ONLY): Entrance at 30th Ave. between Kirkham and Lawton; $20 cash
  • Jefferson Elementary (Sat & Sun ONLY): Entrance on 18th Ave. between Irving and Judah
  • Lafayette Elementary (Sat & Sun ONLY): Entrance on 36th between Anza and Balboa

Public Transit

Muni riders should expect large crowds on buses headed to and from the park all weekend.

To accommodate crowds, Muni is increasing service for the N-Judah and the 5R Fulton; the 7, 28, 28R, 29, and 44 lines, which also run around Golden Gate Park, may see crowding during peak hours. Detailed information can be found on SFMTA’s website.

Transit map courtesy of SFMTA

The free Golden Gate Park Shuttle will also be operating throughout the weekend as usual, although extended service hasn't been announced.

For those seeking to avoid traffic and parking altogether, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass offers extensive bike parking in several locations throughout the park, which can be found on the festival map.

Bike parking at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. | Photo: James Cohen/Flickr

Road and Park Closures

Many streets in and around Golden Gate Park will be closed from Friday, October 6th through Monday, October 9th.

Here’s a complete list from SF Rec and Park:

  • Transverse Drive closed from Crossover Drive (25th Avenue) to Martin Luther King Drive from 6am Friday until 11:55pm Sunday.

  • JFK Drive closed between Stow Lake Circle and 36th Avenue from 8pm Thursday until 6pm Monday.

  • 30th Avenue closed from Fulton Street to JFK Drive from 8pm Thursday until 6pm Monday.

  • 36th Avenue from Fulton Street to the turnaround from 6am Friday until 11:55pm Sunday.

  • JFK Drive closed from 36th Avenue to Chain of Lakes Drive from 6am Friday until 11:55pm Sunday.

  • Polo Fields parking area on both the north (stables) and south side of the Polo fields from 6am Friday until 1pm Monday.

  • Middle Drive West from Transverse to MLK from 6am Friday until 11:55 pm Sunday.

  • Overlook Drive from Transverse to Middle Drive West from 6am Friday until 11:55pm Sunday.

  • Metson Drive from Middle Drive West to MLK from 6am Friday until 11:55pm Sunday.

Tips for Attendees

Music starts at 12pm on Friday and 11am Saturday and Sunday, but access to the park opens at 10am. 

The best way to keep track of maps and schedules will be the HSB app, which is available for both Apple and Android devices. “As part of our ongoing work to green HSB,” says the festival website, “we will not be offering printed materials in the park this year.” However, a print-at-home kit is available on the festival homepage.

live webcast throughout the weekend will stream performances from the Banjo, Rooster, Swan, and Tower of Gold stages.

HSB 2012 (Photo: Nikki Collister/Hoodline)

More than 50 food vendors will be set up throughout Lindley Meadow and Hellman Hollow. No alcohol is for sale in the park, but beer and wine in non-glass containers are allowed per park rules. Attendees may also bring their own food and picnic supplies.

Heightened security is expected after last Sunday's shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas.

"The public can expect to see a visible police presence including officers on foot, motorcycle, on horseback and in patrol cars at the various events around the city," said SFPD in a statement released Monday.

"We want to reassure the public that we are working with our local and federal partners to provide a safe environment for everyone."

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Hardly strictly bluegrass 2017 survival guide