Nearly a million people came for the #HSB15 music this weekend. They came for the celebration of art, for community, for friendship, for simply a place to go that doesn’t cost a damn thing. They jammed the open spaces of Golden Gate park so full you simply couldn’t find an open space anymore.
They came for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2015, a free weekend music festival that very well could be the best of its kind anywhere.
“This is the great gift of Warren Hellman, the one and only, to not only the City of San Francisco, but the world of music.” ~SF Chronicle
For starters, let’s state the obvious: it’s free. Nothing is free these days. You can’t cross a bridge without a toll. Bus fares are rising. Libraries are still free (mostly) but they are forever threatened with government funding cuts (ironically, nobody threatens to shutter a jail for lack of funds, but just try keeping libraries, historical societies, parks and campgrounds open). Virtually everything costs these days, but not this incredible festival with the likes of Joe Jackson, Boz Scaggs, The Indigo Girls, Los Lobos, and Flogging Molly to name just a few of the more than 100 musicians who performed.
This is a rare gift of musicianship. And it’s free. Effin Amazing.
But more than the price tag drew people. Hardly Strickly is an event. It’s where people from all walks of life want to be. Sure, music is the draw. But look around. It is far more than that. It’s magic, most of which starts with people. Folks wanted to be with someone else, even if just near others who enjoy the same music.
HSB models how something so simple as art and community can pull people together more than most any other thing, which is basically the entire vibe behind Effin Artistry. We are most human when we are creative and positive and together.
Perhaps the entire Chi of the festival was best summed up Sunday morning by the lead singer of a local band, The Stone Foxes, who said:
“We live here in San Francisco where the rents are fucking high and the music venues are going away, but we’re here to say, the music still matters in San Francisco!”
A lot is wrong with our Golden City. But this is what’s right. No matter what this brutally hard life doles out, often a guitar and song, or a poem read aloud or a mural on wall can make us feel that much better than we did before.
That is what this festival is all about.
Let’s not pretend for a minute that alcohol and drugs don’t play a major factor in the gathering. The entire festival is by default viewed through the hazy, perma-stink of the stinky lettuce emissions. Black-market booze sellers stacked cash like mobsters. What would this festival be like if it was also a drugs- and alcohol-free festival? That’s the interesting question for another time. Maybe an Effin Artist type of time.
Today, it’s enough to celebrate the power of the arts to bring us together. In being together, we are often far more human than we are apart.