Hardly Strictly Bluegrass makes big comeback in Golden Gate Park

It’s time again to listen to the music in Golden Gate Park. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is back and underway; the free music festival is a fan favorite, and one of the big reasons why September and October are some of the city's busiest month for visitors.

The sounds of music are filling the air as Hardly Strictly Bluegrass gets underway after a pandemic pause. Organizers say the free music festival in the park is an important statement to say the city and all it has to offer culturally, is back with an impressive list of artists lined up.

"Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle who are perennials and we also have Elvis Costello, people are psyched about him, Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons. Drive-By Truckers, but I always tell people move around check out other things, find maybe your next favorite band," said Hardly Strictly Music Curator Chris Porter.

Artists like Oakland's own Satya say  returning to the Bay Area and performing at a venue she visited herself as a spectator she says it's amazing. "I've never done a festival before,' said Satya. "This is like the first one. My grandparents used to come here, like all the time. It's a beautiful park. I came in high school. It's crazy."

But it's not just music filling the air from the fest's six stages. By Friday night, the fog rolled in just as fans rolled out their picnic blankets on the meadow for day one. 

Some performers were slated to play the fest back in 2020 and are now finally getting their chance. 

As the festival got underway fans filled up the fields and took in the music. Deborah and Harold Evans are visiting San Francisco and say Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is a welcome discovery. "This is just really amazing, we've never been to this park before, so we're just enjoying the people, the music and the weather, it's amazing," said Deborah.

"We hail from Jacksonville, Florida," said Harold.

This event has been a San Francisco tradition for many music lovers. Cynthia Crews-Pollock brought her baby and toddler and plenty to keep them happy during the show.

"We have a decibel reader app on our phones, we have headphones for both of them...and a lot of snacks," she said.

Near the Towers of Gold, we found Biscuit the cat grooving to the music. His owners kept him on a leash, and told us he likes to go on adventures.

"This is his first concert, but he has been to 10 states, and he has been on eight airplane rides, and he loves going to wineries and breweries," said Brianne Howell, one of Biscuit’s owners.

Travel experts say with foreign travel from Asia still slow, fall events like Hardly Strictly help bring domestic travelers into San Francisco. "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass this weekend, Fleet Week, the Italian Heritage parade, you name it," said Joe D'Alessandro from Travel SF. "It's not only a good time to celebrate San Francisco for us residents, but for the visitors to really come here and enjoy our best weather, enjoy everything the city has to offer."

 Hardly Strictly runs through the weekend, with performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday.