HSB

The first time I went to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was 2010. This was the first time I saw Conor Oberst live. I had been a fan for 5 years, but I was barely 18 and barely going to shows on a monthly basis. My friends were more consumed by the fact that Kirsten Dunst could be seen backstage from where we were standing, while I was consumed by the fact that I was quickly becoming obsessed. Since then, I have seen Conor Oberst (in all his projects, except Monsters of Folk) 13 times, (which can either be the most impressive or disappointing thing about me, depending on who’s reading and my mood). Next weekend it will be 15.

Sure, nowadays I only think of my emo days as a way to make fun of a time that I was very unhappy and 13. Sure, nowadays people actually go out to bars to be unhappy and laugh about being 13 in public. Sure, I’ve never gone to a bar to be emo and unhappy in public - there’s just something about Hardly Strictly that brings back all my emo feelings. Maybe it’s because Hardly Strictly weekend is also dubbed “Conor Oberst Weekend” to me and many people I know. This past year has also been a long year of emo reviving victory.

So to those past and current emo kids who have never been to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, I have written a guide just for you.

How to prepare:

In the last five years the weather in SF has changed dramatically, due to global warming and the drought, but it has only slightly rained at HSB one time, the first year I went. Last year, I got sunburned. So it’s best to prepare for all the possible weather outcomes. It may be foggy in the early afternoon, the grass may be dewy, and there could be a slight breeze. Bring a light striped sweater, a windbreaker, a good blanket for the grass, and a backpack big enough to stuff all these things back into when the sun decides to show its face. Bring your fave cap, lots of sunblock to protect your fragile skin that barely goes out before 6pm, a gallon of water, and whiskey.

Transportation to and from can take a while - buses lag, parking is impossible, and that lyft or uber will be on surge prices, so give yourself some time to arrive.

The Music:

The Rooster Stage is where I have resided the past 4 years during HSBG, this year I will probably do the same. Though I do suggest catching a glimpse of Saintseneca, as their song “Happy Alone” will make the emo kid in you feel at ease. The problem: they are playing at 12pm on Friday and so is Johnathan Rice.

At noon, Johnathan Rice will kick off the music at The Rooster Stage. Rice has been around for over a decade and even had music featured on The OC back in the day. Today, Rice frequently collaborates with Jenny Lewis as Jenny and Johnny. Lewis and Rice also helped produce the music for Song One starring Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn. I am not going to say anything about the movie, other than the music is the strongest part of it, and a couple of the bands playing this stage on Friday had music in the movie. Overall, Rice is an indie rock dream boy.

1:00pm: Jessica Pratt

The only local act on this stage Friday, but also one of the most remarkably talented newer musicians playing at HSBG. I have never seen her live, which makes me feel very emo. I can't successfully define her music, but I can highly suggest listening to her and maybe going to see her on Friday.

2:10pm: The Felice Brothers

I have seen The Felice Brothers a handful of times in the past years, due to HSBG and "Conor Weekend." They are one of the bands that were featured in Song One. Overall, they are an energetic folk alt band, who always gets the crowd cheering and drunk.

3:20pm Laura Marling

Laura Marling is one of my favorite female vocalists and musicians. Her music has gone from being shy and emotional to showcasing rougher vocals and feeling empowering. I've seen Laura Marling a couple times already, and she's an angel on stage. A force of energy that makes the crowd still and listen. She played Outside Lands this year and now she's back to make you silently quiver in a crowd.

4:30pm: M. Ward

The last time M. Ward performed at HSBG was in 2011, on this same stage and same day Bright Eyes played their last concert together as Bright Eyes. Overall, M. Ward is an musical legend in my eyes. You may know him from his project with Zooey Deschanel, She & Him. He used to tour with Bright Eyes, playing lead guitar. His music was not only featured in the 2007 indie film The Go-Getter, but he also acted along side Zooey Deschanel and Lou Taylor Pucci. He is a member of the supergroup Monsters of Folk with Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Jim James.

5:45pm: Conor Oberst

By now you will notice how the crowd has gotten larger, and no one is sitting anymore. All the people who had their own personal chairs have dispersed and people are probably standing too close to you for your own personal comfort. None of this matters at all though, since in a few seconds you are about to say you saw Conor Oberst in concert. By now, you're probably a little too drunk and the people around you are screaming loudly how they "LOVE CONOR" and how they really want to hear "First Day of my Life." There may be some out of place moshing, because drunk emo kids go hard. It's all okay, because it's in the name Conor Oberst.

After Conor Oberst sings multiple Bright Eyes hits, he'll probably bring out all of the previous acts and the friends that were just hiding in the back.

When the first day of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is over, you might want to cry, you might want to die, but somehow you will have a rush of positive energy flowing through you. In the end, you might decide to not go the next two days or you will fall so in love with the festival you will never leave.

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