Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 11 is happening this weekend in Golden Gate Park, offering a ton of free music over three days of festivities. The lengthy list of performing artists can, of course, be a little deceiving, because the massive crowds mean that HSB isn’t suited for sampling the way some festivals are. Founder/funder Warren Hellman told the SF Weekly that he thought the best strategy was to pick a stage and plant there, and, given past failed attempts to stage-hop, I’m inclined to agree. That rule guides these picks for what to see at this weekend’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
Click each image for a larger schedule, or download the whole three-day list as a PDF.
Best Bet: Bright Eyes and M. Ward will draw the biggest crowds to the Rooster Stage, but take a half-day at work to catch Woods and Kurt Vile. The former’s experimental take on Neil Young-styled folk-rock sounded great at the Woodsist Fest earlier this year, while Vile’s introspective Smoke Ring for My Halo is a terrific record.
Second Choice: The Arrow Stage for Thurston Moore and The Mekons. Moore’s latest solo album, Demolished Thoughts, is full of acoustic songs well-suited to an outdoor stage. The Mekons’ have been recording and touring for 30 years, and Pitchfork described the band’s new album as “prickly, jovial, boozy, resistant to the bourgeois pleasures of rhyme and tune but sometimes seduced by them anyway.”
Best Bet: Find a spot to set up camp and enjoy Cass McCombs‘ band on the Star Stage, and plan to stay there to see Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard, two country legends currently on their first national tour together.
Second Choice: Sandwiched oddly between Hugh Laurie and Buckethead — seriously, who is that afternoon for? — Broken Social Scene‘s HSB appearance is the band’s second-to-last North American show before embarking on an indefinite hiatus. That’s a pretty compelling reason to see the supergroup’s hour-long set.
Best Bet: Is there one? Sunday’s the most difficult day to puzzle out from a “stay at one stage” perspective, but the upside there is that plenty of places have at least one or two acts worth checking out. Is it possible to see Conspiracy of Beards, The Low Anthem, The Devil Makes Three, and Bob Mould? Sure, it’s possible, but not likely. I’m thinking Porch or Arrow? Curious to hear thoughts in the comments.