In a town with no discernible seasons, the most notable sign that Fall has arrived is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (HSB). Celebrating its fifteenth year of existence, HSB has become an institution for locals and a destination for music lovers worldwide.  This free music festival draws in crowds as diverse as its lineup: more than 100 acts will perform on 7 stages over the course of three days.

With so many musicians – big and small, local and national – performing, how do you even begin to decide who to see? The Bay Bridged’s team of writers, photographers, and editors rocked the vote and picked five not-to-miss performers to ease your decision-making process.

  1. Big Star’s Third  – Arrow Stage – Friday, October 2 – 5:30pm. People looking for a unique, possibly once-in-a-lifetime combination of musicians, look no further than this all-star performance of Big Star’s haunting ‘Third’ album, featuring Kronos Quartet, Van Dyke Parks, Jody Stephens, Mike Mills, Chris Stamey, Ken Stringfellow, Pat Sansone, Ralph Carney, Audley Freed, Brett Harris, Skylar Gudasz, plus an orchestral ensemble; and special guest singers Steve Earle, Robyn Hitchcock, Chatham County Line, Chuck Prophet, Luther Russell & Kelley Stoltz. If you don’t recognize the names immediately that’s members of REM, The Posies, The dB’s, and Wilco – to name a few – sharing a stage to play tunes that inspired The Replacements, Cheap Trick, and countless other bands.
  2. Neko Case – Swan Stage – Sunday, October 4 – 4:10pm. Everyone’s favorite New Pornographer does not disappoint live – her voice and on-stage witty banter are definitely worth plopping down a blanket in the sun and making a day of the stage she performs on. There’s something for everyone in a Neko Case show: her songs range from country-tinged tearjerkers to high-energy power pop gems.
  3. Joe Jackson – Towers of Gold Stage – Saturday, October 3 – 3:05pm. Don’t call it a comeback. Joe Jackson has remained busy since his breakout 1979 pop album Look Sharp! and his 1982 Top Ten hit “Stepping Out”:

    • “Not sure if many people will know of him besides ‘Stepping Out’ (which is great) but he’s been an energetic and great musician for years.”
    • “I’ve been a huge Joe Jackson fan since… forever. Haven’t seen him in years, since the days of his
      [classical music album] Night Music…”
  4. Jessica Pratt – Rooster Stage – Friday, October 2 – 1pm. If you need an excuse to call in sick or work from home tomorrow, name-dropping Jessica Pratt might not be the smartest thing to do… unless you want your boss to join you.

    • “…Pratt is an LA-via-SF songwriter who absolutely captivated a hushed room at The Chapel earlier this year. The idea of hearing her amazing voice and introspective folk-rock in the middle of Golden Gate Park sounds pretty great.”

  5. Charles Bradley – Swan Stage – Sunday, October 4 – 2:30pm. Nothing will make your weekend feel complete like a full slab of vintage soul served up by Charles Bradley, an R&B singer that started his career as a James Brown impersonator called Black Velvet. Bradley has since earned his place among the great soul singers like Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett with two full albums and a couple handfuls or singles on Daptone Records.