Location: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
Dates: October 4th-6th 2013
Size: Approximately 300,000 per day. (There is no real way to know because there are no tickets)
Price: FREE!!! FREE!!! FREE!!!
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is a completely free festival. They even allow you to bring in your own alcohol. With this unbeatable combination, Golden Gate Park fills up easily with hundreds of thousands of people ready to party.
The lineup was really impressive considering the non existent ticket price. I really felt like there was a wide variety for the crowd to pick from as well.
Stages: The stages at HSB were just your average festival stages. They didn’t have any fancy light setups, but they didn’t need them. The organizers attempted to have good sound by adding speaker towers to most of the stages. This still proved futile since the crowds were so large; you couldn’t hear very well all the way in the back. Once again, this was a free festival, so you really have to be impressed with the overall production.
Crowd: This was probably the most eclectic crowd I have ever come across in all the festivals I have been to. First, the free ticket price meant EVERY SINGLE street kid within a bus ride away was here with their dog (or dogs). They didn’t cause any problems, but it sure made you realize how many of them there are. The rest of the crowd was as diverse as you will find. There were families, old people, hipsters, and hippies for as far as the eye could see. The one thing everyone had in common was that they were nice and just wanted to have a good time. One thing remained true about SF festival goers that I had noticed during both my trips to Outside Lands – San Francisco people love to talk during festivals. At any point you could hear the crowd around you over the music. I’m not going to say you shouldn’t talk during a festival, but you should definitely do more listening than talking.
Organization: The organization of this festival was pretty spectacular when you consider that the organizers have no idea how many people were going to show up. I have a feeling it was more than they expected because there bathroom lines were much longer than they should be. The festival actually stayed pretty clean as well. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but HSB was definitely cleaner than most other festivals. I think this spoke to the maturity of the crowd and the fact that the event organizers encouraged festival goers to keep the park clean. The fact that they were able to get people in an out of the festival was a miracle.
Overall: A free festival with that kind of lineup? It’s going to get 4 stars (out of 5). It’s a super fun festival, but they can go the extra mile next year and bring in more bathrooms for an easy perfect score.