Like just about everything else in 2020, this year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival is set to be a digital happening, with organizers aptly naming this year’s theme "Let the Music Play On."
The last local festival shoe has finally dropped as organizers of the hardly one-note three-day music festival announced over the weekend they'll host the 2020 event — digitally. This would have been the 20th anniversary celebration of the Golden Gate Park festival endowed by the late Warren Hellman, but like the rest of this year's major festivals and gatherings and concerts and parties, it has been canceled.
Still, there will be music.
Per the Chronicle, the not-so-shocking news came from the festival’s artist relations manager, Bonnie Simmons, Saturday when she took part in a live stream accompanied by the rock band (and longtime HSB staple) Los Lobos to make the announcement. Simmons added the festival in Golden Gate Park had to bow out of its in-person performances this year, as it needed to be in agreement with the current state of things and not violate San Francisco public health orders.
“We welcome you, the fans, to contribute to Let the Music Play On by sending us your favorite memories via written stories, videos, and photos in this form,” festival organizers wrote on the event website Saturday, confirming what we'd all been suspecting for some time. "All contributions are welcome and appreciated, and will be considered for inclusion in October’s broadcast."
The website notes this year's virtual happening — which will include "newly recorded performances, archival footage from fans & our archives, interviews, as well as the history of HSB" — will still be free to attend online... in lieu of the usual inebriated crowds gathering at Hellman Hollow, Lindley Meadow and Marx Meadow in Golden Gate Park.
HSB officials have also made it clear organizers stand in complete solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement, as well.
"We WILL say the names, per Janelle Monae," organizers write in the #BLM drop-down page on HSB’s website. "Walter Scott, Jerame Reid, Phillip White, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Freddie Gray, Aiyana Jones, Sandra Bland, Kimani Gray, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Miriam Carey, Sharonda Singleton, Emmett Till, Tommy Yancy, Jordan Baker, Amadou Diallo. And now we add George Floyd, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery [—] and too many more."
As part of this year's festival, too, the Hellman Foundation has launched the $1.5M Hardly Strictly Music Relief Fund: Bay Area initiative to float the local music community through the COVID-19 pandemic.
American roots-music musicians residing in six Bay Area counties — San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, and Sonoma — can apply for up to a $2K one-time, unrestricted grant. Local music venues can also submit applications to the foundation for grants between $100K and $200K.
The free shindig is set to take place on the interwebs between October 2 and October 4; no detailed list of participating artists has yet to be released.
Image: Bailey Zindel