A little less than half of the complete Hardly Strictly Bluegrass lineup for 2023 has been revealed, and this year is shaping up to be a stellar year for the free music festival in Golden Gate Park.
The first announced artists were revealed a month ago, including Drive-By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell, Aussie indie band The Church, and former X frontman John Doe with the John Doe Folk Trio. Since then, the expected addition of Steve Earle has come — he generally doesn't miss Hardly Strictly — along with the Travelin’ McCourys.
Also revealed two weeks ago was English "folktronica" musician Beth Orton, who last appeared at HSB in 2019, performing with Mercury Rev; and former War on Drugs guitarist Kurt Vile returns for his fourth HSB appearance with his band The Violators.
As it stands Wednesday, we have 32 confirmed acts, with another batch revealed Tuesday that includes singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, the one and only Rickie Lee Jones, and the legendary Soul Queen of New Orleans Irma Thomas.
This is Wainwright's first-ever appearance at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and the 50-year-old troubadour is currently on a tour called "Want Symphonic," performing with the likes of the Chicago Symphony and the Nashville Symphony orchestras and doing songs from his third and fourth studio albums "Want One" and "Want Two."
The uncategorizable Rickie Lee Jones is also performing at the festival for the first time ever this year, and she'll be bringing her unique blend of personal story songs and eclectic pop artistry. Below is a recently uploaded YouTube video of Jones doing the standard "Just In Time" sounding an awful lot like Blossom Dearie.
And the great Irma Thomas, who was a contemporary of Aretha Franklin but only has her kind of stature in her hometown of New Orleans, returns to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass after first performing at the festival in 2011.
You may know Thomas's quirky "It's Raining" from the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's Down By Law, and one of her early hits, "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)" was recently used on an episode of Black Mirror.
But her rendition of "Time Is On My Side" may be her best known, and below you can hear her performing it on the BBC in 2005.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass will be happening in Golden Gate Park the weekend of September 30, with free performances all afternoon and into the evening in Hellman Hollow, Lindley Meadow, and the surrounding area. (It's part of the same footprint as Outside Lands, but without the Polo Field.)
It's free to attend, as always, thanks to the generosity of the late Warren Hellman.
Expect another batch of artists to be revealed on September 5, and then likely a last batch on September 19 along with the full, 70-act lineup. And among those, we can almost guarantee the return of Emmylou Harris, and we made the prediction earlier that Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, who have been on tour together, may return as well.