Work the Crowd

2011 Hardly Strictly lineup worth the packed park


Of all the ways to describe the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Yogi Berra may have said it best: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Berra was describing a St. Louis restaurant when he uttered these words—not the festival. But it’s an entirely appropriate phrase to invoke each year when asked the inevitable: “You goin’ to Hardly Strictly?” The problem is this: walking from stage to stage is not an option at the festival anymore. Not only are attendees shoulder-to-very-close-shoulder, but it’s impossible to visually see performers unless one arrives early, picks just one stage, lays down a blanket and stays put for the entire day.

This year’s lineup, however, is enticing enough to fight the crowds. Staying at the Rooster Stage on Friday, Sept. 30, yields a unique lineup featuring Woods, Kurt Vile & The Violators, the Felice Brothers, M. Ward and Bright Eyes. The Towers of Gold Stage on Saturday, Oct. 1, has a what-the-hell lineup of Ricky Skaggs, Hugh Laurie, Broken Social Scene and Buckethead. Other notables this year include Thurston Moore (above), Robert Plant & The Band of Joy, Dr. John & The Lower 911, and Irma Thomas.

Usual returnees flesh out this year’s lineup, including John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle & The Dukes, Del McCoury, Robert Earl Keen and Gillian Welch—all excellent. The free festival runs Friday–Sunday, Sept. 30–Oct. 2, at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. For full schedule, see