Local Knowledge: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

Posted by Tyler Blomstrom-Moore on Apr 12th 2016

Local Knowledge: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

For a little over a decade, the first weekend in October has marked the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Nestled in the heart of our ever-beautiful Golden Gate Park, the festival spans through the wooded dimples – Speedway Meadow and Hellman Hollow – between the slight hills and surrounding fields.

The three-day music festival was founded and completely subsidized by venture capitalist Warren Hellman. A lover of tradition and everything bluegrass, Hellman made the festival completely free, breaking barriers in the music festival industry, as most were run by corporate sponsors and felt more like a capitalist regime than a musical journey and experience. He is quoted saying “I want to make it entirely free and noncommercial.”

Hellman split his life between the East and West Coast. Born into a military family, he moved from New York to California during World War II where his father served as a Major in the Army and his mother worked for the Air Force as a Service Pilot.

After the war, the Hellmans packed up and moved to San Francisco, where their family track record simply grew more impressive. Warren graduated from University of California, Berkley then proceeded to attain an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School (can you say badass?). Hellman led a successful life and career in the world of investment banking, becoming the youngest partner at the firm Lehman Brothers. He quickly climbed the proverbial ladder, building his namesake one rung at a time.

In 2001, Hellman proposed his idea of an all bluegrass music festival to Jonathan Nelson, who had worked for Bill Graham Presents. From there, Hardly Strictly began to take shape once booking agent Dawn Holliday and producer Sheri Sternberg got involved. Up until 2004, the festival was entirely dedicated to bluegrass, with bluegrass bands alone pumping through its veins. However, a call to arms to broaden the festival arose, thusly tacking on the “Hardly” in Hardly Strictly.

Regrettably, Warren Hallman passed away in 2011, leaving behind him an unforgettable legacy built upon integrity and a love for Americana. Hardly Strictly is still going strong (and still free), kicking off this Friday, Oct 2 a stones throw from our Inner Sunset shop. The SFP crew will be out and about in full force all weekend, so say hi if you spot our flags in the crowd!