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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, 2020

Donald Teplyske  |  September 25, 2020

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, an annual three-day celebration of Americana roots music—including a little bluegrass—is one of my personal favourite events. Living far from San Francisco, I can't attend each year, but I have made the journey every tenth-year in a row...okay, I've been twice—in 2009 and 2019—so I wasn't scheduled to attend this coming October, as much as I would have liked to, before the in-person event was cancelled.

But the organization has found a way to continue, condensing three-days of music into a three-hour, one-time-only broadcast October 3. Running from 2 PM Pacific to 5 PM, the online concert is going to have my attention all afternoon.

Billed 'Let the Music Play On,' this year's HSBG is a 'miss it and regret it' one-time live stream that can be viewed on the Hardly Strictly website, on something called Circle TV (no idea,) (ditto), and the HSBG YouTube channel (I've heard of YouTube) and their facebook page.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass says this one-day event is their effort to "bring the music we all enjoy in the park to you in your living rooms and backyards. Tune in as we share new performances by our treasured regulars and welcome some first time artists with footage from their hometowns and favorite venues."

HSBG is not just about the music, which will surely be outstanding. The fest has partnered with Artist Relief, a fund created to support musicians and artists impacted by COVID-19. HSBG has already donated a million dollars to this fund. Viewers can make tax-deductible donations through They are also offering some outstanding merch on their website.

Who is appearing?

Yola (amazing at last year's fest), Tré Burt, The War and Treaty, The Sons of the Soul Revivers, The McCrary Sisters, Stuart Duncan, Steve Earle & the Bluegrass Dukes fea. Tim O'Brien and Dennis Crouch, Sierra Ferrell, Shakey Graves, Ron Thomason & Heidi Clare, Robert Earl Keen, Rhiannon Giddens w Francesco Turrisi, Patty Griffin, Los Coast, Laurie Lewis & Nina Gerber, Kieran Kane & Rayna Gellert, Jon Langford & Sally Timms, John Doe, Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock, Jim Lauderdale, Fantastic Negrito, Emmylou Harris, Doobie Decibel System Duo, Chuck Prophet, Carrie Rodriguez, Buddy Miller, Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt, Bo & Lebo, Black Banjo Reclamation Project, Birds of Chicago, Ashely Monroe, Amythyst Kiah, Alison Brown, and Aaron Lee Tasjan.

Like I said, Americana roots music, with a little bluegrass. Very little. Disappointing that Steve Earle's Bluegrass Dukes appears to be the only bluegrass band on the bill, although we're all aware of Thomason's and Lewis' bluegrass creds. Maybe Lauderdale will surprise us with some 'grass.

I have NO IDEA how this will fit into three hours (one song each?), but I'll be watching to find out.

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