Remember, less is more: Don’t try to see it all. You can’t. Pick a stage or two (if they’re not too far apart) and listen to old favorites as well as bands you may not know. The festival is a great place to discover new talent. Friday is the least crowded day by far.
Don’t miss unique collaborations: Hardly Strictly brings musicians together to play in rare configurations. One example: on Sunday an all-star group called Lampedusa will include Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller and Lucinda Williams. “And Brandi Carlile may join them too,” said Dawn Holliday, who books the bands for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
Under the radar: Festival music curator Dawn Holliday cited some lesser-known acts worth watching. Among them are The War and Treaty and the Felice Brothers, part of a set of bands curated by Conor Oberst performing Friday.
She also recommends Kentucky storyteller Tyler Childers, San Francisco siren Lila Blue and Jade Jackson who’s earned comparisons to Lucinda Williams for the raw honesty and heartfelt emotion of her songs.
Other can’t-miss acts include Bay Area gospel band The Sons of the Soul Revivers, crooner Foy Vance, and Lloyd Maines, father of the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines and a talented performer in his own right.
“Frankly I’m a bad person to ask because I booked it all,” Holliday said. “I like what I’ve booked. I think it’s a brilliant year. I honestly could have another two festivals with everything that I like.”
BYOB: If you want booze, bring your own. No alcohol is legally sold in the park (you may see some underground sellers with coolers though). You can bring food, but there are dozens of fabulous food trucks worth supporting.
Take public transit: To avoid parking difficulties, take the Larkspur Ferry to San Francisco. You can get the 38 Geary bus at the corner of Davis and Pine streets, just a couple of blocks from the Ferry Building. The express bus (38X) is faster than the standard 38 bus. Exit the bus at Geary near 25th Avenue and walk half a mile south to Golden Gate Park. On weekends, the last ferry leaves San Francisco at 7:25 p.m.
Note: If you drive to San Francisco and need to park far from the festival, take a taxi or shared ride service like Uber or Lyft to get to Golden Gate Park.