Wednesday, September 26, 2007

HSB questions and answers

Greg Waldschmidt on the Festivarian list posted these questions about Hardly Strictly Bluegrass:

As this is my first year coming to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, I am looking for some background info, such as: what to bring (coolers I know, do they allow alchohol?), how to get there (mass transit I suspect, but what are the other options)?, the best way to get there from San Rafael, where I will be staying with my brother, and is it easy to move from stage to stage, or do you throw tarps at a couple of stages to stake territory?

With its rising reputation as a destination festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is attracting more and more out-of-towners who need to know the lay of the land for this festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Here's some attendee tips from Festival Preview:

First, forget what you know from attending other festivals. Because HSB is a free and open event, there are no admission gates and nobody checking for alcohol or video cameras or other typical festival no-nos. Anything that you can carry in is okay. But you are probably going to have a considerable walk to get to Speedway Meadows, so don't come too loaded down. Of course, you should plan to take out everything you bring in.

On transit, you can drive to the vicinity but parking is miserable. A good solution is to drop off one of your party with chairs and supplies and then go off in search of legal curb space. In the outer Richmond (south of the park) and outer Sunset (north of the park), you won't find many paid lots, either. Your best bet is to cruise three or four blocks away from the park. Persistance will pay off.

Public transit is highly encouraged by the festival and the city. From downtown SF at the Transbay Terminal or other stops, catch the #5 Fulton bus to 30th Ave. in the outer Richmond. That leaves you a short distance from Speedway Meadow. Another option is the #71 Haight-Noriega, which you can exit at Lincoln and 23rd on the Sunset side of the park. Or take the N Judah Muni trolley from downtown to the outer Sunset. There is no shuttle service within the park this year.

Public transit to the city from San Rafael is either by bus or ferry. Weekend service on the Larkspur ferry is limited. Make the 9:40 ferry if you want to get to the festival for a full day. There are more options by bus. Check with Golden Gate Transit for more bus and ferry information

On navigating stages, all five stages are in close proximity (yet there is relatively little audio overlap). If you are hustling, you can pretty much get from any stage to any other within five minutes. Getting up close is a different story. If you arrive early in the day with tarp and chairs, you will be able to stake out some decent turf at one of the stages. The Banjo Stage is considered the main stage and holds the largest audience. Rooster, which hosts a lot of the singer-songwriters, is probably the toughest for nabbing prime territory, because it is set between wooded hills on both sides of a narrow audience area.

The idea of setting up at all of the stages is smart in principle, but will require coordination with several of your friends to pull off. I'd say if you can get one good setup, count your blessings and figure on sitting in other people's chairs at the other stages. Also, be aware there is no leaving a setup overnight.

You are right that you should expect to be on the move all weekend. If people have any frustration with HSB, it's that there's too much to see and hear. Rather than try to see everyone you want, plan your schedule around three or four sets you will enjoy in full. Then catch partial sets by some of the other artists as you move from stage to stage.

Amenities are pretty good on site. There are food vendors at each stage, along with merch tents and plenty of porto-potties. Most unusual for music festivals, dogs on leash are allowed. You'd think that could get out of hand, but most dogs I've seen at the festival have been well tended and well behaved.

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