This morning at 10:30am P.M.W. will take the stage followed by MC Hammer at 11:30 in Golden Gate Park. They don’t talk about Thursday as the start of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, but it’s here. I’m sure as I type this MC Hammer is warming up his voice and doing his morning yoga to limber up for his Thursday morning performance that no one is talking about.
Festivals in Golden Gate Park are a blessing and a curse. The Park is the real slot in San Francisco, not Market Street. It cuts a long path into San Francisco almost halfway across the city. It’s three times the size of Central Park in New York and yet has only five ways to cross it. All except two [which I won’t mention] are packed during rush hour. For the next four days, one of the less congested routes across will be closed to traffic pushing the burden on the 19th avenue corridor for those of us [like me] to get to the Golden Gate Bridge to get to work.
Growing up as a kid in San Francisco I loved the music festivals in the park. I didn’t have a car then so I didn’t bother thinking about what it was like if you had to drive across the park during one of them. Now that I do and have to commute to Marin I realize that it doubles my commute time making it take a little longer than if I had to take Muni downtown. That’s not so bad compared to the horror stories I hear all the time from people who have to take Muni, but still I had to plan a bit knowing this.
The festivals in the park have gotten more elaborate over the years and this week proved it to me as I could see people starting set up on Monday. What they are bringing in for this music festival is a lot of equipment. I haven’t seen lighting rigs this elaborate since my last Metallica concert. This gives a kind of weird feeling to Golden Gate Park which is supposed to be a nature preserve, but now you drive across it and are seeing big, hulking towers of metal rising up along side the trees. The days of a flatbed with a few generators as the stage are gone. The hippies have gone pro.
For this weekend in the park there is a huge cast of entertainers to appear most of which lean more towards the hardly more than strictly bluegrass variety. The show is expected to draw 750,000 people from a city of 850,000 people. They won’t all be San Franciscans so you can expect some ground shaking from the overload of people this weekend. The show has been going on for eleven years now and is always a big event for San Francisco. They have yet to jump the shark which will come when they schedule a band like Slayer to play. I don’t think that will happen soon.
My suggestions if you’re going to go is to use Muni. It might take you a little longer, but it’ll be easier. I’ve seen signs that there will be shuttle services in the park so that will help as well. Prepare to do a good amount of walking and as always this is the Westside of San Francisco so dress in layers because you’ll go from freezing weather to blazing heat during the day. Judging from the weather of the past few days and the fog of this morning layers is a good thing. I unfortunately won’t be attending this year as I don’t like large crowds anymore. I’m sorry I’ll miss out on seeing Buckethead and my old friend Chris Issak [who I’ll probably run into at a local sushi joint], but if you’re going I wish you all a safe and enjoyable experience.