Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: A Gift of Music


It’s been twenty-four years since I saw my first Rex benefit show. Since then I’ve seen more shows, contributed money, and worked with the Rex Foundation over the World Wide Web. It was a great joy to open a new chapter – joining other volunteers to staff a table at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

The festival, which celebrated its 8th year on the first weekend in October of 2008, is financier Warren Hellman’s gift to the City and to music fans. Mr. Hellman decided to underwrite the free concerts so that an eclectic group of musicians could be hired without regard to their ability to bring in ticket sales. The unique event now draws over 100,000 people to see big names like Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, and Robert Plant (with Allison Krauss and T-Bone Burnett) and less widely known players as diverse as Gogol Bordello, Loudon Wainwright III, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Mickey Hart performed with the Global Drum Project.

I had a great time at the Rex table, getting to know the other members of the team, board members Freddy Hahne (our captain for the weekend) and Nick Morgan; fellow supporters Dave Fortescue and Casey Lowdermilk; and intern Kai Flippini. What made the experience really special was the connections with so many generations of kind travelers, ranging from one woman who remembered Jerry Garcia from a time before he earned money from his music to another who looked at the Carvavan flyers and asked me why we chose a bus as the metaphor.

We collected $600 in donations for the Rex Foundation. For those $20 donors who recieved a Jerry Jams, Jerry Cares CD, enjoy your tunes. Thanks to everyone who visited, or who threw us a smile or a thumbs-up as you made your way through the crowd!