It seems like just yesterday that hundreds of thousands of music lovers stormed Golden Gate Park for Outside Lands — and now it’s time to do it all over again for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, taking place Oct. 6-8. As its name suggests, Hardly Strictly once featured exclusively bluegrass, but in recent years the free festival has diversified its roster to include hip-hop, classic rock, Afrobeat, and a slew of other genres.
Festival mainstays like Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, Hot Tuna and Conner Oberst are back on the lineup, but there are also plenty of surprises. See Hardly Strictly’s full lineup — over 100 acts — here, and read more for five unexpected acts not to miss at its 17th edition.
Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett
Kurt Vile, former guitarist for The War on Drugs-turned-solo songwriter, is a long-haired rocker whose reverb-laden chillwave tunes conjure images of skipping class to smoke cigarettes at the skatepark. He recently teamed up with Courtney Barnett, an Australian singer-songwriter who makes high-energy garage rock, for a forthcoming collaborative album called Lotta Sea Lice. Together, they’ve developed a twangy, country-rock sound that still contains the same disaffected swagger of their solo work.
Big Freedia is the queen diva of New Orleans bounce music, the rump-shaking hip-hop subgenre that gave rise to twerking as we know it today. The bold, gender-nonconforming artist has always represented NoLa’s queer club culture. An annual mainstay at Outside Lands, and longtime underground favorite, she recently broke into the mainstream with “Drop,” a collaboration with Diplo and DJ Snake.
With their classics “Surrender” and “I Want You to Want Me,” Cheap Trick helped define the power-pop sound of the ’70s, which is why the Platinum-selling band was rightfully — and according to some critics, belatedly — inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year. The band is independent now and still touring, but a free performance from these legends is pretty rare.
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
Nigerian musician Seun Kuti was just 14 years old when his father, Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, passed away in 1997. The young man picked up where his dad left off and took the helm of his band, Egypt 80. They now tour the world with their percussive, high-energy, and often political live show, which includes new originals and Fela Kuti classics.
As the former frontman of legendary San Francisco band the Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra is a Bay Area punk icon who has long been on the political frontlines. In the ’80s, he and his label, Alternative Tentacles, were taken to court for an obscenity charge, an accusation they decried as political censorship (the case was eventually dropped); Biafra is also a member of the Green Party and ran for president in 2000. Today, he’s a staunch critic of the Trump administration and continues to perform solo, both as a musician and spoken word artist.