Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, one of the largest, free, and beloved music festivals in the country celebrating American roots music, announces its first participants in this year’s Let The Music Play On, led by veterans Alison Brown and John Doe, returning artists Aaron Lee Tasjan, Yola, and first-time performer Sierra Ferrell. To keep community spirit high amid an unprecedented year, Hardly Strictly will become a global celebration, streaming new performance footage, archival sets, and fan memories the first weekend of October.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage our world, leaving tragedy and uncertainty in its wake, compassionate unity is more important now than ever. Music, a source of hope that speaks to the hearts of individuals when language fails, has the unique ability to overcome the barriers of cross-cultural divides. It is a gift that can bring communities together when it seems that hope is lost. In an effort to keep the ten pillars of community, joy, creativity, collaboration, freedom, peace, love, respect, gratitude, and spirituality, upon which Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was founded on, strong and to support the loyal community of festival fans Hardly Strictly Bluegrass made the choice to Let the Music Play On. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass production team traveled to U.S. cities rich in music history to capture performances and interviews, filmed without any spectators, in intimate local settings and historic venues.
In Nashville, Yola, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Alison Brown, Sierra Ferrell, shared their talents with performances filmed at a private Nashville farm, artist Buddy Miller’s studio, and the stage at the historic Ryman Auditorium. The team then headed to Austin to film a set with John Doe at landmark venue The Continental Club.
“There is a great sense of community at Hardly Strictly,” says John Doe, “and I hope and pray that it’s back next year. It’s a one-of-a-kind.”
One of the most celebrated parts of the festival has been and continues to be diversity; these values are reflected in the wide array of artists and genres carefully selected for and presented on the festival’s stages year after year. “Showcasing incredible talent is part of the fabric of HSB,” says talent booker Chris Porter, “whether it’s music legends and festival staples such as John Doe and Alison Brown, or up-and-coming artists like Yola and Sierra Ferrell, the high caliber 0f talent and variety of artists is what our fans have come to expect, and is what keeps them coming back year after year.”
Celebrating the legacy of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass without an audience and adhering to a strict safety protocol when taping the live performances and interviews was new territory for all involved, but the result is something truly unique and special, one that honors the pillars upon which the festival was founded and captures that sense of connection that only music can do.
In keeping with the festival spirit fans are invited to explore the virtual General Store for official Hardly Strictly merchandise; this year, patrons can choose from a well-curated selection of festival gear like the HSB 2020 Commemorative Home Kit which features HSB-branded items like facemasks, hats, a picnic tote, and a cocktail shaker. The package also includes a rare collector’s item, a supersoft 50” x 70” woven blanket, a replica of the artist poster from year 13 designed by the noted artist and photographer Claude Shade, who was an integral part of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass ecosystem, designing the annual backstage handbill for the festival from 2001 until his passing in 2015. All net proceeds from this years merch sales will go to Sweet Relief’s Rex Roadie Fund, to help crew facing economic hardship.
Additional information on the broadcast and lineup will be announced in the upcoming weeks at www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com. To stay up-to-date, be sure to sign up for the newsletter, and follow HSB on social media.