Five Under-the-Radar Acts Not to Miss at Hardly Strictly This Weekend

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Vetiver's Andy Cabic. (Terri Loewenthal)

This year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, the free, annual San Francisco bluegrass-and-more festival, boasts well-known artists like Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, LGBTQ trailblazer Ani DiFranco, Chicano rockers Los Lobos and soul revivalist Booker T. Jones and the Stax Revue.

But what about the nearly 80 other artists slated to perform at Golden Gate Park this weekend, Oct. 5–7, on the festival's six stages? Below, we've rounded up five lesser-known acts not to miss.


Oct. 7, 11am. Rooster Stage.
San Francisco's Andy Cabic performs as Vetiver with a rotating cast of collaborators, but what remains constant is his ability to infinitely re-imagine folk and Americana guitar stylings in ways that feel dewy and fresh. The band's last album, 2015's Complete Strangers, is a bit like walking through a cool redwood forest and catching glimpses of sunshine through the trees; Cabic's dexterous guitar playing buoys the mellow mood.


Raise Your Voice

Oct. 7, 3:10pm. Bandwagon Stage.
The outspoken students from Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida have been pivotal to the national conversation around gun violence. Several of them, including Andrea Peña and Sawyer Garrity, have collaborated with the California nonprofit record label Little Village for an album called Raise Your Voice, which features Parkland students and youth from around the country singing about issues that matter to them. Madison Yearsley (Seneca Falls, NY), Tyler Jenkins (New Haven, CT), Tyler Suarez (Bridgeport, CT), Ashlyn Flamer and Christopher Doleman (Phenix City, AL), Amalia Fleming (Morro Bay, CA), Ben Soto (Salt Lake City, UT) and Said Dahir (Salt Lake City, UT) are performing at Hardly Strictly.

Mavis Staples

Oct. 5, 4:15pm. Banjo Stage.
Amid the many folk, country and Americana acts at Hardly Strictly, Mavis Staples is a stalwart of America's gospel, blues and soul traditions, and, boy, has she had a storied career. Staples started out with her family's band the Staple Singers in 1950, and later signed as a solo artist to the influential Stax Records. Not only did Prince collaborate with her on two of her albums, Time Waits for No One and The Voice, but she's also been sampled by artists like Ice Cube and Salt n Pepa. On her latest album, If All I Was Was Black, Staples sings about the rise of modern-day white supremacy from the point of view of someone who lived in—and toured through—the U.S. during segregation.

Robert Finley

Oct. 7, 2:10pm. Tower of Gold Stage.
In early 1970s, Robert Finley joined the U.S. Army as a helicopter technician; when the Vietnam War came to a close, he ended up a guitar player entertaining troops on military bases across the U.S. and Europe with the army band. When he returned to his Louisiana hometown after his service, Finley devoted himself to his career as a carpenter and treated his music as a hobby. That is, until Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys discovered him at age 63 and signed him to his label, Easy Eye Sound. Finley's sweet falsetto and retro-modern gospel and soul sound has earned him a new, intergenerational fan base far beyond the confines of his small, southern hometown.


Oct. 6, 5pm. Porch Stage.
Brooklyn six-piece Evolfo call themselves "garage soul" and "acid cowboys," and both are accurate descriptors for their Summer of Love-steeped psychedelic jam band sound. Channeling the blues-rock influence of the Rolling Stones and the Doors, their danceable rhythms are swathed in layers of gauzy fuzz.