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Hardly Strictly Gives Over $3 Million to Out-of-Work Musicians, Venues

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Fantastic Negrito and Bryan Simmons perform at Hardly Strictly's Let the Music Play On livestream.  (Ken Friedman)

Founded by philanthropist F. Warren Hellman, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass has always brimmed with a spirit of generosity. For the last 20 years, the festival has brought a weekend of free music to Golden Gate Park, delighting fans and giving opportunities to dozens of local blues, rock and folk artists.

Hardly Strictly organizers have been incredibly giving during the pandemic, which has forced artists to cobble together a living without live shows and caused venues to teeter on the edge of closing permanently. (In fact, some have already.) In addition to their $1 million donation to the Artist Relief fund, last weekend’s Let the Music Play On livestream—which took place instead of the IRL festival this year—raised $500,000 for the grant program, which gives out $5,000 to artists who’ve lost work during COVID-19 shutdowns. The current Artist Relief application cycle is open through Oct. 21.

Hardly Strictly also announced that its own COVID-19 relief fund has given out $1.6 in funding. $600,000 of that amount went to individual musicians facing financial struggles, and $1 million went to Bay Area venues. Those include Ashkenaz, the Back Room, Bottom of the Hill, the Chapel, El Rio, Eli’s Mile High Club, Felton Music Hall, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, the Ivy Room, the Lost Church, Mystic Theatre, the Monkey House, La Peña, Red Poppy Art House and the Starry Plough.

$25,000 also went to the Sweet Relief Rex Roadie Fund, which offers financial aid to crew members who work behind the scenes at concerts.

It’s crucial help for the music community at a time when the next COVID-19 relief package stalls in Congress, and the Save Our Stages Act hangs in limbo.


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