The big-daddy of free music festivals is almost here.  In just 48 hours the 10th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival will be underway in Golden Gate Park.

It really is a massive undertaking.  With over eighty bands on 6 stages, this free festival is truly one of a kind.  Thanks to billionaire, Warren Hellman, who flips the bill for this annual bash, music lovers from all over the world converge in the beautiful park for three days of eclectic and exciting music.

Warren Hellman, by the way, is in my opinion one of the greatest people ever.  Such generosity and appreciation for music is matched my no one.

Now I have been before but I am no seasoned veteran.  In fact, this will be the first year that I attend all three days.  There is a lot of planning to do if you want to catch even a fraction of the acts that you want to see.  When I look at the line-up, I feel like a kid in a candy store and I start to get over excited at all the options before me.

Basically, I have to come to terms with the fact that I am not going to see every band that I want to, it just isn’t possible.  This is when serious tact comes into play.  But serious tact isn’t easy to maintain when you’re with friends, drinking, stuck in mobs of people or all of a sudden really enjoying the present band.

So what I do is make certain of a few staple acts that I will not miss and let the day fill itself in on whims.

For instance, on Sunday, I will not miss Mondo Cane closing the day out.  Singer Mike Patton of Mr. Bungle, Faith no More and Peeping Tom is bringing this rare treat for the first time to the US.  The multi-talented singer has kept his orchestra-backed rendition of Italian opera songs on European soil only up until now.  Not going to miss it.

I love The Del McCoury Band, a fantastic bluegrass outfit who define traditional bluegrass.  But I have probably seen them over a dozen times, three times in the last year at least.  So, this time around I can afford to miss them.

Rail Road Earth is a bluegrass-jam band that I have been looking forward to seeing for a long time, but they’re playing at the same time as Umphrey’s McGee.  I haven’t seen either of these bands and it is going to be a tough choice.  Umphrey’s is playing on the same stage as Mondo Cane, with Elvis Costello in between.  That triple threat may be the way to go for Sunday.

You see what I mean?  This isn’t unusual, it is a quandary that one deals with at any good music festival and as far as I know there is no way around it. 

I really want to see the David Grsiman Quintet on Saturday, so that will be a staple which other choices will have to revolve around.  Trombone Shorty will surely be my kick off for Saturday morning and from there all I have to do is catch Grsiman a few hours later and I’ll be all good.

Traditional bluegrass fans I have heard have become frustrated with the festival and people’s tendency to try and stand where they have arrived early to set up blankets and chairs for the day.  It is a tough dilemma and I can see both sides of the argument.  I’m hesitant about setting up any major base camp for this exact reason and for my tendency to wander.

I think Friday and Saturday are going to be the wandering days and Sunday will be the stay-put day.  Either way it is going to be a fine, fine weekend in Golden Gate Park