I describe the festival frequently as the world’s most selfish gift. It’s a fantastically selfish gift, but it is a gift. There are hundreds of thousands of people there who are appreciating it. Just being able to do something that is completely not commercial, that is pure, hopefully, pleasure for the participants–to create a surrounding where the musicians and professionals like it as much as the crowd does. How could you have more fun than that? What the hell is money for if it isn’t for something like that?
What do you say about an eccentric billionaire who personally bankrolled the world’s greatest bluegrass festival as a gift to roots music and the city of San Francisco? This October marked ten years of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and now it will outlast even its creator (who passed away at 77 yesterday of complications from leukemia) thanks to an endowment he created to ensure its future.
Here’s a nice 2010 segment on Hellman and Hardly Strictly by the San Francisco Arts Commission.