Dawn Holliday is ready to pass the torch to a new talent buyer.
The longtime Bay Area concert professional who got her start working for Bill Graham is leaving her role as booker for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, an event she helped launch in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 2001 with financial support from San Francisco venture capitalist Warren Hellman, HSB’s founder.
Hellman passed away in 2011 and the February 2017 death of his wife Chris Hellman, a British former ballerina and well known Bay Area businesswoman and philanthropist, was part of Holliday’s decision to leave the festival, which sees an attendance of 500,000 over three days.
“It’s now time for the Hellman kids to find their own Dawn Holliday,” the former Slims and Great American Music Hall talent buyer tells Amplify, hinting that’s she got a new project in the works that she will be launching very soon. (Holliday is the only person to ever list Woodstock in her Five Shows profile for Amplify).
“I want the festival to continue on for years to come and I’m going to help the Helllmans find the right person,” she tells Amplify. “I can’t wait to see what the buyer and family bring into the park and I’m really looking forward to hearing the music they curate.”
The annual festival takes place in October and is free to the public, financed 100% by the Hellman Foundation. With financial resources set aside that allow the event to go on indefinitely, the challenge to protecting the event’s legacy isn’t money, explained son Mick Hellman, but finding the right person who shares a similar vision for the event.
“Hardly Strictly Bluegrass has been blessed to count Dawn Holliday among its founders,” Hellman tells Amplify. “Dawn and our cofounders planted this seed at a lunch meeting back in 2001 and nurtured the festival to become what it is today — a special gathering in Golden Gate Park, free and open to all, attracting over half a million fans annually along with the best musicians in the world.”
He said he was grateful that Holliday would help the festival “recruit a talent buyer to carry forward the creative vision she developed over the past 17 years,” adding, “Once he or she is on board, Dawn will share her passion for the festival and knowledge about the rich and layered history of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. We are grateful to have been touched by Dawn’s creativity, which will be preserved through her work sharing our values with the next talent buyer.”
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was born from a desire by Warren Hellman to create a free bluegrass festival in 2001. At the urging of Holliday, Hellman expanded the event to all kinds of roots music (“Hardly” was added in front of “Strictly Bluegrass” in 2004). Legend has it that Hellman created the festival for performer Hazel Dickens (who played the festival until her death in 2011) while Emmylou Harris was the event’s first headliner. Last year, Randy Newman, Lucinda Williams, T Bone Burnett, Billy Bragg and Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys headlined the three-day festival, Oct. 6-8, that also included Henry Rollins, Cheap Trick, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett, First Aid Kit, Sturgill Simpson, Ozomatli, Brandi Carlile, Robyn Hitchcock, Jello Biafra, Bob Mould and Big Freedia.
Think you’ve got what it takes to book one of North America’s largest free music festivals? Then send a cover letter and CV to [email protected]