Thank God for the (Bluegrass) Republicans!

Part 12 in a series

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco will be Mecca for bluegrass music fans (and anyone who loves good music) at the 7th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival this weekend.

Last year saw 750,000 fans attend over three days, thanks to the world class entertainers on the lineup and the price of tickets: FREE.

Thank financier Warren Hellman for footing the bill. He was a Republican for 52 years before starting the festival, but no longer after hanging out with the likes of Steve Earle.
Steve Earle, a featured performer since 2002, calls the festival a highlight of his year. Earle, known for his political rants against war and the death penalty, said he doesn't have many friends in finance, particularly ones like Hellman with Republican backgrounds.

"He's the kind of capitalist that I at least understand," said Earle, 52, from his home near Nashville, Tennessee. "He really believes that what he's doing is to the benefit of everybody."

Hellman & Friedman owns Internet advertising company DoubleClick Inc., which Google Inc. has agreed to buy for $3.1 billion. The firm bought software maker Kronos Inc. this year and co-owns hedge-fund manager Gartmore Investment Management Plc.

Sponsoring the event in a city with five times more Democrats than Republicans has changed Hellman, Holliday said.

"He went from a Republican, suit-wearing downtown icon to a leftish, Green Party hippie in seven years," she said.

Hellman said he now is registered to vote with no party affiliation, after being a Republican for 52 years.

"The festival had something to do with it," he said. "You can't help but be affected by a lot of the people you spend a lot of time with."
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass kicks off this afternoon with Buddy Miller, T Bone Burnett & Friends (John Mellencamp, Neko Case, & Doyle Bramhall II) and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.