Summer is right around the corner and lucky for music fans everywhere the Bay Area is absolutely brimming with summer music festivals. With summer festivals seemingly every weekend, it can be hard to determine which ones are worth your time, but we’re here to fill you in on the details.
Union Street Festival (June 2 and 3)
Taking place in the Marina district, the Union Street Festival is a celebration of everything Frisco. This sprawling street fair runs from 10 AM to 6 PM both days, and the main stage at the corner of Union and Webster will be packed with live and local musical acts. A second stage features interactive activities like dance lessons and contests. Families are welcomed, and visitors of all ages are certain to find plenty to do outside of sitting in the grass and listening to the tunes. Trucks and vendors stalls will feature artisans and chefs from all around the city, while three separate pavilions are dedicated to showcasing local wines and craft beers. There will also be special areas devoted to local exhibitions, health and fitness, fashion, and other fields of interest.
North Beach Festival (June 16 and 17)
The North Beach Festival may not have the national cache that bigger summer music festivals like Outside Lands do, but it’s a local institution and a great way to kick off the summer season in style. This street fair is now in its 64th year, and the combination of arts, crafts, and street food are a perfect showcase for some of the best culture the Frisco area has to offer. More than a hundred craft vendors and 20 gourmet food vendors will be on hand.
But the real star of the show is the music. Four stages throughout the event showcase perennial local favorites and up-and-coming acts on the verge of breaking out, but the hottest acts are reserved for the main stage at the intersection of Columbus and Broadway.
Fillmore Jazz Festival (June 30 and July 1)
The Fillmore Jazz Festival isn’t just one of the coolest and most well-organized jazz festivals in San Fran (vying with the SF Jazz Fest for the title), it’s also the largest on the west coast. Jazz luminaries pour in from throughout the United States to show off what they’ve got at this two-day event. Entry is free for everyone, and the event sprawls out over twelve square blocks in the Pacific Heights neighborhood.
The festival is now in its 34th year, and they’re celebrating their storied legacy with the theme of “throwback”. Many of the artists featured this year were regular participants during the festival’s creative height in the mid-1990s, and the result is an eclectic blend of experimental jazz that mixes together elements of hip-hop, funk, and Latin music alongside more traditional approaches to jazz standards. You can expect an event that feels as much like a 20-year reunion as it does a traditional music festival. Performers include Marshall Arts, Alphabet Soup, and Jungle Biskit, and festival mainstay Kim Nalley will be returning once again to close out the event at the California Street Stage.
Outside Lands (August 10 – 12)
Outside Lands may not have the storied, decades-long legacy of music festivals like the Fillmore Jazz Festival or the North Beach Festival, but for residents searching out a weekend-long party featuring some of the hottest acts around, it’s truly the event to beat. Taking place at Golden Gate Park, the event has been going on since 2008, and its organizers are highly conscientious about hosting a festival that’s ecologically conscious. Attendees are encouraged to use public transportation to arrive.
If there’s one thing the Outside Lands promoters have proven themselves capable of, it’s drawing some of the biggest international acts to their stages, and the 2018 lineup isn’t any different. Headlining the 2018 festival are Florence + The Machine, the Weeknd, and Janet Jackson. But the side acts are every bit as diverse and impressive. From ascended indie darlings like the Growlers and Bon Iver to hip-hop and R&B impresarios like Janelle Monáe and Future to long-established stars like Beck and Carly Rae Jepsen, there’s bound to be acts suited to everyone’s tastes. This year, Outside Lands has partnered with dozens of local restaurants to offer a delicious taste of the Bay area that visitors can snack on between sets.
Stern Grove (Sundays from June 17 to August 19)
Even on weekends when there aren’t dedicated summer festivals happening, you can always depend on Stern Grove to dependably provide an exceptional evening of live music. This pop-up festival series opens at 2 PM during every Sunday during the season, and its diverse selection of performers offer a break from the sort of headliners you’d expect to find at more traditional music festivals. Kicking off the festival on Father’s Day this year is the fundraising event known as the Big Picnic. Grammy-winning legends Peabo Bryson and Jeffrey Osborne will be on hand to deliver their soulful brand of adult contemporary music. Every following event will feature headliners that span a variety of different musical influences. Announced performers include Ziggy Marley, the Mexican Institute of Sound, and Femi Kuti and the Positive Force. Stern Grove wears its high culture credibility and civic pride on its sleeve. Later entries in the series will feature both the San Francisco Ballet in a performance directed by Helgi Tomasson and the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Jace Ogren.
J-Pop Summit (September 8 and 9)
The J-Pop Summit is more than just a music festival. It’s a celebration of the rich heritage of Japanese culture present in Frisco. The event, hosted by SUPERFROG and the Japanese Film Festival of San Francisco, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The current line-up has yet to be announced, but if it’s anything like last year, visitors can expect a collection of international stars who really show off the richness of the world of Japanese pop music. 2017 featured the all-girl rock band Band-Maid, soul musician and former idol member Misaki Iwasa, and idol group Babyraids Japan. The festival, which takes place in traditional Japantown, also offers a range of non-musical performances, food tastings, art exhibits, and gaming demonstrations. While it may fall towards the end of the summer, it can serve as a perfect palate cleanser for the more conventional events that fill the city’s festival season.