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Park It for the Summer 

A survival guide for outdoor musical events in the city.

Wednesday, Jun 25 2008
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Attending open-air summer music events has universal hazards, from scorching sun and drunken lunkheads to the abject horror of overflowing Porta Pottis. San Francisco also offers the oddly nonsummer twist of absurdly broad temperature variables, as well as the possibility of pea-soup fog and gale-force gusts. When venturing out to Golden Gate Park to take in a little music or perhaps some renegade dancing, you might want to consider packing a parka.

There's no shortage of fun, outdoorsy musical stuff coming up this summer, from the SF Mime Troupe's perennial performances in city parks to all-day festivals and guerrilla dance parties. So here are some helpful hints for maximizing your S.F. summer sonic experience.

Dress for the occasion.

As already mentioned, the unpredictability of the local weather makes this a dicey decision, especially if there's any chance you're staying out after dark. Temps can drop more than 20 degrees after the sun goes down, and if the city's infamous winds are in full effect, it can be bone-chillingly brisk. Best advice: Pack layers, especially if your destination is someplace westward like Stern Grove.

Tote a wad of cash.

The cost of essentials like water and food at any event will probably range from moderately ridiculous to highway robbery, and when those fascistic affairs won't let you bring your own grub past the entrance gate, you're gonna have to pay for your sustenance. In addition, such limited-edition desirables as T-shirts and other merch usually require a fistful of green. Some vendors might take plastic, but let's see you buy a $9 kebab with anything other than cash.

Pack a survival kit of essentials.

In addition to the aforementioned cash and clothing, consider such fundamentals as water, snacks and beverages, sunscreen, a hat, vitamins and/or Emergen-C, toilet paper, sunglasses, and earplugs. Oh, and throw some condoms in there, if you're looking to get lucky.

Bring the right attitude.

People respond much more positively to someone with a big smile than to a surly self-centered turd who just cut in front of them. Be polite, and counter the negatroids with niceness. You'd be surprised how well that works. If you're going to be negotiating crowds at a street fair or packed-out festival, know your maximum mob tolerance and plan accordingly.

Pace yourself.

Whether you're imbibing recreational substances or dancing in the hot sun, it's probably best to take it easy and go for the long haul. Not only is passing out in the middle of the afternoon unattractive and dumb, it also often means you'll be missing out on the headlining artist you came to see.

Now that we've covered the basics, here are some pleasurable ways to apply your new-found summer skillz

Stern Grove Festival

One of San Francisco's most beloved traditions is this long-running free concert series in a bucolic grove off Sloat Boulevard at 19th Avenue, where anything goes weatherwise, from frigid fog to megasun. Upcoming shows include Alonzo King's Lines Ballet (featuring the legendary Pharoah Sanders) on July 20, and a veritable poi-fest called One Hawai'i on Aug. 10. You're strongly advised to get there way before the 2 p.m. start time and to bring something to sit on. www.sterngrove.org.

Fillmore Jazz Festival

Saturday, July 5, and Sunday, July 6, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. If you aren't afraid of crowds, join 90,000 of your fellow humans on Fillmore for the largest gratis jazz festival on the West Coast. With three stages of first-rate music and plenty of distractions in between, plan on killing a few hours.

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

Through October 26, this urban oasis adjacent to Yerba Buena Center is hosting all kinds of pan-cultural musical treats, from a Japanese music festival on Aug. 14 to the hip-hop of Bayonics on Sept. 11. The downtown location is the perfect place for spending a sunny afternoon. www.ybgf.org.

Dancing al fresco

Since 2005, Mission resident Amandeep Jawa has been doing dance flash mobs, where he shows up at various city locations with a portable sound system. Of late, he's taken to biking his porta-party around town on the back of his three-wheeled "Trikeasaurus." Deep, as he likes to be called, busts out the crowd-pleasing party music, from Jackson Five and Madonna to heavy funk and the latest hip-hop hits. Sign up at www.deeptrouble.com/flashdance. In fact, there are a herd of amateur impresarios of the ad hoc outdoor dance party working local parks. Try Craigslist or The Squid List for hot tips, or wander around until you hear the sounds.

The Tidal Wave 11

Holy hellhounds: The weekend of July 5 and 6 sees a free heavy music festival at one of San Francisco's best-kept secrets, the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park, from noon to 6 p.m. both days. There will be some 14 bands, including big names like Exodus and Hirax, and others with totally awesome names like Agenda of Swine and Zombie Holocaust. Visit www.thetidalwave.org. The amphitheater also hosts Jerry Day on Aug. 3 to honor its namesake.

North Beach Jazz Fest

Monday, July 21-Sunday, July 27. Some 100-plus artists perform in various North Beach locales over the course of a week. www.nbjazzfest.com.

Golden Gate Park

Did you know there's free swing dancing in the park every Sunday? Go to www.lindyinthepark.com to learn more about that. The drum circle on Hippie Hill in Sharon Meadow has evolved into a weirdly transcendent experiment in free improv, with dueling saxes and other nonpercussive instruments, and a jazz quartet often performs underneath the bridge across from the Conservatory of Flowers.

Outside Lands

Friday, August 22-Sunday, August 24. With more than 50 artists scheduled to perform over three days, ranging from megadraws like Radiohead and Tom Petty to popular up-and-comers such as Devendra Banhart and the Black Keys, this could be the biggest blowout to hit Golden Gate Park in years. Bands playing after dark in the park for the first time ever promises bonus weirdness. Tickets cost $225 for all three days, $85 for one day. www.sfoutsidelands.com.

The San Francisco Blues Festival

Friday, Sept. 26-Sunday, Sept. 28. The 36th incarnation of the world's oldest blues festival features a stellar array of acts, including Hot Tuna, Johnny Winter, Buckwheat Zydeco, and the Delta Groove All Star Blues Revue, as well as a series of blues-related films at the Roxie. Being at Fort Mason's Great Meadow only adds to the charm. www.sfblues.com.

Read more articles from Summer Guide:

Let the Games Beijing: Spend a day of Olympic proportions beyond the Dragon's Gate.

Taking a Shot for the Team!: A drinking game to get you through the Giants' dismal season.

Music for Swingers: The Giants' theme songs get us thinking outside the batter's box.

Half in the Bag in Half Moon Bay: It's worth the gas to get gassed Coastside.

About The Author

Mike Rowell

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