The Stern Grove festival, San Francisco’s beloved free summer-Sundays concert, has gone especially eclectic for 2019. In this, its 82nd annual year, the Symphony and the Ballet make their regular appearances on July 7 and July 28 (respectively) while the rest of the calendar is full of acts you likely have not seen in decades — if ever — and may not again for quite a while.
Late-’80s/early-’90s Brooklyn hip-hop artists Digable Planets open the festival on June 16 with the Bay Area’s outspoken Latinx rock trio, Bang Data, while later in the summer are un-missable names like New Orleans jam band Galactic (June 30), singer-songwriter Mitski (July 14), and multilingual cabaret swingers Pink Martini (Aug. 11). There are a couple of all-star double-billings, too namely the pairing of darker-than-you-may-realize 1980s New Wavers and John Hughes darlings Psychedelic Furs with early-90s Mancunians James (of karaoke mainstay “Laid” fame) on Aug. 4. But the ultimate crowd-pleaser might be reggae progenitors Toots & the Maytals with the inimitable soul ensemble Lee Fields & the Expressions on July 21.
As always, it’s first come, first served, with yoga at noon and the main show starting at 2:30 p.m. Walking down the path lined with nasturtiums to go see some free music for an afternoon is always a treat, but you can have an even better time (and support the programming for future generations) by reserving a picnic table for five or 10 people. It comes with free beverages and a parking space, starting at $500.
The series culminates on Sunday, Aug. 18, with the Big Picnic, and the performer this year is none other than the Isley Brothers, whose 65-year career has brought detours through numerous genres of pop, rock, and soul. See the full lineup for the 82nd Stern Grove Festival here.
Stern Grove Festival, Sundays, June 16-Aug. 18, at Sigmund Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard. Free, sterngrove.org