Bodies pressed up against bodies. Dancing and singing with strangers. The fizzing and clinking of beer bottles cracked open in the summer sun.
For everything we’ve missed this past year, many music-loving San Franciscans have longed for live shows more than anything else. The pandemic robbed us of the 2020 festival season, and with it, San Francisco’s consistently thrilling selection of free, outdoor summer concerts. A recent announcement from the office of Mayor London Breed, therefore, is particularly welcome: the beloved Stern Grove Festival will go forward again this summer.
“The return of live music marks a joyful part of San Francisco’s recovery,” said Mayor Breed in a press release. “And while I know the official announcement of the lineup is to come, with what I’m hearing about the first show, I absolutely cannot wait to be there.”
Performances will be every Sunday from June 20 through August 29, starting at 2 p.m.. The much-anticipated lineup will be announced in the coming weeks.
The live music and dance event was cancelled for the first time in 82 years last season, having never even been rained-out in past years’ temperate summer months. Upwards of 10,000 people have attended the Sunday-afternoon performances in recent years, with guests lining up hours in advance to snag a coveted hillside seat.
This year, however, coronavirus safety precautions will be taming the free-wheeling nature of the event. Temporary fencing is currently being built to maintain social distancing, for example, while seating will be limited to 15 percent, or 1,700 people, for the first few concerts. Rather than lining up early day-of, guests will need to reserve their free tickets in advance for pods of four to six people on the Stern Grove website.
Given the large attendance in prior years and pent-up excitement for this year’s show, tickets are expected to sell out almost immediately after going on sale. A live stream will be available online for those who are unable to attend in person.
“This pandemic altered our lives, impacting livelihoods, health, family, and community connections.” said Stern Grove Festival Executive Director Bob Fiedler. “So, we are thrilled to be part of the healing process for San Francisco’s reopening.”
In past years, the Stern Grove Festival has showcased performances ranging from the refined beauty of the San Francisco Ballet to the groovy rhythms of hip hop trio Digable Planets. The grove itself, named for philanthropist Sigmund Stern, was built to host live events with it’s designated Concert Meadow. The outdoor stage and performance facilities were expanded after the grove was renovated in 2005.
The forthcoming lineup as well as updates to fluctuating pandemic restrictions will be posted on the Stern Grove website.