I love to attend concerts year round, but there’s just something about catching a show in the summertime that feels so good. It could be the memories of all those high school and college breaks, when the feeling of freedom followed me to every concert. Or the fact that many summer shows take place outdoors, with green grass, starry skies, and warm summer breezes part of the experience.
Here in the city, it’s certainly not the warm summer air that makes us come out to enjoy a good show. Nonetheless, we do come out. This season, a particularly great assortment of acts descends upon us, from Jay Z and Beyoncé’s debut at AT&T Park, to the spectacular lineup at this year’s Outside Lands, to Sir Paul McCartney’s farewell concert at Candlestick Park. Whether you’re into jazz, classical, reggae, or rock ‘n’ roll, there’s something you’ll love. The best news is that your favorite concert may cost nothing more than a moderate wait in line and the schlepping of your favorite beach chair, as all the free concert series are offering a particularly great selection of world-renowned talent this season.
So what are you waiting for? Check out our concert schedule and grab some tickets before they’re gone like summer.
Golden Gate Park comes alive with music once again, as dozens of talented acts convene in Golden Gate Park for this favorite three-day summer music festival benefiting the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department. This year’s event, held the weekend of Aug. 8-10, includes Kanye West, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Killers, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Arctic Monkeys, Death Cab For Cutie, Ray LaMontane, and Tedeschi Trucks Band. While you’re basking in amazing music, be sure to sample some of the tasty treats offered by the newest food vendors, including AQ, Beast and the Hare, TBD, and Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream (sfoutsidelands.com).
STERN GROVE FESTIVAL
This summer marks the 77th season of the free outdoor concert series at Sigmund Stern Grove, at the beautiful outdoor space off 19th Avenue and Sloat. Running from June 22 through Aug. 24, the series features a diverse range of performances, from rock bands to full orchestras, opera house to international dance and theatre troupes. This year’s standouts include Smokey Robinson, Rufus Wainwright, the San Francisco Symphony, Sergio Mendes, and The Zombies. All concerts take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. For more information, or to sample a playlist from the season’s recording artists, visit sterngrove.org.
YERBA BUENA GARDENS FESTIVAL
The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival presents free cultural and community programs year-round, including live music concerts in a beautiful outdoor setting. The 2014 series kicked off in May with the Grammy-winning Pacific Mambo Orchestra and continues through October with an eclectic array of artists from around the world and, of course, the Bay Area. Upcoming shows include the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Musical Art Quintet, Jerry Gonzales & the Fort Apache Band, Rumbaché, and Tom Rigney & Flambeau with special guest Carlos Reyes (ybgf.org).
GOLDEN GATE PARK BAND
One of the last big-city outdoor bands to present a full season of entertainment, the Golden Gate Park Band has mastered the art of versatility. Dating back to 1882 and currently led by Michael L. Wirgler, the band shakes it up Sunday afternoons in the summer with classical and opera picks, Broadway tunes and more. In fact, the band’s so versatile it can metamorphose into a swing band in an instant. The 132nd season of this free concert series runs through Oct. 12, with all shows held at the Spreckles Temple of Music at 1 p.m. most Sundays (goldengateparkband.org).
SFJAZZ SUMMER SESSIONS
Now underway, the second annual SFJazz summer concert series began last month and runs through August. The July program kicks off July 12 with comedian Bill Cosby taping a special show for his 77th birthday celebration. Other summer highlights include Tierney Sutton performing the songs of Joni Mitchell, Chuco Valdés & the Afro-Cuban Messengers, Grammy-winning jazz/R&B band Snarky Puppy, and trumpeter-composer Tom Harrell’s Colors of a Dream featuring Esperanza Spalding. Big Band trumpet legend Doc Severinsen wraps up the summer sessions with a special performance with the Tommy Igoe Big Band on Aug. 24 (sfjazz.org).
SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY SUMMER
Expect a hot summer at Davies Symphony Hall, where a range of worldwide talent is set to heat up the house, starting with the 12-piece “little orchestra” Pink Martini on July 3. Families will enjoy Pixar in Concert, featuring clips and scores from some of our favorite Pixar films, July 17–20, as well as the Grease Sing-Along on July 20. From July 24–25, singer-songwriter Cheyenne Jackson performs tunes from memorable American films. And July 30–31, iconic singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge performs some of her top hits as well as songs off her new album (sfsymphony.org/summer).
OTHER HOT ACTS
Don’t miss Echo & The Bunnymen at The Regency Ballroom on Aug. 2, as well as Beyoncé and Jay Z in their first appearance at AT&T Park Aug. 5–6, as part of their nationwide On The Run tour. At the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 1980s band New Order performs July 11, while pop star Robin Thicke arrives for a makeup performance July 18 (billgrahamcivicauditorium.com). At the hip Fillmore, Jimmy Cliff hits the stage July 19, while The Mighty Mighty Bosstones perform Aug. 15 (thefillmore.com). Meanwhile, don’t miss Lynyrd Skynyrd Aug. 16 and R&B legend B.B. King Aug. 22 at the Warfield (thewarfieldtheatre.com). And what better way to end the summer than with rock legend Paul McCartney, whose “Farewell to Candlestick: The Final Concert” takes place Aug. 14 at Candlestick Park, the venue where the Beatles played their final full concert as a group in August 1966.