Ah, summer — when we make the switch from winter coats to light jackets, post up with beers and picnics on our favorite grassy knolls and, of course, hit up the many day parties, festivals and outdoor concerts the Bay Area has to offer.
While some multi-day festivals require bigger budgets, there are plenty of ways to see good music for free or cheap in the Bay Area, whether you're looking to party or enjoy some family-friendly entertainment. We've rounded up a variety of our favorite outdoor music experiences to help you plan your summer calendar.
May 25–27. Napa County Fairgrounds, Napa. Details here.
BottleRock is a festival with intergenerational, cross-genre appeal; this year's edition features chart-toppers like Bruno Mars, the Chainsmokers, Bleachers and Halsey alongside Incubus, Earth Wind & Fire, Billy Idol, E-40 and Snoop Dogg. Rising artists not to miss also include Tank and the Bangas, the whimsical, soulful band that won NPR's 2017 Tiny Desk Concert, plus Colombian electronic duo Bomba Estereo and pianist-turned-producer Nombe.
Huichica Music Festival
June 8 and 9. Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Sonoma. Details here.
Taking place in a rural, wine-country setting, Huichica Music Festival is a relaxing antidote to more popular fests like Outside Lands, where wading through crowds is a prerequisite to catching your favorite bands. The lineup generally revolves around indie rock and folk, and acts to look forward to this year include Vetiver performing their album Thing of the Past in full; Jonathan Richman of proto-punk band the Modern Lovers; psychedelic jam band Wooden Shjips; and longtime San Francisco indie rockers the Fresh & Onlys and Sonny Smith.
June 30 – July 1. Mosswood Park, Oakland. Details here.
Hosted by gay icon and filmmaker John Waters, Burger Boogaloo is a punk and garage extravaganza that Burger Records throws each summer at Mosswood Park, a location that normally gets little action other than pick-up basketball games on weekends. This year's headliners are synth-pop greats Devo and early punk band the Damned, plus performances by the Traditional Fools (featuring central garage rock revivalist Ty Segall), Hunx and his Punx, electropunk band Le Shok and Boogaloo mainstay the Mummies.
The Multivrs is Illuminated
Aug. 9–12. Various locations, San Francisco and Oakland. Details here.
Last year's The Universe Is Lit brought an eclectic lineup of underground punk, noise, hardcore and experimental bands from all over the country for a weekend-long fest that took place at venues like The Lab in the Mission and One Fam in Oakland. All of the acts on the bill were fronted by people of color, aligning today's punk scene with a long history of black and brown avant-garde. The party continues this year with The Multivrs is Illuminated, a four-day fest featuring bands, DJs, a film screening, panels and workshops. Artists announced so far include Drama (Bay Area), Precolumbian (Philadelphia), Sister Mantos (Los Angeles), JAX (Haiti), Softie (New Orleans), Squid Ink (Fresno) and No Babies (Oakland). The festival is donation-based, with no one turned away for lack of funds.
Aug. 10–12. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Details here.
Janet Jackson makes a welcome return into the public eye with a headlining set at this year's Outside Lands, topping the bill alongside The Weeknd and indie favorites Florence & the Machine. Janelle Monae, whose newest album Dirty Computer challenges pop's depictions of queerness, is also on the bill, along with Atlanta rap star Future, Pharrell's recently revived N.E.R.D., rising Vallejo rap group SOB x RBE, Oakland garage rockers Shannon & the Clams, super-producer DJ Snake, cult pop star Carly Rae Jepson and more. This is one of the most diverse Outside Lands lineups yet.
San Jose Jazz Summer Fest
Aug. 10–12. Plaza de César Chavez Park, San Jose. Details here.
San Jose Jazz Summer Fest is a playground for those who appreciate the instrumental virtuosity and eclecticism of one of America's finest musical traditions. Taking place over three days and featuring 12 stages, the festival includes contemporary jazz, big band, salsa, R&B, funk, soul and more. "Closer" singer Goapele headlines on Aug. 10; organist and producer Booker T. performs with a 10-piece band, showcasing his storied career at Stax Records; funk superstars Kool & the Gang close out the festival on Aug. 12.
Poolside Day Parties at the Phoenix Hotel
May 6 – Sept. 30. Phoenix Hotel, San Francisco. Details here.
Hip electronic acts one might see at clubs like 1015 Folsom get a chance to perform in a more relaxed environment at the Phoenix Hotel's poolside parties, which take place on select Sundays through the end of summer. Snakehips, a UK production duo that makes dreamy R&B, perform on May 27, followed by Andre Power, co-founder of influential indie label Soulection, on July 15. Cult house act Crystal Waters of "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)" fame performs a special live set for Pride weekend on June 24. A-Trak, co-founder of hip-hop and electronic label Fool's Gold, closes out the series on Sept. 30; he's known for mixing everything from Jimi Hendrix to Kanye West on his turntables.
Second Sundays, May 13 – Oct. 14. Lost & Found, Oakland. Details here.
Soulovely is a feel-good daytime dance party that centers queer and trans women of color, and everyone is welcome. Veteran Bay Area DJs Lady Ryan and Emancipacion heat the dance floor with hip-hop, R&B and house, with a good dose of nostalgic throwbacks. The DJs intentionally avoid music with misogynistic lyrics, and the party attracts an intergenerational, diverse crowd, with rapper Aima the Dreamer as the host. This year's edition of Soulovely takes place at the beer garden Lost and Found; pop-up Tacos y Chelas has food for sale, and there are plenty of craft beers on tap and games to play in the garden.
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
May 12 – Oct. 31. Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco. Details here.
Yerba Buena Gardens festival is a free event series jam-packed with music, dance and performing arts from many international traditions. Grammy-winning percussionist Jose Cabanillas performs with his Latin jazz, mambo and salsa orchestra Cabanijazz Project on May 17. On June 9, Gamelan Sekar Jaya plays enchanting, percussion-driven Balinese music. And on June 30, Iranian-born musician Dina Zarif presents Music of the Banned, featuring artists from Muslim-majority countries affected by Trump's travel ban as a gesture of defiance and solidarity. For the dozens of other events, make sure to check Yerba Buena's calendar.
Carnaval San Francisco
May 26 and 27. Harrison Street between 16th and 24th Streets. Details here.
Carnaval San Francisco started in the '70s as a celebration of Latin American culture from all over the diaspora, with music, food, dance ensembles and more. This year, Latin soul band El Chicano, known for classics like "Sabor a Mi" and "Tell Her She's Lovely," performs, along with Latin Grammy-winning salsa singer India, Latin rock band Malo of "Suavecito" fame and more. There's still time to brush up on your dance moves.
Stern Grove Festival
June 17 – Aug. 19. 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco. Details here.
For the past 81 summers, San Franciscans have gathered in Balboa Terrace for Stern Grove, a free festival with a roster of A-list live acts one would normally catch at the Regency Ballroom or Fox Theater. Acts to look forward to include Ziggy Marley on June 24, indie rockers Thao & the Get Down Stay Down on July 1 and Afrobeat band Femi Kuti and the Positive Force (along with Oakland hip-hop jazz ensemble Sol Development) on Aug. 5.