If there's one thing the North Bay is good at, it's free outdoor festivals. A full seven of the below ten suggestions fit that bill, so if you're packing for a day trip, a lawn chair, blanket and sunscreen will probably come with you. Luckily, the recent fires haven't put a damper on summertime in Sonoma County, so click through for more details and enjoy a weekend north of the bridge.
Live at Lagunitas
June 12 – Oct. 2
Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma
Seeing a band who'd normally play the Fillmore in a small, 300-capacity outdoor amphitheater is tempting enough for most music fans. But when the tickets are free? That changes it to “pretty much all music fans,” which is why you'll want to be quick on the mouse-click if you're hoping to check out a show at the venerable Petaluma brewery. Tickets are offered three weeks in advance of each show in the season, and this year includes tUnE-yArDs, M. Ward, James McMurtry, Fantastic Negrito and more. The sound is always great and the vibe — well, let's just say the Lagunitas crew doesn't limit their mood enhancers to beer.
Krush Backyard Concerts
May 31 – Sept. 6
KRSH Studios, Santa Rosa
They just do things differently in Sonoma County. Whereas in San Francisco, radio stations host huge showcases at the Shoreline Amphitheater or the Oracle Arena, Santa Rosa's popular station The Krush (95.9-FM) host its favorite acts playing in the studio backyard — which is to say, the grassy area behind a cluster of old-time railroad train cars, from which the DJs broadcast. Blankets, babies and beer are are welcome, and this year's free series includes a blues night with Wee Willie Walker, a reggae night with Sol Horizon, a rockabilly night with Jinx Jones and more.
Tuesdays in the Plaza
May 29 – Aug. 28
Healdsburg Plaza, Healdsburg
I'll never forget the time Chuck Prophet played on the Healdsburg Plaza and, scanning the crowd full of fine summer dresses and Louboutin heels, referred to the scene as “Beverly Hills-burg.” Indeed, regulars to this free outdoor series set up their tables with wine and cheese, and begin mingling hours before the music begins — so you'll want to get there early. It pays off in killer music, which this year includes Con Brio, Royal Jelly Jive, Charlie Musselwhite, John Santos and more, all free. And, with wine flowing, people do sometimes jump in the fountain and dance in the water.