Must-See Concerts in the Bay Area This Fall

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Japanese Breakfast plays the 2018 Noise Pop Music and Arts Festival. (Estefany Gonzalez)
Japanese Breakfast plays the 2018 Noise Pop Music and Arts Festival.  (Estefany Gonzalez)

Even with BottleRock and Outside Lands sold out, there are plenty of live music experiences to look forward to this fall, especially beyond the mega-fests.

A concert on a mountaintop, beloved local acts at intimate clubs, a walking sound installation, must-see touring artists—you’ll find it all on this list. And because Bay Area music lovers can never be confined to a single genre or subculture, we’ve tried to include a bit of everything.

Reminder: COVID precautions remain in flux. Proof of vaccination is a requirement for many indoor events. Before making plans, and again before arrival, be sure to check event websites for the latest protocols.

Los Rakas with Qing Qi

The New Parish, Oakland
Sept. 10
Masks required

Sponsored

Los Rakas rep Oakland as hard as they do Panama, and influences from the two regions come together in a dynamic, signature sound that bridges Latin trap, hyphy, reggaeton and dancehall. The cousin duo has been rocking in the Bay Area since the mid 2000s, and on their 2019 album, Manes De Negocio, they pay homage to their Afro-Latino roots and the African diaspora’s enormous contributions to reggaeton and urbano. Known for their pumped-up live shows, Los Rakas take the stage at their hometown concert hall, the New Parish, with support from Qing Qi, the East Palo Alto rapper whose music is delightfully raunchy and rebellious.

Sound Summit

Mountain Theater, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley
Sept. 11
Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required

Nature lovers know that Mt. Tam is home to some of the most stunning hiking trails in the Bay Area, with 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean, the Oakland and San Francisco skylines and even Mt. Diablo. This fall, Sound Summit returns to Mt. Tam’s Mountain Theater, a 4,000-seat amphitheater at the peak. The festival’s guitar-forward lineup boasts folk singer-songwriter Father John Misty, New Orleans funk band Cha Wa, Mill Valley folk singer Teal Collins, Texan rocker Lukas Nelson, folk-rock band Allah-Las and DJ Andy Cabic. Their stylings should provide a mellow soundtrack for gazing at the sunset and communing with bluejays and chipmunks. Round-trip bus service up to the top of the mountain is available. And remember, this is one of the Bay Area’s most prized natural treasures, so leave no trace.

The Residents

Castro Theatre, San Francisco
Sept. 17
Proof of vaccination and masks required

The Residents have been creating delightfully wacky music, performance and multimedia art in the Bay Area since 1969, making them as much of an institution as, say, the San Francisco Symphony or the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Throughout their boundless career, they’ve written spoken-word rock operas, created fictional universes, scored documentaries and helped popularize the art of the music video. And all the while, the members of the collective have remained mostly anonymous. During the last several years, their album release schedule has remained as prolific as ever, and in 2020 they performed at the Museum of Modern Art. The subject matter? “A ruined evangelist and his twisted obsession with a pair of gender-fluid conjoined twins he claims are miracle workers,” according to the museum. Their performance at the Castro Theatre should be no less imaginative.

La Santa Cecilia

The Ritz, San Jose
Sept. 17

The members of La Santa Cecilia met while busking on the streets of Los Angeles, and together the Grammy-winning group created a sound that spans cumbia, mariachi, jazz and bossa nova—a reflection of their many musical influences as the children of immigrants. Singing in Spanish about topics as varied as family tragedy, immigrant rights and queer love, lead vocalist Marisol Hernandez brings powerful storytelling to the band’s danceable, accordion-, guitar- and percussion-forward compositions.

Japanese Breakfast with Luna Li

Regency Ballroom, San Francisco
Sept. 30–Oct. 1
Proof of vaccination and masks required

Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast writes lyrics that trace delicate outlines of emotions, as if drawing on a foggy window on an introspective, snowy day. Her writerly curiosity as a musician propelled her into a second career as an author. Earlier this year, her memoir about her mother’s death and her Korean heritage, Crying in H Mart, became a New York Times best seller. And a few months later, in June, she released her critically acclaimed album Jubilee, an indie rock record with celebratory horns, hopeful strings, stomping dance floor catharses and bittersweet reflections on the fleeting nature of happiness. Harpist, violinist and multi-instrumentalist Luna Li joins her for two nights in San Francisco.

Isaiah Rashad

The Warfield, San Francisco
Oct. 7
Proof of vaccination and masks required

After five years of silence, Isaiah Rashad returned with what will surely be considered one of the best rap albums of 2021: The House is Burning. The project chronicles a search for hope after hitting rock bottom, with warm, nostalgic rhythms occasionally destabilized by lurching, gothic undertones. Drawing on influences such as Three 6 Mafia, Outkast and his Top Dawg label mate Kendrick Lamar, Rashad wrote the album after several bad years of substance abuse and mental health issues that forced him to disappear from public life and eventually get clean. He writes with the sage perspective of someone who’s been to hell and back, finding beauty even amid these traumatic experiences, and managing to still have fun.

Soundwave NEXT: Translocality

Various outdoor locations, Bay Area
Oct. 22, 2021–Feb. 22, 2022

Soundwave made its Translocality festival COVID-safe by commissioning site-specific works that listeners can access via the Echoes app as they walk through various landscapes. Lalin St. Juste, lead singer of the band the Seshen, created a piece for the Sutro Baths in San Francisco that questions the colonial-era artifact collections of figures like Adolph Sutro, a former San Francisco mayor. Travis “Queen” Roland takes participants into the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park, where they’ll listen to a soundtrack that pays homage to queer nightlife, punk rock, cruising and drag from the ’70s to now, and then takes us into the future. The other artists are Rumi Koshino, Fereshteh Toosi, Dylan Marx, LeAnn Perry, John Patrick Moore, Akaina Ghosh, Tyler Holmes and Dario Slavazza.

Nef the Pharaoh

Cornerstone, Berkeley
Oct. 23
Masks required

Sponsored

A Bay Area treasure, Nef the Pharaoh is carrying the torch of E-40 and Mac Dre with rhymes that are streetwise, politically aware, raunchy and occasionally psychedelic. The Vallejo native raps with the momentum of a bouncy ball, moving quickly between ideas and sometimes going in unpredictable directions. His breakout hit “Big Tymin” put him on the map in 2015, and since then he hasn’t slowed down with releases that have earned him a cult following—most recently, 2021’s SINsational.