Feeling the sun’s warmth, sipping something cold and dancing with friends is life-giving. And we need more of that medicine after three years of pandemic living. Fortunately for Bay Area music fans, there’s plenty of opportunity to do all of the above with a summer calendar packed with festivals and concerts. The events we’ve rounded up range from $free.99 to splurge-worthy experiences to help you get out there and make the most of our warm(ish)-weather months.
Don’t let the boyish grin and Crocs fool you — LaRussell’s razor-sharp lyrics and savvy business maneuvers command respect. Truly a man of the people, he’s built a successful brand by selling pay-what-you-want concert tickets, and transparently narrating his artistic journey on social media in real time. His grassroots momentum has caught the eye of crucial industry figures: most recently, he appeared on a DJ Drama mixtape alongside Lil Wayne, Lil Baby and Tyler, the Creator. It probably won’t be too much longer that his backyard can contain his growing fanbase, so consider his summer Live from the Pergola shows a special opportunity to see the rising Vallejo artist perform at his parents’ house, surrounded by his real-life friends and family.
Saturdays, June 17–Sept. 2023
Various locations, San Francisco
Local musicians need a leg up to rebound from the many difficulties they’ve faced during the pandemic. And so do small businesses in neighborhoods with dwindling foot traffic and empty storefronts. As part of the solution, local promoter Noise Pop and the nonprofit Civic Joy Fund are hoping to create a positive feedback loop of fun to bolster San Francisco’s culture and economy. Their new Summer of Music SF concert series kicks off in June, with free shows to be announced in neighborhoods such as the Mission, the Castro, Chinatown, Bayview and more.
Sundays, June 18–Aug. 20, 2023
Stern Grove Meadow, San Francisco
Free with RSVP
Stern Grove is a San Francisco institution, and this year the free series of park concerts kicks off with a performance by jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy. Other lineup highlights include the gritty synthpop of Santigold, the San Francisco Symphony, punk poet laureate Patti Smith and the Flaming Lips, who close out the festival at its annual Big Picnic.
With Micahtron and Your Muther
June 25, 2023
1015 Folsom, San Francisco
Way before it was mainstream, Peaches made anthems for the pursuit of feminine sexual pleasure — with album art that featured natural-body nudity, fake beards, balaclavas and other provocative fun that doesn’t cater to the male gaze. Now it seems like the world has caught up to the cult-favorite indie star, who’s been paving the way since 2000. What else is in the teaches of Peaches? If there’s one Pride event you can’t miss, it’s Peaches in a live show produced by feminist adult performer Courtney Trouble. Rapper Micahtron and genre-bending DJ Your Muther will open, with performances by Club Mercy BDSM Burlesque and more.
Mosswood Meltdown is a wholesome gathering for punks of all ages, and this year’s fest — hosted, as always, by counterculture godfather John Waters — brings some rare treats. Following last year’s near-spiritual Bikini Kill set, Kathleen Hanna returns in a rare appearance with her electroclash outfit Le Tigre. Veteran female rap group JJ Fad, Brontez Purnell’s lovably chaotic band Gravy Train!!!! and punky funk veterans ESG are among the standout acts.
Ic3peak embodies true punk — not just because of their screamo vocals or dark makeup, but because the Russian duo has made it their mission to stand against oppression in an era when political dissent is criminalized in their home country. The two have previously risked arrest over anti-police lyrics. More recently, they’ve boldly taken a public anti-war stance, which carries a jail sentence in Russia. Fortunately their international profile is expanding, especially with their 2022 album Kiss of Death, which features Russian and English lyrics in an exquisite nu metal, hyperpop and rap mashup.
With The Alchemist, Monroe Flow and Dvme
July 26, 2023
The Fox Theater, Oakland
Larry June has had an impressive come-up this year. After a decade of grinding it out in the local scene — from early SoundCloud mixtapes to opening a boba shop — the entrepreneurial rapper exploded nationally with his Alchemist-produced album The Great Escape, a collection of luxuriously laidback rhymes for coastal drives to cliffside mansions. Aspirational yet playful, June’s raps bridge hip-hop generations, and he has a proud legion of fans at home in the Bay watching his rise. The two hometown dates of his national tour sold out, but fortunately The Fox Theater has added a third night with tickets available.
July 28–30, 2023
Silverado Resort, Napa
Single-day general admission: $225+, three-day pass: $575+
The 2010s saw the explosion of mega-fests like Coachella, whose lineups are enormous enough to appeal to hundreds of thousands of fans. But there’s something to be said for a more intimate experience catering to the diehards of a specific scene. Blue Note Jazz Festival is that event for the grown-and-sexy hip-hop, jazz and soul crowd. It’s definitely on the pricey side, and in a remote wine country location, but seeing Mary J. Blige, Nas and Chance the Rapper in a small-ish crowd as the sun sets behind oak trees sounds like a peak experience to me. This festival celebrates top-tier Black musical excellence: the 2023 lineup also includes funk legend George Clinton, drum virtuoso Yussef Dayes and powerhouse vocalists like Ari Lennox.
Aug. 11–13, 2023
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Single-day general admission: $199+, three-day pass: $449+
Two words: Kendrick Lamar. Outside Lands, one of San Francisco’s most popular music festivals, secured one of this generation’s brightest hip-hop talents this year. The rest of its lineup features some pretty special selections, including sad-girl icon Lana Del Rey, queer country crooner Orville Peck, our nation’s hot girl-in-chief Megan Thee Stallion and Afrofuturist pop star Janelle Monáe — who just announced that they’ll usher in a luxuriously sex-positive summer with their June album, The Age of Pleasure.
Aug. 14, 2023
Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
Souls of Mischief have been chilling from 93 ’til Infinity, and their Oakland alternative hip-hop opus turned 30 years old this year. The group is spending the year celebrating with a 93-stop world tour, which culminates in an intimate concert at the Great American Music Hall. Souls of Mischief and their larger collective, Hieroglyphics, set the bar for MCs of their generation with quick-witted, acrobatic rhymes. And they’ve given back to hip-hop culture through their annual festival Hiero Day, which takes place a couple weeks after the GAMH show on Sept. 4 (lineup to be announced).
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