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10 Free Concerts Not to Miss in the Bay Area This Summer

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a smiling woman performs at a microphone on stage
Meklit performs at a festival in Helsinki.  (Petri Anttila)

According to economist Thorstein Veblen, conspicuous consumption results in a counter-intuitive dynamic: Increasing a luxury item’s cost can actually lead to higher demand. But no social scientist has explained why the satisfaction of experiencing live music seems to rise as the price of admission approaches zero. My theory is that Veblen goods acquire cache due to the perception of exclusivity, while free concerts often foster a sense of welcoming solidarity, as newbie passersby mingle with devoted fans.

The Bay Area’s multifarious free concert options may not provide an antidote to the region’s Veblen epidemic, but these sounds of summer are a celebration, and everyone’s invited.

A Black man in a cap and patterned blue shirt stands with a saxophone, with moving boxes and an organ in the background
Howard Wiley in his Oakland studio. (Gabe Meline/KQED)

Howard Wiley’s SF Love: Playing For the People

Golden Gate Park Bandshell, San Francisco
June 1, 2-6 p.m.

Oakland saxophone great Howard Wiley presented his soul-powered love letter to California at the SFJAZZ Center last March, and he’s bringing the party to the Golden Gate Bandshell as part of the recently launched SF Live concert series. Wiley’s band shares the afternoon program with DJ Knowpa Slaps, MC Radioactive and Bayonics vocalist Jairo Vargas’s side project, Rojai and the Pocket. Drawing on hip-hop, funk, gospel, blues and bebop, Wiley has been devising outrageously creative mash-ups (think “Hotel California” meets “Californication”). Produced in partnership with Illuminate and Madrone Art Bar, where Wiley’s band Extra Nappy held down a weekly residency for years before the pandemic, the concert is part of SF Live’s six-month series of free concerts.

South African musicians Steve and Bokani Dyer (right to left). (Yerba Buena Gardens Festival)

Dyertribe: Steve & Bokani Dyer + Izithunywa featuring Nbado Zulu & Linda Sikhakhane

Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco
June 8, 1-3 p.m.


South African jazz musicians were in the forefront of the struggle against apartheid, and this double bill is part of a 30th-anniversary celebration of the country’s first free, multiracial election. One of South Africa’s leading improvisers, saxophonist Steve Dyer, came of age in the crucible of the anti-apartheid movement. He performs with Dyertribe, his duo with his son, pianist/composer Bokani Dyer. Offering another view of South Africa’s creative ferment, the group Izithunywa, featuring trumpeter Ndabo Zulu and saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane, draw deeply on traditional music from Botswana and the Zulu people. Co-presented with the Museum of the African Diaspora, the Bay Area residency includes a free talk and musical demonstration at MoAD on Friday, June 7, 6:30-8 p.m., “South African Jazz: A Musical Journey Through Traditions and Time.”

American jazz duo Tuck and Patti, William Charles “Tuck” Andress and singer Patricia “Patti” Cathcart Andress perform during the Newport Folk Festival 2018 at Fort Adams State Park on July 27, 2018 in Newport, Rhode Island. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)

Tuck & Patti

Rinconada Park, Palo Alto
June 8, 6:30 p.m.

Palo Alto’s long-running Twilight Concert Series opens with hometown heroes Tuck & Patti, a.k.a. guitar wizard Tuck Andress and bewitching vocalist Patti Cathcart. The couple has been performing as a self-contained duo for close to four decades, honing an expansive repertoire of gracefully reharmonized jazz, soul, R&B and pop tunes. Cathcart has also written emotionally bountiful originals that celebrate love and forgiveness. While they haven’t released a new album since 2007, a new generation of listeners have discovered Tuck & Patti via Andress’ niece St. Vincent, who traveled with the duo as a roadie and tour manager.

Marcus Shelby. (Courtesy of the artist)

Healdsburg Jazz’s Juneteenth Celebration

Downtown Healdsburg
June 15, 2-8:30 p.m.

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival (June 15-23), which has continued to punch well above its weight under the direction of San Francisco bass maestro Marcus Shelby, kicks off with a free, all-day Juneteenth celebration in the town’s picturesque plaza. It’s a musical triple bill headlined by the sextet of trombone star Steve Turre, the festival’s artist in residence. Saxophones are well represented by Person2Person, the quintet co-led by 89-year-old tenor great Houston Person and his younger colleague, fiery altoist Eric Person. And pianist Darrell Grant performs with his Modern Jazz Quartet-inspired chamber jazz band Darrell Grant and MJ New.

Pacific Mambo Orchestra. (Courtesy of the artists)

Pacific Mambo Orchestra

Fulton Plaza, San Francisco
June 20, 4-7 p.m.

The Pacific Mambo Orchestra shocked the Latin music world with an upset victory at the 2014 Grammys, when the group’s eponymous crowd-funded release won Best Tropical Latin Album. Ever since, the East Bay big band has been a mainstay at festivals and nightclubs. Co-led by trumpeter Steffen Kuehn and pianist Christian Tumalan, the band is packed with top players and arrangers, like trombonist Mike Rinta and baritone saxophonist Aaron Lington. With Armando Cordoba, Christelle Durandy and Braulio Barrera providing an array of lead vocals, the PMO is designed to keep dance floors crowded.

Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra

Piccolo Pavilion in Menke Park, Corte Madera
June 23, 5-6:30 p.m.

Guitarist Anthony Paule’s Soul Orchestra is a horn-powered combo devoted to swaggering, 1960s and ’70s blues and soul emanating from Detroit, Muscle Shoals and Los Angeles. The group has earned a devoted following through regular appearances at European music festivals, showcasing powerhouse vocalists like Terrie Odabi and Wee Willie Walker. For this concert, part of the Corte Madera Summer Concert series, the APSO is joined by Willy Jordan, a versatile singer (and drummer) who’s toured and recorded with John Lee Hooker, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite and Gator Beat.

Le Jazz Hot. (Courtesy of the artists)

Le Jazz Hot Quartet

Los Gatos Town Plaza
June 26, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

A long-running mid-week concert series in Los Gatos, Jazz on the Plazz kicks off this year with the timeless swing of Le Jazz Hot Quartet. A distilled version of guitarist Paul Mehling’s Hot Club of San Francisco (the ensemble that spearheaded a North American revival of Django Reinhardt’s and Stéphane Grappelli’s ebullient 1930s sound), the quartet explores Reinhardt standards, Beatles tunes and numerous originals with the requisite rhythmic authority.

Ana Tijoux performs on stage during Day 3 of the Womad Festival at Charlton Park on July 29, 2023 in Malmesbury, England. (C Brandon/Redferns)

Ana Tijoux & J Noa

Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco
Aug. 3, 1–3 p.m.

After her hit 2010 solo debut, 1977, French-born Chilean MC Ana Tijoux was dubbed “South America’s answer to Lauryn Hill: equally skillful at singing and rapping” by The New York Times. In truth, she’s forged a highly personal sound, combining old-school hip-hop production with Latin American instrumentation. Her recent album, Vengo, features some of her most appealing work, and she brings a full band to the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. With teenage Dominican rap sensation J Noa playing an opening set, this double bill is the city’s premier global hip-hop summer showcase.

Monica Salmaso. (Roberto Filho/Divulgacão)

Brazil in the Gardens: Monica Salmaso, Guinga and Teca Cardoso

Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco
Aug. 15, 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Monica Salmaso made her mark with Afro-Sambas, the classic 1997 album with guitarist Paulo Bellinati interpreting Baden Powell’s and Vinícius de Moraes’ incantatory song cycle. The São Paulo vocalist doesn’t make it to the Bay Area often, and this concert stems from California Brazil Camp, which sends a contingent of faculty every summer from the redwoods of Cazadero to San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens. She’s joined by Guinga, a master guitarist, vocalist and composer whose songs have been recorded by Brazilian legends such as Elis Regina, Clara Nunes and Miúcha; and multi-instrumentalist Teco Cardoso, a brilliant improviser on saxophones and flutes known for his work with Edu Lobo, Joyce, João Donato, Rosa Passos and Baden Powell himself.

Meklit Hadero.
Meklit Hadero. (Ronald Davis)

Meklit’s Movement Immigrant Orchestra

Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco
Aug. 31, 1-2:30 p.m.


San Francisco-based Ethiopian American singer, songwriter and expert story wrangler Meklit manifests her multi-platform Movement initiative at the Gardens with a dozen musicians hailing from 10 countries. Focusing on the experience of border-crossing artists, the production draws on her podcast, nationally syndicated public radio broadcast and stage production. Performers include Mexican singer-songwriter Diana Gameros, Iranian composer Sahba Aminikia, Italian percussionist extraordinaire Marco Peris, Malian virtuoso Mamadou Sidibé, Carnatic percussionist Rohan Krishnamurthy, Barrio Manouche guitarist Javi Jimenez, Iranian American bassist/composer Safa Shokrai and Meklit herself.

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