The Stern Grove Festival Lineup this Summer is Amazing
Stern Grove is a San Francisco summer tradition that is going on its 82nd year. For decades, visitors and locals alike have seen legendary performances in one of the most beautiful spots in the city for free.
The Stern Grove Festival has released their lineup for the upcoming season of Sunday concerts, happening June 16 to Aug. 18, 2019, and it includes traditional picks and newly commission material. Here’s a list of the artists coming to Stern Grove.
June 16: Digable Planets and Bang Data
The Festival’s 82nd season kicks off with jazz and hip-hop vibes from Grammy Award-winning jazz-rap fusion group Digable Planets. Comprised of rappers Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Mariana “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira, and Craig “Doodlebug” Irving, the trio gained stardom in 1993 with a Top 20 hit, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat).” The afternoon starts with the high-energy sounds of Oakland-based Latin hybrid hip-hop group Bang Data, led by singer/emcee Deuce Eclipse and producer/instrumentalist Caipo.
June 23: Los Van Van and Banda Sin Nombre
Los Van Van heats up the Grove with its revolutionary “songo” sound, a uniquely Cuban concoction of rock, jazz, and son designed for one thing: dancing! One of the most important bands in 20th century Cuban music, Los Van Van celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Opening the show is local group Banda Sin Nombre, a five-piece street band from San Francisco’s Mission District that mixes rich vocal harmonies with acoustic instruments.
June 30: Galactic and Baby & The Luvies
Seminal New Orleans group Galactic performs jam-based grooves inspired by the vibrant funk, R&B, and jazz traditions of their hometown. Formed in 1994, the six-member group is led by co-founding members guitarist Jeff Raines and bassist Robert Mercurio. Opening the show is San Francisco-based Baby & The Luvies, an original high-energy, soul-inspired, 10-piece dance band.
July 7: San Francisco Symphony with conductor Edwin Outwater
The San Francisco Symphony returns for its annual summer performance at Stern Grove Festival. Led by conductor Edwin Outwater, the Symphony performs a selection of classical favorites, including Mendelssohn’s "Fingal’s Cave" Overture, Opus 26, Elgar’s "Sea Pictures," Opus 37 with contralto Lauren Decker, and Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at an Exhibition." Edwin Outwater will be participating in a pre-performance Artist Talk at Stern Grove’s Trocadero Clubhouse at noon that day.
July 14: Mitski and Madeline Kenney
Hailed as the new vanguard of indie rock, Mitski offers carefully crafted songs and emotionally raw lyricism. Following the breakout success of 2016’s "Puberty 2," Mitski’s latest release, "Be the Cowboy," was heralded as one of the top albums of 2018 by Pitchfork, NPR, and more. Opening the show is the “twang-haze” stylings of Oakland-based artist Madeline Kenney.
July 21: Toots and the Maytals, Lee Fields and The Expressions
Stern Grove Festival presents a double-bill of reggae and funky soul with pioneering Jamaican group Toots and the Maytals and the prolific Lee Fields and the Expressions. Classic songs written and recorded by Toots and the Maytals have been covered by the likes of The Clash and The Specials, and the group was featured in the acclaimed 1972 film “The Harder They Come.” 50 years into a celebrated career, 68-year-old Lee Fields is one of soul’s hardest-working and most prolific musicians. Writing, recording, and performing with tenacity and his trademark suits, his latest album, "It Rains Love," was released this year on Big Crown Records.
July 28: San Francisco Ballet with Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson
San Francisco Ballet and Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson return to Stern Grove Festival with artists of the company performing a selection of works from their current repertoire. Renowned for its incomparable level of innovation, the San Francisco Ballet is one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States, not to mention one of the longest-running. Since its early years under the direction of American dance pioneers and brothers Lew, William, and Harold Christensen, San Francisco Ballet now presents more than 100 performances annually, both locally and internationally.
August 4: The Psychedelic Furs and James
Post-punk icons The Psychedelic Furs and folk-rock group James take the stage in a Brit-rock double-bill. Led by singer Richard Butler and his brother Tim Butler on bass, The Furs won over fans and critics alike by combining poetic lyrics, innovative rhythms, and melodies with a punk attitude. At the forefront of the British alternative scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s, James was founded in Manchester in 1982. The group gained a loyal following in the U.K. before hitting the top of the modern rock charts in the U.K. and U.S. with their 1991 single “Sit Down” from the album "Gold Mother."
August 11: Pink Martini and Barrio Manouche
An eclectic international cocktail of jazz, swing, world music, cabaret, chanson, and more, Pink Martini and vocalist China Forbes bring their genre-defying sound back to Stern Grove Festival. Pink Martini features a dozen musicians and performs its multilingual repertoire in over 25 languages on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout the world. Opening the show is local ensemble Barrio Manouche, an acoustic San Francisco-based international septet, with influences ranging from the swing of Louis Armstrong to the hot jazz of Django Reinhardt, flamenco, gypsy soul, and avant-garde jazz.
August 18: The Big Picnic and The Isley Brothers
The Big Picnic, A Benefit and Concert closes out the 82nd season with an admission-free concert starring R&B legends The Isley Brothers. With a career spanning more than six decades, The Isley Brothers made their mark on the R&B charts with the classic hit “Shout” and “Twist And Shout”. Their 1969 hit “It’s Your Thing” cemented their fame, shooting to #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and selling more than five million copies.
NOTE: All concerts begin at 2 p.m. at Sigmund Stern Grove, located at 19th Ave. and Sloat Blvd. (in San Francisco’s Sunset neighborhood) and are admission free. No tickets are required. Admittance is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Photo courtesy Stern Grove Festival