It’s on. This week marks the beginning of the 79th annual Stern Grove Concert series and the line up never disappoints. Or is it the venue? Either way, take a bunch of fine artists in all sorts of musical genres, assemble them every Sunday for 10 weeks in an outdoor natural amphitheater, toss in a few hoola hoops and baby strollers and spit it out for free, what’s not to love?
Every year I promise myself I’m going to splurge on a picnic table but that requires advanced commitment, which is not my forte. That said, if you have a couple bucks burning a hole in your pocket (it starts at $75 per seat) and better planning skills than I, now’s the time to pick your performance. From the master of Funk George Clinton to sultry Joan Osborne to the SF Symphony, there’s serious range.
Of course, you needn’t be a procrastinator to enjoy the show from the freebie seats on a well-placed picnic blanket in the grassy area in front of the stage or up the canyon perched under a canopy of trees. In fact, diehards and those in the know, stake their claim well before noon with the Sunday paper, a few extra bottles and some snacks. By the time 2 pm rolls around, it really doesn’t matter if the sun is shining or the fog has crept in because when the tunes get going and a few thousand people flock in, the scene always warms up.
Am I really saying that these concerts turn into an 8 hour commitment? For the really primo seats, maybe. That said, with no entry fee, you can show up halfway through the first set and no one’s going to say boo. Heck, I’ve sat through many a show in the meadow to the left of the stage and enjoyed listening even when watching the performers was no longer a viable option (though I don’t recommend that when the SF Ballet is on.)
Outdoors, music, free. Food, friends and, on jackpot days, sunshine! Dust off your cooler, and step into a SF tradition. And while it is theoretically, utterly free, someone’s got to pay the roadies. Consider chipping in when you’re grooving on.
Stern Grove Festival, 19th Ave. and Sloat Blvd., Sundays 2-4pm