Your Complete Guide to Owning the Summer Music Scene in San Francisco

Courtesy of Andrew Jorgensen / Outside Lands
Courtesy of Andrew Jorgensen / Outside Lands

It’s been 50 years since the infamous Summer of Love, when San Francisco became the epicenter of the counterculture movement, attracting musicians and Vietnam War protestors alike. There may be loads more techies than hippies in the city circa 2017, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your own music-filled summer. Now through Labor Day, the Bay Area calendar is packed with artists big and small, local and touring, young and... well, those who actually played back in ’67.

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Can’t-Miss Tours

Green Day
August 5, Oakland Coliseum

One of the biggest Bay Area acts of the last 25 years returns home to the East Bay for possibly their biggest show yet. Expect a marathon set here -- Green Day is known for digging deep into their back catalogue, breaking out multiple tracks from Dookie and earlier. Catfish & The Bottlemen, fresh off their British Breakthrough Act win at the Brit Awards last year, add their own brand of swagger to this stadium show as openers.

Hans Zimmer
August 9, Greek Theatre

Coachella attendees scratched their collective heads when this year’s festival lineup included movie composer Hans Zimmer’s name alongside the biggest and best rap, pop, and indie rock artists. But with a set list that spans some of the most important and recognizable orchestral scores of the last few decades, this is one not to miss.

Courtesy of CJ Lucero

Best Venues

The Fillmore
Easily the most famous concert spot in the Bay Area (and perhaps on the entire West Coast), The Fillmore has been the epicenter of San Francisco’s music scene since the 1960s, when it was booked by rock impresario Bill Graham. There are no Acid Tests nowadays, but make sure to get there early to grab a free apple and check out their collection of concert posters dating back more than 50 years.
Notable show: FIDLAR (August 23)

Rickshaw Stop
Hidden on a quiet block just north of Market St, Rickshaw Stop has been home to some of the best local bands and buzz-worthy visiting acts since 2004. Plus, with inexpensive tickets and cheap drinks, this is one of the few concert halls where your tab won’t be cause for regret at the end of the evening.
Notable shows: Wolf Alice (July 24), Kristin Kontrol/Wax Idols (August 4)

The Chapel
Just a few years after its opening, The Chapel has staked out a reputation for some of the best acoustics in the city, with beautiful high ceilings and a classy bar attached. It’s not as cheap as smaller venues, but the experience is more than worth the price.
Notable shows: Foxtails Brigade/Everyone is Dirty/Spooky Mansion (August 2), Margaret Glaspy (August 15)

Bottom of the Hill
Playing Bottom of the Hill is a rite of passage for local bands, and is the best place in the city to see the “next big thing” -- The Strokes played here in 2001, just prior to the U.S. release of their influential debut album. It’s also one of the few venues that still offers shows virtually every night of the week.
Notable show: Jeff Rosenstock/Laura Stevenson (July 26)

The New Parish
Since it’s located quite literally in the shadow of the Fox Theater, The New Parish is sometimes an afterthought for concert-goers. Though it may not offer the grandeur of the Fox, the small, two-story venue is perhaps the best place to see up-and-coming rappers in the Bay Area, routinely attracting a solid mix of local talent as well as more well-known hip-hop acts.
Notable show: Kool Keith (August 31)

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Hottest Up-and-Coming Artists

Hazel English
If you ever wondered what happened to chillwave, its new torchbearer now lives in the East Bay. Aussie-born and current Oakland resident Hazel English, along with songwriting partner and frequent collaborator Day Wave, churn out music that simply sounds like summer. Chock full of dream pop and atmospheric synths, English is the perfect soundtrack for long road trips along the coast.

Spooky Mansion
Led by the charming yet exceedingly goofy Grayson Converse, Spooky Mansion does surf rock with a twist. Their most recent release, which they’ll be playing at The Chapel on August 2, combines hip-hop beats and smooth jazz guitar to produce a sound that’s uniquely interesting. But the group is at their best when they allow themselves to get plain weird, like releasing a short film about aliens alongside their 2016 split EP with San Francisco locals Tino Drima.

Kamaiyah may be the best rapper to come out of Oakland in a decade. Her music is distinctly West Coast (she’s a frequent collaborator of LA-based rapper YG), and the girl can spit -- she’s got one of the best flows of anyone on the scene right now. Catch her at Outside Lands in August before she truly hits it big.

Courtesy of Andrew Jorgensen / Outside Lands

Music Festivals & Outdoor Concerts

Outside Lands Music Festival
August 11-13, Golden Gate Park
Outside Lands’ organizer Ranger Dave dropped one of the more interesting 2017 lineups in what has become an increasingly homogenized U.S. festival circuit. Highlights include sets from rejuvenated acts like Gorillaz, Fleet Foxes, A Tribe Called Quest, and Queens of the Stone Age, along with about a hundred more. No matter what genre you’re into, there’s truly something for everyone here.

Stern Grove Music Festival
Through August 27, Sigmund Stern Grove

Located just north of Lake Merced, Sigmund Stern Grove is a hike to get to, but the payoff is more than worth it, especially considering all its shows are free. The Sunday-afternoon concert series this year includes sets from legendary artists WAR (August 13) and Mavis Staples (August 27), a performance from the San Francisco Ballet (July 30), and shows by international artists like Amadou & Mariam (August 6). Get there early to save a good spot, though sitting under the trees isn’t a bad option, either.

Live at Lagunitas
Through October 3, Lagunitas Amphitheater, Petaluma
Want to take a day trip outside of the city and see some great music for free? Live at Lagunitas features a solid lineup, such as indie heroes Whitney (July 25). Start sucking up to your one friend with a car now.

Courtesy of Mariah Tiffany

Weekly Music Nights

Tuesdays, Madrone Art Bar

There’s nothing like a Tuesday night dance party to give you the energy to make it through the week. At Good4U, put on by local music collectives Brouhaha and Spin the Night, the warmer mix of disco, techno, and house will have you busting a move like it’s Friday.

Run the Length of Your Wildness
Mondays, Underground SF

Run the Length of Your Wildness, started by DJs Roche and the late Cherushii (who died in the tragic Ghost Ship fire last December), continues her legacy with its weekly dance music nights in the Lower Haight. Start your week off right with parties bumping up against 2am that are packed with special guests and the best house and techno talent in the Bay Area.

Fourth Saturday of every month, The Layover, Oakland

At this recurring hip-hop themed DJ night, founded by Marty Aranaydo AKA DJ Willie Maze in 2012, the party routinely goes up until closing time. Local rappers often perform unannounced for the wall-to-wall crowd, and the resident DJs spin all eras and subgenres of rap, from trap to dub.