Related Articles: Music, All

Free SF Street Parties

Your Guide for Dancing in the Street

With gas prices spiraling out of control, air-traffic nightmares and a general increase in the cost of living, San Francisco’s summertime activities have never been more appealing. Despite unpredictable summer weather that often leaves the city shrouded in a cool mist, several free outdoor festivals offer plenty of reasons to stay close to home. Here are a few highlights:

June 8th, The 31st Haight Ashbury Street Fair: An alcohol ban last year created a slight damper for fair-goers who prefer to have their libations curbside, but industrious drinkers still have plenty of options with nearby bars and grocers. Located on Haight Street, from Masonic Avenue to Stanyan Street, the festivities are bookended by two stages. Planners have not yet released the official music lineup, but at the very least, expect some creative signage from the squatters that will likely be out en masse and interesting people watching.

June 14-15th, North Beach Festival: Sinners beware. The Saints Peter and Paul Church cathedral shadows over this long-running festival on Washington Square, a clear disadvantage for attendees with an inkling of Catholic guilt. Your best bet: party your ass off Saturday, repent at the early service Sunday and finish the day with the Latin-soul-funk fusion of La Ventana.

July 5-6th, Fillmore Jazz Festival: Billed as the largest free jazz festival on the West Coast, this street party boasts three stages and is peppered with live music at various venues that line Fillmore Street, from Jackson to Eddy Streets. Don’t miss Saturday’s headliners Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, Randy Vincent Quartet featuring Tyler Blanton and Vinyl. Bruce Foreman, Jazz on Monday and Sila and the Afrofunk Experience close the festival on Sunday. Find indoor relief with the Boom Boom Room’s sangria, which is made once a year especially for the occasion.

July 26-27th, North Beach Jazz Festival: Five days of shows at North Beach clubs culminate with two days of free music, vendors and food at Washington Square. The never-say-die festival that duked it out with SF city officials and NIMBY neighbors in 2006 over the right to sell alcohol (don’t worry, you can still buy beer as long as you are quarantined in the +21 section) uses the term “jazz” liberally and features a variety of genres. This year’s lineup is still in the works.

August 2-3, The 14th Annual San Francisco Aloha Festival: If beer-soaked festivities are not your scene, the Aloha Festival provides a family-friendly atmosphere with no alcohol and plenty of cultural activities. The festival at the Presidio’s parade grounds features cultural dancing, music and several workshops.

September 28th, Folsom Street Fair: “The granddaddy of all leather events,” the Folsom Street Fair is your best bet for public displays of affection that will most likely get you arrested outside of San Francisco’s 7x7-mile sanctuary of spank. The fair celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

October 3-5, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Warren Hellman’s annual bluegrass massive at Golden Gate Park provides the perfect sendoff for San Francisco’s Indian summer. Rumor has it that former Zeppelin front man Robert Plant will perform with his latest musical partner Alison Krauss and T Bone Burnett.

Oct. 9-14, Fleet Week San Francisco: There’s no better way to celebrate the impending Presidential election and Bush’s final departure from the White House than with a little patriotic chest thumping in your own backyard. Watch the Blue Angels along SF’s northern waterfront and be thankful that you don’t have to listen to fighter pilots everyday while your country is dismantled around you.