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Best Ways To Support San Francisco's Local Music Scene

By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Just show up. The single most important thing any of us can do to support the San Francisco music scene is to provide an audience. Support the venues, the parks, and the festivals that book and showcase local gigs. After all, without live audiences, the legendary San Francisco Sound that launched a 1960s cultural movement would never have happened. There's a wide range of places to find local talent in this town, from speakeasies to concert halls to outdoor stages.

Golden Gate Park Band
Music Concourse
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 831-5500

Not all music scenes are new and trendy. Some are good places for a picnic in the park. Producing 135 years of music is quite an accomplishment, and this local band has pulled it off. Tooting on their horns under the bandshell in the sunken plaza between the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Art, the Golden Gate Park Band has been delivering free outdoor concerts for the public since 1883. The season runs April through October, kicking off this year on April 22, 2018. Seats are put out for regular Sunday concerts starting at 1 p.m. and usually finishing around 2:30 p.m. Visit the website for program details and to make a donation to the talented, nonprofit GGP Band, which is tax-deductible.

Stern Grove Festival
19th Ave. and Sloat Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94132
(415) 252-6252

Mrs. Stern had a vision: Admission-free performances for the public by some of the world's greatest artists. So, she donated the land in the perfect spot, a natural amphitheater in the woods. Eight-one years and six million visitors later, her vision comes to life every summer in the eucalyptus and redwood grove in the Sunset District's park. Some of the artists are local, some are stars with a wider fan base, and sometimes - as with the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Ballet - they're both at once. Sign up for the festival's newsletter to support Stern Grove and come to the concerts. There's an online store with branded merchandise and a donation page on the website. Become a member or support The Big Picnic, a private catered pre-season event. Or, join the team of 800 volunteers that make Stern Grove possible. The 2018 lineup is announced on May 1.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
Hellman Hollow
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94122

Bring your dogs, bring your kids, bring your earplugs (unless you love loud music). Come to Hellman Hollow in Golden Gate Park on the first weekend of October to join 750,000 people at the all-free, three-day music party. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival was founded in 2001 by Warren Hellman, a local resident and financier/banjo picker/philanthropist. What began as an invitation to bluegrass musicians grew substantially over the years, now featuring 90-plus artists on seven outdoor stages in a meadow named after the festival's founder. Coolers, blankets, and short-back chairs are all allowed, as well as picnics, beer and wine in non-glass containers. Support the festival through their sale of branded merchandise.

Related:  Best Ways To Support San Francisco's Local Art Scene

The Independent
628 Divisadero St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 771-1421

Could there be a better name for a live music indie venue? The Independent is well-liked for being an intimate-sized venue where audiences feel close to the performers. Since its 2004 opening and still always popular, there are live shows most every day of the week. A few seats and benches are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Otherwise, wear comfortable shoes. The 400-capacity, standing-room-only, strictly 21-plus venue books plenty of local bands and up-and-coming artists at reasonable prices to frequent sell outs. Fans talk about the good sound and lighting systems. There's a full bar on the premises, but no food.

Off The Grid
Fort Mason Center
2 Marina Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 339-5888

Local artists are performing at San Francisco happenings. Now in its eighth year, get live music with your 30-odd food truck meal offerings at Off the Grid at Fort Mason, now America's largest street food market of its kind. It's free to attend every Friday, March through October 26, 2018, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Bring a jacket for chilly evenings at the historic waterfront, because this is San Francisco. Beginning at 8 p.m., live music follows the DJ in the center of the circle formed by food trucks. And, check out a special appearance by The Cantina Band on May the Fourth Be With You Day (May 4).

Related: Top 5 Must-Go-To Bay Area Music Festivals

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