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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

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Arts + CultureMusicStern Grove Festival returns: Here's our dream lineup

Stern Grove Festival returns: Here’s our dream lineup

The season-long music tradition will fill that foggy eucalyptus knoll once again. May we suggest some performers we'd love to see?

It’s official. You can add fresh-cut grass, dense-patch fog, and world class live music once again to your Sunday Funday itinerary. 

After a year in the dark, Stern Grove Festival, a San Francisco institution and the longest-running free outdoor music festival in the Bay Area, shall come home for its 84th season, every Sunday beginning June 20.   

“The return of live music marks a joyful part of San Francisco’s recovery,” said Mayor London Breed, announcing the return. “For more than 80 years, Stern Grove Festival has been bringing us world-class performances in a beautiful public park—free and accessible to all. And while I know the official announcement of the lineup is to come, with what I’m hearing about the first show, I absolutely cannot wait to be there.”

The season will launch at 15% capacity for the first few performances, with hopes of phasing in larger groups as the summer makes headway. (Initial reservation options include pods of either four or six people. Ticketing will open online before each concert and will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.) 

The multi-genre music festival runs through August 29, with a full slate of in-person concerts featuring contemporary artists, many of them local. Best of all: It will remain free.

While waiting for the official announcements of this year’s performers, we decided at 48hills to curate our own dream Stern Grove Festival, if we may take such a liberty. (These are merely pipe dreams, it’s the return of music that has provided the magic already.) Here is what we came up with:


We’re not sure if this jazz duo is even touring, but if they were, they’d fit right in with that fresh-cut grass afternoon set. The 11-song suite Force Majeure, their album from last year recorded from their living room in Harlem using one mic, resembled an American songbook co-curated by John Coltrane and Kate Bush. The bass and harp combination, in an outdoor acoustic setting, is the proper way to lay out and be cool on a Sunday afternoon, Hunny Bunny.


Bringing into the world a breezy mix of retro ‘70s folk-soul pop by way of a studio and live album last year, London-based guitar and vocalist-goddess Lianne La Havas could softly break Karl The Fog mid-afternoon, and summon the daylight sunbeams. The Joni Mitchell references are correct… but don’t stop there, go into Joan Armatrading and Corrine Bailey Rae too, in order to be fully prepped.


Cochemea Gastelum, the soloist, section player, and composer-arranger, plays sax like Eddie Harris dipped in acid and rolled in kind bud. Over the past 25 years, Cochemea has been featured with diverse and notable musical acts, from touring and recording with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Archie Shepp, Antibalas, Budos Band, and popping into the studio with Mark Ronson, The Roots, David Byrne, Beck, Rick Rubin, and Quincy Jones. This summer he returns with a groove-heavy sequel to his debut All My Relations entitled Vol. II: Baca Sewa. Spiritual, meditative, and funky all at once, this energy is built for Sunday glory.


This one is quite the stretch, but we are dreaming right? The reconstituted dub-jazz Moritz Von Oswald Trio will release its first album in five years, Dissent, on BMG’s Modern Recordings imprint on August 6—and we wish this mellow noise-meets-groove amalgam could cruise through for a Sunday social. Dissent was recorded in Berlin during November and December 2020. In the past, von Oswald has collaborated with techno originator Juan Atkins and the late Afrobeat drummer extraordinaire Tony Allen. Electronics wiz Laurel Halo is the secret sauce on the first release from the album, her input provides the smoothness to the gruffness. Edge and cool all wrapped up in one set. Score!

John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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