Guide To Music Festivals in SF
Endless Summer Vibes
Since the sixties, the San Francisco Sound has epitomized the counterculture movement that made its talent and venues like the Fillmore and Avalon, iconic. A few decades later, the names and sounds may have changed (rolling our eyes at you, EDM), but you can’t deny that the San Francisco music scene is alive and well. Here’s the lowdown on how to get involved in SF’s music landscape.
Treasure Island has been the steady provider of the best live music for a decade, thanks to NoisePop. Beck, Massive Attack, Outkast, and deadmau5, to name a few, have graced the stage at this two-day event. This is where big names mix with up-and-coming acts to make one of the best shows in town. While music is the main attraction, the festival introduces some pretty cool alternatives in the format of craft workshops, camp games, a giant ferris wheel, roving performers and interactive installations–psychedelics sold separately. They offer a zero-emissions shuttle service to get to and from the island, and some pretty amazing food vendors provide a taste of the Bay Area’s culinary culture. Takes place in October, yearly.
This is the younger counterpart, bringing acts big and small to Golden Gate Park. It’s hard to pinpoint a genre here–there’s jazz, pop, electronic, experimental, hip hop, and more. What’s their twist? They’re not just a music festival. There’s literally a tent by Wine Lands that houses over one hundred wines. Plus, there’s a big partnership with Google Chromecast, a beer camp, mini golf, a PayPal-powered arcade, a Heineken stage–and MTV even lets you run your own party. Yearly in August.
SF Electronic Music Festival
If you’re looking for a different kind of experience, scratch below the surface of the mainstream music landscape and enter the SF Electronic Music Festival. Started in 2000, and with the help of local galleries and museums, SFEMF champions experimental composers like Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, and a slew of emerging electronic artists. This is an opportunity to leave the glow sticks at home and immerse yourself in something special. Every year in September.
Stern Grove Festival
Last but not least, the free stuff! Big props to Stern Grove Festival, a non-profit organization committed to bringing free performances to the parks. Check out their yearly lineups, especially the summer months, which are sure to bring quality shows to the Bay Area. Past concerts include George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic, Janelle Monae, and The New Pornographers. Yes, that’s a real band name. Summertime, yearly.
It may not look like THE spot for festival-goers, and that’s because it isn’t. What Hotel Abri offers is a no-frills option that’s better than standard brand-name hotels. It’s relatively affordable (compared to many other San Fran hotels), and has plenty of coffee to go around. True story, they really do have an unusual amount of opportunities to have coffee. With SF prices being off the charts, you may want to really consider staying with these guys. The rooms are more comfortable than you’d imagine, and the boutique design is modern and clean.
This Viceroy property in the heart of SoMA is impressive. We love the carefully designed interiors, and we really love that well-stocked hotel Playroom they put together, too. We are big fans of hotel bars and room service, as they facilitate the ongoing party time of music festivals. This Outside Lands partner hotel will surely have no issues with rowdy festival-goers, and their knowledgeable staff can give you tips on where to go for some real SF action.
Believe it or not, this is yet another Viceroy property that’s a favorite in our book. While the Zetta seems a tad nerdier and techier, Hotel Zeppelin is all about sophistication–cue clean, sharp lines, and bold colors. Their bar boasts decent music programming, offers nightly activities, and proves that this hotel is for those who want action. Another big plus: it’s really fairly priced.
- Parc 55
A Hilton hotel that isn’t basic? Yes, and we love it. While it’s not the pinnacle of stylish interiors, it’s a solid choice for a location-friendly stay in the middle of the city that won’t break the bank. If you happen to be into a more civilized festival experience, this might be the spot for you. Bonus: walking distance to countless shopping and dining options.
Spacious, young, and comfortable, Hotel Zephyr is a good choice for young folks traveling to the Bay Area for some festival fun. Their bold, fresh interiors feature reclaimed shipping containers, gaming areas, and a tech hub. Some rooms even overlook the bay and have dartboards. Killer views of San Fran? Yes please.