SF’s Stern Grove Music Festival Returns With R-Rated Hip-Hop

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On Sunday afternoon, thousands of San Franciscans flocked to one of the city’s most iconic music venues for an afternoon of mellow soul music and explosive hip-hop.

Featuring Bay Area legends Too $hort and Tower of Power, the season-opening lineup was actually a postponement of the last Stern Grove concert of 2021, which was canceled after 700,000 gallons of water flooded the park. There still appeared to be construction on the grounds, but fans of the venue will be happy to know that the natural amphitheater felt like it had been brought back to life.

Tower of Power performs during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE

Despite the new reservation system, long queues stretched along the north and south sides of the park and, as usual, it was difficult to find real estate for folding chairs and picnic blankets. fuck. However, thanks to the pandemic pivot to live streaming, the festival had added a large video screen to the grassy side area, which showed a very well produced stream of the concert for those without a line of sight to the stage. Early in the day, thick fog settled throughout the grove and light drizzles threatened the mood, but the cooling mist only added to the San Francisco atmosphere.

Mayor London Breed speaks before cutting the ribbon celebrating the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022. Adam Pardee/Special to SFGATE

Mayor London Breed speaks before cutting the ribbon celebrating the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022. Adam Pardee/Special to SFGATE


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE
A couple and their dog listen to Tower of Power perform during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022. Adam Pardee/Special to SFGATE

A couple and their dog listen to Tower of Power perform during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022. Adam Pardee/Special to SFGATE


Adam Pardee
18-month-old Fionnlagh Mac Cumhaill Devine enjoys a bottle of milk with headphones on while his parents listen to Too $hort during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

18-month-old Fionnlagh Mac Cumhaill Devine enjoys a bottle of milk with headphones on while his parents listen to Too $hort during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE
A woman enjoys the music of DJ Shortkut before the start of the show during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

A woman enjoys the music of DJ Shortkut before the start of the show during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE

The Mayor of London Breed announced the start of the Stern Grove Festival, as fans danced to Too $hort and Tower of Power. Credit: Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE


Just before the filming of Too $hort, the Mayor of London Breed took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony where she thanked the Goldman family for running the festival for five generations and expressed her gratitude to the staff at the parks department who worked overtime to repair the park. With her civic duties behind her, the mayor has moved into the role of hype woman.

“Ye Area, let’s go up, let’s have a good time, thanks for coming!” shouted Mayor Breed.

Too $hort performs during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

Too $hort performs during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE
Crowds enjoy Too $hort during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

Crowds enjoy Too $hort during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE

Too $hort performs at the Stern Grove Music Festival. Credit: Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE

The crowd was warmed up by DJ Shortkut, a San Francisco turntable legend whose career dates back to the late ’80s. He rode a mix of Bay Area hip-hop classics, including everything from “The Thizzle Song” to multi-hit “I’ve Got Five on It” featuring Digital Underground’s Shock G, who died in 2019. When it was time for Too Short to Hit the Stage, it went into a loop of “his favorite word” from the 2006 hit “Blow the Whistle” and the hill erupted, with thousands of people shouting the heavily uncensored lyrics in unison.

$hort joked about how he agreed with festival organizers to keep his set “R-rated” and laughed as he pointed out the babies in the crowd wearing protective headphones, but it was clear he did little to tone down his language for the families present. He stomped on classics like “I’m a Player,” “The Ghetto” and “Gangsters & Strippers,” bragging about his storied history as the first Bay Area rapper to release an independent album. The set was everything a Bay Area hip-hop fan could ask for.

People dance as they listen to Too $hort perform during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

People dance as they listen to Too $hort perform during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE
Too $hort performs during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

Too $hort performs during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE
A man known as The Entertainer dances in the aisles while listening to Too $hort perform during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

A man known as The Entertainer dances in the aisles while listening to Too $hort perform during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE
Crowds enjoy Too $hort during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

Crowds enjoy Too $hort during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE

Too $hort performs to a large crowd at the Stern Grove Music Festival. Credit: Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE

After $hort left the stage, DJ Shortkut returned for a second round of masterfully mixed funk shots before Tower of Power arrived. Since their debut album “East Bay Grease” in 1970 (released on Bill Graham’s San Francisco Records), Tower of Power have earned a reputation as one of the tightest bands to ever come out of the Bay Area, with their signature wall-of- the sound of the saxophone resonates throughout the park.

Extended versions of “Soul Vaccination” and “What Is Hip?” offered almost every musician on stage a chance to bend solo, and the long vamping also gave the sun plenty of time to emerge from behind the fog. As the sky parted, Tower of Power burst into “You’re Still a Young Man,” which served as the perfect soundtrack to laying on a blanket in the sun and enjoying a tradition unique to San Francisco.

Tower of Power performs during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022. Adam Pardee/Special to SFGATE

Tower of Power performs during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022. Adam Pardee/Special to SFGATE


Adam Pardee
A man dances atop a rock with a No Seating Area sign as DJ Shortkut waves up the crowd before the start of the show during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

A man dances atop a rock with a No Seating Area sign as DJ Shortkut waves up the crowd before the start of the show during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE
People listen to Too $hort perform at the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

People listen to Too $hort perform at the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022.


Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE
A woman dances at picnic tables as Tower of Power performs during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022. Adam Pardee/Special to SFGATE

A woman dances at picnic tables as Tower of Power performs during the first concert of the year at the 85th Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12, 2022. Adam Pardee/Special to SFGATE


Adam Pardee

Crowds watch Tower of Power perform at the Stern Grove Music Festival. Credit: Adam Pardee / Special for SFGATE

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