Best Bets: Free concerts in SF Civic Center and downtown, San Jose Jazz, SF Symphony Lunar New Year

Bite, a self-proclaimed down-and-dirty “punk and roll” San Francisco-based band, performed at the Civic Center Soundtrack free concert series on Feb. 15. (Courtesy Bite)

The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.

Freebie of the week: While the Bay Area’s free concert scene typically is in high gear in spring, summer and fall, music lovers don’t have to wait to catch some no-cost shows. This week, Civic Center Soundtrack free concerts launch at Fulton Plaza, between San Francisco Main Library and the Asian Art Museum. The series, part of a larger drive by the city to pump up public art and entertainment offerings at Fulton, Civic Center and UN plazas, is slated to offer free shows from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through August. We’re talking some 75 concerts featuring a wide variety of performers and styles. On Thursday, the series welcomes Bay Area underground band Bite, which, serves up “fast, loud, sexy, trashy down and dirty punk and roll” (you can also catch the band at Bottom of the Hill on Feb. 23); piano-and-beat instrumentalist John Shearer; and singer-songwriter-guitarist JW Blunt, whose lively tune “Time Traveling Tamale Lady” can be heard along with other tracks on his YouTube channel. On Friday, catch Manos Lindas, a three-piece genre-blending “cultural melting pot” outfit; XtinaM, a goth-tinged power-ballad singer; and electronic musician Young Sun, who blends field recording and acoustic instruments in his sound. The series is put on by Illuminate/City of Awe. Upcoming attractions coming to the area include cornhole boards and foosballs tables as well as a LED installation at UN Plaza. And the city Recreation and Parks Department is hosting a free Bay Area Skate Fest at UN/Fulton Plaza from 1-3 p.m. Sunday (go to for details). For more on the concert series, go to

Pianist Dahveed Behroozi photographed inside the Musical Recital Hall. Photo credit: Joanne H. Lee: Santa Clara University)

Hot winter jazz: San Jose Jazz is best known for its awesome Summer Fest, which turns downtown into a bustling buffet of jazz, blues, Latin and other performances every August. But the organization also presents cool Winter Fest/New Works concerts beginning this week.

On Saturday, San Jose pianist and composer Dahveed Behroozi takes the stage. He’s been a mainstay in the Bay Area music scene for some time as a band leader and supporting musician acclaimed for his talent and versatility. He is comfortable tackling jazz, classical, new music, pop and ambient sounds. Upcoming performers include guitarist Hristo Vitchev (Feb. 23), keyboardist Sundra Manning (Feb. 24), and the incomparable bassist, composer and activist Marcus Shelby (March 1), among others. The series runs through March 9 at the San Jose Jazz Break Room, 310 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets to most concerts are $10. Go to

Violinist Paul Huang will play an excerpt from Tan Dun’s “Fire Ritual” Concerto as the San Francisco Symphony celebrates the coming of the Year of the Dragon. (Courtesy Marco Borggreve)

Roaring in like a . . . dragon: We doubt there will be much fire-breathing going on, but the San Francisco Symphony, under the baton of guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen, ushers in the Lunar New Year in Davies Hall at 5 p.m. Saturday with a program that does include music from celebrated Chinese-American composer Tan Dun’s Violin Concerto “Fire Ritual,” with guest soloist Paul Huang. In fact, all of the composers for the concert celebrating the Year of the Dragon are of Asian heritage, with Huan-zhi Li’s “Spring Festival” Overture kicking things off. Other musical contributions come from Phoon Yew Tien (“New Year Greetings”), Vivian Fung (“Pizzicato”), Chen Ge Xin (“Gong Xi Gong Xi”) and more. Though the music starts at 4, come an hour earlier for festivities in the lobby that include dragon dancers, fortune readers, calligraphy artists and more. Tickets, $39-$109, are available at and (415) 864-6000.

The post Best Bets: Free concerts in SF Civic Center and downtown, San Jose Jazz, powerhouse chamber trio, SF Symphony Lunar New Year appeared first on Local News Matters.

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