New @ SF25: Updates, Activities for 25th Anniversary

Back to blog

It’s hard to believe that this will be the 25th year Summer Fest will transform Plaza de Cesar Chavez and downtown’s surrounding spaces into a weekend gem celebrating the great diversity of our region. As patrons have come to expect, you’ll be able to hear jazz, Latin, blues, salsa, R&B, New Orleans and more across multiple stages. However, we also have a number of special additions that will make next month’s Fest our best yet!

Below, we highlight some of special places and showcases you’ll encounter at Summer Fest 25.


Introducing: SJZ Speakeasy

This year, we’re expanding our alcoholic beverage selection, introducing a comfortable, shaded area near our Kaiser Permanente Main Stage that will be serving special cocktails, including drinks featuring Summer Fest sponsor Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

While patrons are able to enjoy beer and wine throughout our gated premises, all hard liquor must be consumed while inside the SJZ Speakeasy.


World Class Jazz on a World Class Stage: Moving to the California Theatre

When the San Jose Repertory Theater closed in June, we had to find the perfect, acoustically-rich environment for some of the Fest’s brightest stars. After some deep searching, we realized this grand task could only be filled by one of San Jose’s most glorious spaces: the California Theatre, San Jose’s gorgeous 1920s movie and vaudeville house, recently restored to its former grandeur.

Located just seconds away from the Kaiser Permanente Main Stage, this lavish indoor stage boasts a recreated original marquee, restored Moorish-style chandeliers, broadloom carpeting, air-conditioning and sparkling acoustics. Entry to this stage is included with an all stages ticket or above. Not that this is a priority access stage, so seating will be cleared at the end of every performance.

Nicole Henry, Denise Perrier with Houston Person, and Donald Harrison (featuring Kevin Harris) are just three of the eight spectacular performances we have lined up at the California Theatre. Check our Summer Fest line-up page for the full listing of acts playing there Summer Fest weekend. Jazz station KCSM will also be broadcasting live from the theatre all weekend.


KCSM Artist Lounge

Speaking of KCSM, we’re proud to announce that with their help, we’re bringing a series very special, and incredibly intimate, musical experiences to our band-new music lounge, located inside the California Theatre. Each set will be in front of no more than 100 people. We guarantee you won’t find another chance at Summer Fest to get this close to performing artists!

Stay tuned to find out which Summer Fest artists will be performing and how you can win tickets to attend these exclusive, invite-only engagements. For starters, tune in to KCSM Jazz 91 on the radio (91.1FM) or online ( and listen for opportunities to call in and win.


Update on Disabled Access At Swing Stage (Theatre on San Pedro Square)

Our Swing Stage programming will still be taking place at the Theatre on San Pedro Square, its Summer Fest home for several years. We will also still be presenting Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band there for a special Fest+ performance. However, please be aware of new changes in accommodation.

Due to circumstances outside of our control, all performances at Theatre on San Pedro Square are no longer accessible for disabled patrons. We will be able to provide assistance to those who need help ascending the staircase to the theatre, but no one will be able to access the facility’s elevator. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Charnett Moffett and Jana Herzen

Café Stritch Stage & Motéma Records Showcase

Cafe Stritch, the new incarnation of former restaurant space Eulipia, has become a flagship space in downtown’s hip, artsy SoFA District. Featuring a weekly jazz jam and periodic appearances by major layers in the region’s jazz scene, Stritch has already developed quite the story and following among local crowds.

While San Jose Jazz has used this space for ticketed performances by Sean Jones and the Benny Green Trio, Summer Fest 25 marks the first time Cafe Stritch will be an official Fest stage.

We feature a handful of great straight ahead jazz talent all day Aug 9. On Sunday, Aug 10, we’ll be highlighting music from Motéma Music, the New York based jazz & world music label formed by musician Jana Herzen. Motéma was recently voted the third best jazz label in this year’s DownBeat Critics Poll, right behind institutions ECM and Blue Note, and we’re quite excited to be presenting a number of acts on the label.

Jana Herzen and Charnett Moffett, Marc Cary Focus Trio, and Pedrito Martinez Group will each be appearing twice at Stritch that day. Additionally, Motéma artist Monty Alexander will be performing with his Harlem-Kingston Express that day on the Kaiser Permanente Main Stage.


Free Movie Screenings at Camera 12 for Fest Attendees

If you’re looking to get out of the sunshine for a bit and still take in some great music, retreat into Camera 12 for our two film screenings happening Sat Aug 9. Camera 12 Cinemas is conveniently located on Paseo de San Antonio between First and Second Street, just a few doors down from our Umpqua Blackbird Tavern Stage. Catch both films free of charge with a Summer Fest wristband, but be advised that we have limited free capacity. Should we reach our allotted capacity, you will need to pay an additional charge for the screening.

We’ll be screening Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton, which chronicles the rise of Stones Throw Records, at 4:30pm. In addition to this film screening, our Jazz Beyond block party later that evening features a Stones Throw Records showcase. Read on to find out more about who will be appearing downtown.

At 9pm, we’ll be screening Take Me to the River, a feature film documentary the celebrates the inter-generational and inter-racial musical influence of Memphis. The film brings together multiple generations of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians to record an historic new album that re-imagines the utopia of racial, gender and generational collaboration of Memphis in its heyday. It features Terrence Howard, Snoop Dogg, Mavis Staples, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby Rush, the North Mississippi All-Stars and many more.


Enough Fun For the Whole Family

With so many acts, stages, and activities to choose from, there’s enough options to satisfy the whole family! Since our Next Gen Stage is just across Plaza de Cesar Chavez from our Kaiser Permanente Main Stage, our Fest epicenter is now the perfect place to take in world-class talent alongside jazz’s next generation of fine young musicians.

In addition to the great music happening in the park, we have plenty of neat activities planned near the Next Gen Stage, located at the south end of the plaza. Thanks to MACLA, we will have an area for kids to make their own luchador masks. Crafty types can also help contribute to an art mural we’ll have available all day Saturday and Sunday. If you’re looking for something more active, stay on the look-out for the hacky sack toss Rockin Jump has planned.

A few other options: if you’re looking enjoy a relaxing bite to eat away from the crowd, bring your family to the YP Gordon Biersch Stage, a free stage that’s open to the public. Or check out the vibe of our “heritage area,” home to the Big Easy and Blues Stages, which will have booths from SJ Made and plenty of local color and vibrant music with personality.

Whether you’re looking to be in the middle of the action or want a more laid-back music experience, Summer Fest’s options ensure you can plan a weekend that’s just right for you.


Stones Throw Showcase

Prior to setting up his label down to Los Angeles, Stones Throw creator Chris Manak – better known by his DJ moniker Peanut Butter Wolf – grew up in San Jose.

After more than a decade of co-signing music that Manak believes in, Stones Throw has carved out a pretty deep niche as a tastemaker record label. It’s been a champion of late legend J Dilla and unsung beatsmith Madlib, presented Mayer Hawthorne and Aloe Blacc before they found mainstream success, and continues to present incredible emerging acts like the Stepkids and Oh No.

We celebrate Stones Throw and its legacy as part of our Saturday evening Jazz Beyond block party. Those looking to move that night will definitely want to be on-hand when Knxwledge, Karriem Riggins and J. Rocc take the stage. This Fest piece will be an awesome way to dance the night away.


Street Performers All Around the Fest

To ensure that you’ll be hearing music on every corner at Summer Fest, we’re hiring a number of buskers to perform around the Fest grounds all weekend long. These local street performers will bring even more vibrancy and creative energy to every square inch of the Fest blueprint. If you or someone you know is interested in being a street performer at Summer Fest, sign up to take part.

Keep an ear out while you’re walking from stage to stage, and if you like what you hear, don’t forget to throw some change in the hat!


Poncho Sanchez Returns to Summer Fest to Honor a Legend

We’re quite excited that Poncho Sanchez is back for Summer Fest 25. Having appeared as a headliner at our inaugural Fest in 1990, his Main Stage appearance shows our line-up this year coming full circle.

His band leads a special tribute performance to late Latin jazz percussionist Armando Peraza, one of the first Cuban acts to migrate to the states and plant the seed for integrating Latin rhythms into the jazz framework. Sanchez and his band will be joined by John Santos, Emil Richards, and Pete Escovedo, who represent different eras of Peraza’s career.

With this star-studded list of performers honoring a deeply influential pioneer, this set has the potential to be a Summer Fest highlight.


Rick & Russ on Kaiser Permanente Main Stage

This year, we’re bringing the world famous Rick & Russ show to our Kaiser Permanente Main Stage! Between sets on Saturday and Sunday, this three-man show will make sure that the party energy stays strong all day. Expect an afternoon full of notable hits and unsung grooves alike, as their sets regularly feature the best funk, soul, and R&B of the 60’s and 70’s.

With DJ Rick, DJ Big Russ and CJ Flash all slated to be on-hand, these three will certainly prove why they’ve earned a well-respected reputation as one of the best DJ crews around. This group was recently featured as part of Brian Culbertson’s 2014 Napa Valley Jazz Getaway.To find out more about this DJ crew and their story before you see them at Summer Fest, check out their Facebook page.

For a full list of Summer Fest 2014 artists, please visit our line-up page. For more info on other Summer Fest special activities, check out our club crawl page.