Stanford Live welcomes back in-person arts events in July and August.

by Karla Kane

Glorious summer atmosphere (here with the SF Symphony in 2019) returns to Frost Amphitheater next month. (Courtesy Stanford Live)

After a successful spring of screening films al fresco at Frost Amphitheater, Stanford Live is ready to take the next step in a return to performing-arts normalcy: In-person shows in a variety of genres will come to Frost July 1 through Aug. 7.

Many of the performances will be presented in collaboration with other arts organizations.

“The big thing is, we recognized early on we were one of the few noncommercial spaces in the Bay Area that could start planning to have larger-capacity events,” Stanford Live Executive Director Chris Lorway said. “We wanted to make sure it wasn’t only us that benefited.”

So, Stanford Live reached out to SFJAZZ and San Francisco Symphony to co-present multiple shows during the six-week run.

“Thursday nights became our jazz nights,” Lorway said, with bookings in partnership with SFJAZZ including Gregory Porter, Fantastic Negrito, Robert Glasper and Terrace Martin, and Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.

Oakland’s one-and-only Fantastic Negrito will perform at Frost Amphitheater, on July 8. (Courtesy Stanford Live)

But the series will kick off with acts especially near and dear to the local Stanford Live community. Stanford Jazz Workshop is presenting the first evening: a collaboration between saxophonist Joshua Redman and tabla player Zakir Hussain (the subject of a Stanford Live film last year) on Thursday, July 1.

“We thought it was important to start more with a Stanford Live feel,” Lorway said. That vibe continues throughout the first weekend, with a live performance of Comedy Central’s “The New Negroes” on Friday, July 2, (rescheduled from a canceled 2020 date) and a Saturday night concert by the Kronos Quartet, Meklit and Bay Area spoken-word artists in a live reunion of the cast of “Testimony.”

“Testimony” was a film released by Stanford Live last November, described as a musical reflection on civil rights. While many artists collaborated at a distance to create the work, Lorway noted that this will be the first time they will be able to be together in person.

Keeping up connections to the projects and relationships that were developed digitally during the pandemic and giving them a new venue, Lorway said, showcases “not only the legacy of what we lost during COVID but what we gained during that time.”

Starting July 10, Saturdays will be San Francisco Symphony nights, with concerts including two conducted by composer and San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen (July 10 and 17). July 24’s performance will be conducted by Michael Morgan, while Lina González-Granados leads the program July 31 and Xian Zhang takes over on Aug. 7.

Los Angeles roots fusion band Las Cafeteras are booked for Friday, July 9, and Sundays are reserved for acts with a community feel and a kid-friendly early start time.

Lupita Infante (left) and Graciela Beltrán (right) share a bill with Mariachi Nueva Generacion, on July 18 at Frost. (Courtesy Stanford Live)

On July 18, Graciela Beltrán, Lupita Infante and Mariachi Nueva Generación will perform; “My Bollywood Jukebox” offers a journey through Bollywood-hits history on July 25; and Bay Area family music favorites Alphabet Rockers take the stage Aug. 1, with their brand of empowering, inspiring hip-hop. Lorway said he hopes these Sunday shows will “bring families out to have an intergenerational arts experience.”

The spring film screenings at Frost have allowed Stanford Live to iron out practices for security, social distancing, restroom use, and food and beverage rules before flipping back into a fully live venue.

“We’ve been cooking away in the background trying to figure out the best possible strategies for reopening,” Lorway said, including adherence to state, county and Stanford University safety protocols. While attendance is currently capped at 500, over the course of the summer that will gradually increase, from 1,200–1,600 up to 3,000–4,000, “and finally we might be back up to full capacity (around 8,000) in late summer or early fall,” Lorway said.

As capacity increases, social distancing space, naturally, decreases. Starting with the July shows, therefore, patrons will need to present either a negative COVID test from within 72 hours of the show, or proof that they were fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to the event.

The Bay Area’s Kronos Quartet will play Frost Saturday July 3. (Courtesy Stanford Live)

“We’re eyeing what the industry standard is for large groups,” Lorway said. “At this moment in time at least, people entering spaces are required to have proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, so it’s better to go out with a more conservative approach.”

Last year, Stanford Live pivoted to a digital season, creating numerous films available to members. Lorway is hopeful that digital content will remain part of the organization going forward. “We’ve built a really great local team of filmmakers and artists. It would be silly of us to abandon this,” he said. “It’s been a great learning experience for all of us.”

He’s also optimistic about the future of Frost, which saw its grand reopening hampered by the pandemic year but has since proven invaluable as a flexible outdoor show space.

“It’s such a great place, we now know, to see a movie, and for all different scopes of artists,” he said. “I could definitely see that certainly being a resource we’ll continue to utilize — and hopefully amplify — over the coming years.”

Tickets for July shows go on sale June 11; tickets for August shows go on sale in July. A complete schedule, as well as health and safety information, is available at

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