Free Concerts: The Fratellis @ Virgin Megastore, Susanna Stern @ Yerba Buena, Fête de la Musique @ Justin Herman Plaza, Summerthing @ Speedway Meadows

San Francisco, being the cultural magnet that she is, attracts artists from all around the world. Oftentimes shows are free, and we are all blessed with the opportunity of enjoying fine entertainment without cost or fear of walking great distances…

The Fratellis @ Virgin Megastore (06.18.08)

Before their evening show at The Fillmore, The Fratellis took the stage in San Francisco’s Virgin Megastore for a short acoustic set filled with songs from their latest release, Here We Stand. The performance was excellent, and the crowd responded in kind. “Baby Doll,” a strong song from the new album, served as a brilliantly quiet closer.

I recall seeing them at The Fillmore exactly one year ago when they were still promoting their first album, Costello Music. It was a fun show, but hardly epic. I heard from several sources they were even better this year, most likely because I wasn’t there.

Susanna Stern @ Yerba Buena Gardens (06.19.08)

Recipient of the Jenny Lind Scholarship for promising sopranos, Susanna Stern entertained tourists and downtown lunchbreakers, such as myself, with a pleasantly soothing afternoon of opera in the park. Anna Christensson, accompanying Stern on piano, performed several hauntingly beautiful solo pieces of her own.

Fête de la Musique @ Justin Herman Plaza (06.21.08)

There’s nothing classier than French music after a morning of perusing our local Ferry Building Farmers Market. The San Francisco Chapter of the French-American Chamber of Commerce (FACCSF) sponsored a free afternoon of French music, food and crafts in conjunction with other French music festivals happening around the world for Fête de la Musique, or World Music Day.

Opening act, Nous Non Plus performed a series of standard pop rock songs that started somewhat hokey, but got better as their set progressed. Bopping along to what I assumed were originals, and covers like “99 Red Balloons,” the band sparked dancing amongst the audience even in the day’s intense heat.

ULTIMATE FAIL: Nous Non Plus announced, before performing Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin,” that they were about to perform a Jessica Simpson song (Simpson recently covered the classic for the remake of “The Dukes of Hazzard”).

Trumpetist, Alain Brunet’s wonderful performance set off beautiful visions in my mind, as I wished for evening and Christmas lights strewn across the Plaza…

Alice’s Summerthing @ Speedway Meadows (06.22.08)

At the start of every summer, Alice Radio compiles a lineup of popular adult contemporary musical artists for a free concert in Golden Gate Park’s Speedway Meadows. This year showcased Lifehouse, Ingrid Michaelson, The Last Goodnight, Marié Digby and Secondhand Serenade.

As we walked into the park, we could hear The Last Goodnight’s “Pictures of You,” a terribly stupid song that’s sadly rotating on the radio. The timing was appropriate as I was just about to use the restroom, where, if needed, I could have vomited without consequence.

A friend and I enjoyed Ingrid Michaelson’s pleasant set, in where “The Way I Am,” lovingly-referred to as “that clown song,” was the biggest crowd pleaser. The ambiance was warm and inviting, and Michaelson probably looked great on stage (we sat so far back, I can only assume she was even on stage).

Side-quest: Singer-songwriter Marié Digby had apparently won some vocalist contest with Pantene, the shampoo company, thereby explaining the nice flow to her hair. I mistook Digby for Michaelson when I quickly glanced over at her signing autographs. After a friend corrected me, I replied, “Yeah, I didn’t think Ingrid was THAT pretty,” to which a nosy neighboring male proclaimed in disgust, “You don’t think she’s pretty?!” because, apparently, my opinion matters to even people I don’t know.

Finally, we didn’t stay for Lifehouse because, let’s face it, all their songs sound the same and they’re boring. Done.