When you first walk in to Stern Grove, you know this is a special place. Nestled in the Sunset district of San Francisco, Stern Grove feels like an enchanted forest with tall flower covered trees and a winding path that drops you into a deep valley, cut off from the hustle and bustle of city life. Every summer, Stern Grove puts on 10 free concerts and has done this for the last 84 years thanks to private donations and corporate sponsors. This year, attendance was limited but, also offered free live streaming to all that could not attend.
On Sunday July 25, 2021. I drove to San Francisco and made my way down that windy path (so much easier going down than coming back up) to witness history in the making. For the first time in 84 years, punk rock made it to Stern Grove. The Avengers were opening for the punk rock legends, X the band. It was noted by John Doe that X had opened for the Avengers way back in 1977, now X was the headliner.
Penelope Houston – vocals
Greg Ingraham – guitar
Joel Reader – bass
Luis Illades – drums
This was my first time seeing the San Francisco based Avengers, even though I have been listening to them for years. The lineup was tight and they rocked through the classics I grew up with. The crowd was enthusiastic and, at one point, a pit erupted which was probably the first time ever at Stern Grove. The only downside to the set was that it was too short. It seemed like as quickly as it started, it was over being that the venue is in a neighborhood. Events close early so set times are limited. I hope to see them again and experience a proper, full length show.
Exene Cervenka – vocals
John Doe – vocals/bass
Billy Zoom – guitar/saxophone
DJ Bonebrake – drums/vibraphone
Craig Packham – guitar/drums/bongos
With a slight technical glitch in the first song, X came roaring back to life after over a year of lockdowns. Their set consisted of several songs off their latest album “Alphabetland” and a back catalog of songs reaching back over 40 years. Songs ranging from their first single “Adult Books” to classics like “Los Angeles” and “New World”. They even dedicated “Come back to me” to all the people we have collectively lost during recent events. This band just gets better with age (much like a fine wine) and this performance was proof of that. Having seen them numerous times since the 80’s, I can attest that they are just as powerful today as they were back then (maybe even more so).
These rockers may be aging but, you couldn’t tell it from their performance. Both bands put on stellar performances.
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Photographer of about 10 years, I have been shooting concerts for about 8 of those years. I started to get serious about concert photography about 6 or 7 years ago and now try to shoot as many as I can. I shoot mostly rock but, have done some country and big band stuff. I love music and since I am nowhere close to being a musician, this is a way I can be a small part of what, in the words of Henry Rollins, “gets me through the highs, the lows and everything in between”.