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Arturo O’Farrill opens free Yerba Buena Gardens fest

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Arturo O’Farrill brings his big Grammy-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to The City to kick off the 2017 Yerba Buena Gardens Festival on Sunday. (Courtesy Laura Mariet)

Now in its 17th year, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival begins at 1 p.m. Sunday with a performance by Grammy-winning Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra + VNote Ensemble. It’s the first of 100 free events in the outdoor urban center this summer.

“Everyone needs the spiritual sustenance, inspiration and communal experience that only live performance offers. This summer, you’ll find your joy at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival,” says program director Linda Lucero.

Each weekend offers at least one free show — music, theater, circus, dance, poetry or children’s programs — with about dozen performances slated each month from May through October. Most are around lunchtime, and some are in the early evenings.

Highlights include a salsa dance series at 6 p.m. Thursdays, featuring Changüí Majadero (May 18), La Mixta Criolla (June 15), Somos el Son (July 20), Bobi Céspedes (Aug. 17) and Richard Lemvo & Makina Loca (Sept. 21).

Concerts are offered most Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The lineup includes The Anita Lofton Project (May 25), Howard Wiley & Extra Nappy (June 1), Aireene & the Itch (June 8), Destani Wolf (June 15), Jenny Lind Concert (June 22), The Jamming Nachos (June 29), Eva Salina (July 6), Cascada de Flores (July 13), Shamisen of Bachido + Awakko Ren (July 20), RUBaDUB Posse (July 27), Blue Tango Project (Aug. 3), Jazz Herstory Collective (Aug. 17), Dalia Marina (Aug. 24), Evie Ladin Band (Aug. 31), The Flock (Sept. 7) and Camilo y los Robot Ninjas (Sept. 21).

Acts at 1 p.m. Saturday concerts include Richard Howell & Sudden Changes (May 27), Michael Doucet and Tom Rigney with Flambeau (June 3), M.A.K.U. Soundsystem (June 17), Paula West (Aug. 26), Kugelplex with special guest Linda Tillery (Sept. 2) and Marcus Shelby Orchestra (Sept. 23).

New works commissioned by the festival also are on the bill. They include ChoreoFest, a dance festival curated by RAWdance’s Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith on June 9-11; “Lear!,” queer troupe Theatre Rhino’s site-specific satirical musical based on Shakespeare’s “King Lear” on July 7-9; and a new one ring show by Circus Bella on June 23-24.

The gardens also host cultural events: the 20th Native Contemporary Arts Festival on June 18, the 17th annual AfroSolo in the Gardens on Aug. 5, the 24th annual Pistahan Aug. 12-13, and Brazil in the Gardens on Aug. 20.

2017 Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
Where: Mission Street, between Third and Fourth streets, S.F.
When: May through October
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 543-1718, www.ybgfestival.org

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