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Monday, August 29, 2011

People in Plazas Soothes Your Humdrum Lunch Hour with Live Music

Posted By on Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 5:18 PM


The next time you're eating your lunch in your office -- all alone, probably crying yourself silly out of boredom and/or despair -- head outside and follow the music.

Since the early '70s, People in Plazas has brought free concerts to public spaces in the Bay Area. What started as a "pass-the-hat" operation eventually grew into a non-profit with an annual budget of about $150,000, thanks to funding from building owners, the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, the mayor's office, and other sponsors.

"I just try to put in things that people really like to hear," program director Lynn Valente says. "But I have no limitations on what I would do. The way I choose performers is if it's something unusual, something I haven't had before, quality of musicianship, that kind of thing."

People in Plazas aims to use live music to turn open urban spaces -- like parks and plazas next to office buildings -- into places where people can congregate and socialize, according to the organization's website.

  • Lynn Valente

The schedule for September includes genres like swing, salsa, acoustic rock, gypsy jazz, Bengali jazz, country, and zydeco, just to name a few.

Each gig's location and the day's weather have a big impact on attendance, but "usually it's about 50 to 100 people every 20 minutes," Valente says. "People don't really stay for the whole thing -- it's not really that kind of concert." Each event costs about $1,000 to produce.

The series runs from July 1 to Sept. 30 in venues all along Market St. and neighboring blocks in downtown S.F., like Mint Plaza, Jane Warner Plaza, and the Rincon Plaza. All concerts are free and start at noon, and a full schedule is available online.

Bands interested in playing next year's season should send their press kit and song samples to by February.


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