31 Things To Do This May: The Mill Valley Music Festival, Wildflower Walks and a Film Festival for AAPI Heritage Month

May 7

Bring a lawn chair, a hat and a refillable water bottle to the field behind the Mill Valley Community Center and celebrate the return of live music in a festival format, outdoors in Marin. Hosted by the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce (with Noise Pop Industries) an inaugural, one day, all-ages art and culture festival is headlined by blues-folk-reggae-rock singer and multiple Grammy Award winner Ben Harper with his band, The Innocent Criminals. The full day’s line-up–Liz Cooper, La Doña (a.k.a. San Francisco-born Cecilia Cassandra Peña-Govea), Lettuce, and Los Amigos Invisibles–spans the United States, even stretching to Venezuela. Food, drink, art and merch will be available at pop-up stands around the field. “We can’t wait to celebrate the resilience of Mill Valley, Marin County, and the entire Bay Area,” says Mill Valley Chamber Director, Jim Welte. “A soundtrack of fantastic music, an abundance of incredible food, drink, and art –it’s the perfect opportunity to spend an afternoon with your best friends and ones you’ve yet to meet.”

May 1 Joy Alive

The lead singer from the 1960’s band, Joy of Cooking, joins forces with master drummer Barbara Borden and acoustic bassist and founding member of 1970’s band Alive!, Susanne Divincenzo for a one-of-a-kind concert in Mill Valley.

May 2 Weaving Stories

Today is the last day to see 45 examples of 19th and 20th century textiles from Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia in an exhibit that explores how fabrics are woven into the daily lives of the peoples of Southeast Asia, including archival photographs and multimedia displays.

May 3 Spring has Sprung

Peek into elegant courtyards and meander through blooming gardens as the Raccoon Branch of MarinHealth Medical Center hosts a  walking tour around Belvedere Lagoon. The event concludes with a garden-inspired sip & shop boutique at the San Francisco Yacht Club. Proceeds help fund the new Behavioral Health Outpatient Program which provides Marin County residents accessible, affordable, and essential support for mental wellness.

May 4 Wildflower Walks

With a gourmet picnic lunch from Dry Creek Kitchen in hand, local trail guide and certified health coach Karen Austin leads private guided walks along Healdsburg’s rolling hills and trails where guests immerse themselves in the colors and scents of spring, through May 31.

May 5 DocLands

The California Film Institute returns to San Rafael with a slate of documentary films (in theater and virtual) in three broad categories: Wonderlands, the Great Outdoors and the Art of Impact, through May 11.

May 6 Carmina Burana

Carl Orff’s showpiece, arguably the most iconic choral work of the 20th century, is performed by the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and the San Francisco Boys’ Chorus.

May 7 Bon Air 70th Birthday Bash

The community is invited to share in a landmark birthday of Greenbrae’s signature shopping center, with live music from Bread & Roses Presents and hands-on activities for community members of all ages.

May 8 Russell Peters

Ok, ok, it’s Mothers’ Day but the comic recently named one of Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Comics of All Time perhaps best known for his stand-up special, “Russell Peters Deported” on Amazon Prime might be just the thing for that special mother figure in your life.

May 9  The Government Inspector  

Not unlike a Marx Brothers comedy, mistaken identity and local corruption drive this 19th century classic comedy of errors by Nikolai Gogol, through June 15 in Ross.

May 10 The Haiyaa World Tour

Nigel Ng, creator of the global viral sensation ‘Uncle Roger’ and host of the brand-new podcast series “HAIYAA with Nigel Ng” performs at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts.

May 11 Silent Film Festival

Today is the last day to watch–and listen to live musical accompaniment–films from the silent era, at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre. Today’s films include “Lady Windermere’s Fan” from 1925 and “Salt for Svanetia” from 1930.

May 12 Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant

The Large Carnivore Ecologist and Conservation Scientist is the keynote speaker at An Evening Outside, the 50th anniversary celebration of NatureBridge that includes a cocktail hour, short hike, farm-to-table dinner, and cozy campfire.

May 13 SambaDa

Bring your dancing shoes – the Santa Cruz-based Brazilian band references salsa and cumbia, blending them with funk and reggae beats with plenty of high energy percussion and danceable grooves at a performance in Sebastopol.

May 14  Talking Circle

Photo courtesy of Robbie Sweeny

An evening-length work with a multigenerational cast, including two members of The Elders Project, explores the relationship between individual and collective and asks: What will we risk for freedom?, through May 22.

May 15 Young Artists’ Concert

After spending the morning running Bay to Breakers, check out the up-and-coming classical music performers in the grand finale for The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s season in the late afternoon. The group is a part of Marin Music Chest, which provides financial support and performance opportunities to talented, young Marin County students of classical music.

May 15 The Curious World of Seaweed

Also opening May 15 at Marin Art & Garden Center: an exhibit from ocean activist and author Josie Iselin, who painted seaweed portraits that combine with fascinating historical imagery to delve deep into the beauty and science of seaweed, through July 10.

May 16 CAAMFest

The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) welcomes audiences back into the theater to celebrate its fortieth year presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences. Look for films showing around the Bay including at the newly renovated Great Star Theater in Chinatown, Castro Theater, Asian Art Museum, and SFMOMA, as well as online, through May 22.

May 17 Julia Bullock

In her “History’s Persistent Voice,” the classically-trained singer presents a program of new works from Camille Norment, Carolyn Yarnell, Jessie Montgomery, and other Black American artists, at Davies Symphony Hall.

May 18 Terra Incognita

Three decades of Oakland-based artist David Huffman’s Traumanauts (characters who traverse the galaxy) series explores science fiction, formalist abstraction and social justice movements of the late-20th century in a range of media including large-scale canvas, works on paper, ceramics, video and printmaking, through August 21.

May 19 Michael Lewis

The author of MoneyballThe Blind Side, and The Big Short sits down with Dave Eggers, author of The Every, The Monk of Mokha, and What Is The What, to discuss grief, Lewis’ recent book about the pandemic – The Premonition – and the newest season of his podcast, Against The Rules.

May 20 Get on Board

Sonny Terry’s 1963 album with Brownie McGhee, “Sonny is King,” is explored in a new album by two greats of the American roots and blues traditions, Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder, at Great American Music Hall.

May 21 Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience

The Matheson restaurant will act as community hub for a welter of chefs (Nyesha Arrington, Viet Pham, Stephanie Izard, Tim Love) cooking up a storm at culinary experiences, parties and seminars, to support Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation and Healdsburg High’s Future Farmers of America program, through May 22.

May 22 Sunday in the Park

Spend an afternoon strolling the lawns of Marin Art & Garden Center, sipping wine, nibbling hors d’oeuvres, and taking in a San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows Concert, with a live auction to benefit the artists and performances of Merola Opera Program.  

Also premiering on May 22 is Hello, Dolly!

The Mountain Play storms back to live theater in the fresh air of  the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre on Mount Tamalpais with high-energy dancing and songs that tell the tale of the romantic and comic exploits of Dolly Gallaher-Levi, turn-of-the-century matchmaker and “woman who arranges things.” Additional performances on May 29, and June 5 with sing-alongs on June 11, 12 and 19.

May 23 The Art of the Brick

Walk beside a 20-foot-long T-Rex dinosaur skeleton, come face-to-face with a giant skull or marvel at a sculpture of a man ripping his chest open with thousands of yellow — you guessed it — LEGO bricks cascading out in an all-things LEGO exhibition from contemporary artist Nathan Sawaya, through May 30.

May 24 OMD

With over 40 years as a rock band, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark rebranded but the songs – ahem – remain the same and will be played live at Oakland’s Fox Theater.

May 25 Art of California

Hurry to SFMoma for a short-lived exhibition that considers common objects that, through the art-making process, are Greater than the Sum, through May 29.

May 26 The Sound Inside

Photo courtesy of Sham Hinchey
Photo courtesy of Sham Hinchey

The West Coast premiere in Mill Valley of Adam Rapp’s Tony-nominated thriller looks at the lives of a brilliant Ivy League writing professor with a dark secret, a talented yet mysterious student and an unthinkable favor, through June 19.

May 27 Carnival

After a two year hiatus, the Ferris wheel will rise above Mill Valley’s Friends Field and the family-friendly rides and games, sponsored by Kiddo!, the Mill Valley Schools Community Foundation, are back for Memorial Day weekend, through May 30.

May 27 BottleRock

Metallica, Pink and Twenty One Pilotsheadline three days of a wine-fueled party over Memorial Day Weekend that features a culinary stage, a sparkle bar, silent disco and a sculpture garden, through May 29.

May 28 Ice Show

Escape holiday weekend madness and experience new work by Marin-based artist Bill Russell, who uses the iceberg as a visual metaphor to communicate the brutal changes wrought by climate change in an educational series of multidisciplinary works, at Marin MoCA through June 5.

May 29 Muir Beach Barbecue

After a two-year hiatus, the 48th Annual Muir Beach Volunteer Firemen’s Barbecue is back at Santos Meadows. Wreckless Strangers kick off the afternoon with their “California Americana Soul” followed by Andre Pessis and his All-Stars with classic rock and R & B tunesBarbecue chicken and vegetarian tamale lunches, beer, wine and soda available for purchase.

May 30 Wonderbread 5

Wrap up a festive holiday weekend at Rancho Nicasio who act as host for the beloved rock and roll party machine and serve up plenty of barbecue alongside.

May 31 MYR

With its title from the unit of measurement equaling one million years, an exhibit explores how the vast stream of pre-human history collides with contemporary existential anxieties, particularly the imminent climate emergency, through August 27.


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Christina Mueller

Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract PublishingSunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon SocietyPEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.