Summer in SoCal – Hot Tips For the Concertgoer

Those who live here and those who visit know we have some of the finest outdoor venues in the country. We also have some cool indoor spots as well, and here are gigs to which many of us are looking forward.

Humphrey’s By The Bay

June 18 – Graham Nash – An Intimate Evening of Songs and Stories: With a new album and a never-quenched thirst for exploration, this veteran singer-songwriter always delivers a superb show. Nash has been the ombudsman in whatever group he has been a part, and his musical observations range from the deeply personal to the universal. If you miss this gig, you might be able to see him exactly a month later at the Belly Up for a sold out benefit performance if lightning strikes.

July 12 – Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit (with special guest Deer Tick): Isbell is one of the criminally underrated songwriters on the scene. His “If We Were Vampires” is an achingly beautiful treatise on growing old as a couple, but sadly most folks don’t know the breadth and depth of his songbook.

August 1 – Little Feat – Boogie Your Summer Away Tour (with special guest The Dirty Dozen Brass Band): This is one funky double bill. After blazing a trail in the 70s (Little Feat was Led Zeppelin’s favorite American band), the band took a hiatus after Lowell George’s untimely death. He had formed the band after a stint with Frank Zappa, and although Little Feat’s worldview was a bit more stark than fellow travelers of the LA music scene, the band built a fervent following.

September 29 – Natalie Merchant – Keep Your Courage Tour: As the original voice and pride of Jamestown, NY (home of Chautauqua and Lucile Ball, donchyaknow), Merchant has explored a solo career marked by highly and some would say overly literate aspirations. Her fervent pursuit of the arts sometimes shows a misstep (I wonder if she wants to recant her position about regretting the cover version of Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train” now that it is evident he never supported the fatwa), but her commitment is strong.

October 8 – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: He was a critics darling for years, with even Elton John singing his praises. Adams then began garnering the attention he deserved, but has kept a low profile of late. His insightful songwriting will overshadow some questionable behavior over the years.

Rady Shell

August 18 – Judy Collins and Madeleine Peyroux Performing with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra: What a lovely evening from two sterling voices from the distaff side. Collins was muse to Stephen Stills (“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”) and Bob Dylan (“I’ll Keep It For Mine”). Her work is suffused with grace and insight. Peyroux has done a marvelous job interpreting songs and making her own over the course of a growing career. With our orchestra? This will be grand.

September 4 – Van Morrison: He can be a curmudgeon, but he remains my desert island artist. When he hits his stride in concert, the result can be transcendent. His latest recorded work (like many of his cohort still touring) is not overly compelling, but fortunately the bulk of his setlist will be drawn from his deep and stirring portfolio. Given the gorgeous setting of the venue, we can hope for a mesmerizing refrain of “…as we sailed into the mystic.”

September 9 – Bebop and Beyond: The Music of Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie: Charles McPherson (sax) and Gilbert Castellanos (trumpet) lead a superb quintet of master jazz musicians, assaying two of the giants of the genre. Parker and Gillespie reshaped the face of jazz, and this evening you will hear why.

Belly Up

May 30, 31 and June 5 – Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs: The gnarly guitar work of the Heartbreakers was generally a result of Campbell, but Tom Petty certainly added much. Here, Campbell’s Dirty Knobs will deliver some rockin’ gut bucket songs, but expect a few choice Petty covers.

July 3, 4 – Lyle Lovett and His Large Band: One of the most consistently satisfying live performers will fit is rather large band on the intimate stage of the Belly Up. Lovett’s wry and insightful lyrics coupled with his superb musicianship make him an American treasure. Independence Day, indeed.

September 18 – The Monkees Celebrated by Micky Dolenz: For a certain cohort, this “Prefab Four” was the introduction to rock music. As the last man standing, Dolenz will handle the vocal chores of his late bandmates, but no one in attendance will complain. Many of these songs have been genetically engineered into our cortex. The last train to Clarksville will leave from the Solana Beach Amtrak station an hour after this show ends.

September 24 – Al Stewart: This British veteran has a songbook that extends before and after his smash hit “Year of the Cat.” With a penchant for tackling historical observations, Stewart is a consummate tunesmith.

The Sound

October 9 – The Psychedelic Furs & Squeeze: San Diego’s newest venue sports an impressive sound system, which will be put through its paces with this impressive double bill. I will be curious if the bands flip a coin before each gig to determine the headliner, or if they more logically do so prior to the start of the tour. Each band can make a credible headliner argument. Regardless, lovers of erudite British songwriting will revel in the myriad hits from Squeeze, and those wearing mostly black will absorb the Furs’ more forceful delivery.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.