Thursday, January 1, 2009
In 2008, Monterey County residents didn’t have to travel to San Francisco or Los Angeles to see the best up-and-coming acts or some of the most revered figures in music– they came to us. Add a handful of dependable local live acts and some venues offering consistently strong fare and you’ve got a particularly strong year for local music lovers. Here’s a look at the highlights.
10. Pacific Grove Gets a Pulse
America’s last hometown is not known for its nightlife, but frequent pub-rock shows at Pacific Grove’s Pelican Tavern gave the place a bit of a heartbeat. A sports bar most of the week, Pelican Tavern hosted several Mike Beck shows, a performance by Santa Cruz’s Soul Majestic and the reunion of roots rock band the Cowboy Satellites.
9. The Rise of Jose’s Underground Lounge
Booker/promoter/beer caddy/soundman Tobin Peregrina helped the unassuming Jose’s Underground Lounge– which no matter how much they gussy it up still feels like a basement you would hang out in during your high school days– get a string of memorable shows.
Great local acts like The Mystery Lights and Sarah McCoy played to enthusiastic audiences in the small venue. In addition, Peregrina got a steady stream of out-of-town talent, including the heavy psychedelic rockers Mammatus and punkers Los Dryheavers. Best of all, Peregrina engineered the return of a couple of bands with serious Monterey roots: the San Francisco funk group Sugar and Gold and The Starlite Desperation, who started out here before moving to Detroit and Los Angeles, respectively.
8. Tornado Rider Takes Off
Charismatic cellist Rushad Eggleston unleashed a new band, Tornado Rider, that streamlined his quirkiness into manic, punky pop nuggets. The trio whipped up audiences at venues including Monterey Live and the Big Sur Spirit Garden like the weather pattern the band is named after.
7. Salinas Music Scene Evolves
Two developments that helped the Salinas music scene rise up: an expansion at Casa Sorrento, which allowed the restaurant to bring in acts including the Chicano All Stars and Shane Dwight, and the emergence of Giovane’s, which assisted by local promoter Mean Bean Productions brought great Bay Area acts Judgement Day, La Plebe and The Phenomenauts to the Italian eatery.
6. Fleet Foxes at the Big Sur Spirit Garden
All year long, national publications including Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and Mojo all drooled over the self-titled debut by the five-piece folk rock band Fleet Foxes. Monterey County residents got to see what all the fuss was about when the group performed at the Big Sur Spirit Garden this fall.
5. Monterey Jazz Festival
The 51st– whoah– Monterey Jazz Festival was another landslide of immensely talented musicians, from the get-up funk of Maceo Parker to the abstract sounds of the Wayne Shorter Quartet.
4. Monterey Bay Blues Festival
The most fun local music festival around town didn’t disappoint this year, with great music courtesy of the Taj Mahal Trio and B.B. King, and lots of tasty Southern vittles.
3. The Fox Theater’s Eclectic Schedule
The Fox Theater’s music offerings were almost comical in how all over the place they were in 2008. The restored Salinas landmark had something for your Harley-ridin’ uncle (The Fryed Bros Band), your hippie aunt (Jesse Colin Young), your pot smokin’ cousin (Don Carlos), your rap-lovin’ little sister (E-40) and your stuck-in-the ’80s, bandana-wearin’ pal from high school (Bret Michaels).
2. The Big Sur Benefit Concerts
The Big Basin Complex Fire burned residences and forced the evacuation of the community during prime tourist season. It was a traumatic event for many, but there were some great music events that rose from the fire’s ashes. The Big Sur Band-A-Thon at Monterey Live featured 12 hours of local music, while Big Sur Rising found Palo Colorado and Tornado Rider electrifying the crowd at the Big Sur Spirit Garden. The biggest event by far was a Folk Yeah! weekend of music at the Fernwood Campground and Henry Miller Library featuring amazing music by The Entrance Band, The Silver Jews, Little Joy, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Pegi Young Band.
1. Music Legends at the Golden
Back in 2007, Monterey’s Golden State Theatre and Carmel’s Sunset Theater were having a knockdown, drag-out fight to see which one would distinguish itself as Monterey County’s premier music venue for rock and blues music legends. Sunset got acoustic guitar legend David Bromberg. Golden State upped the ante with Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. It went on and on until the end of the year.
In 2008, the Sunset Center went in a different direction and scheduled a handful of top-notch theater, dance and family productions in place of rock, jazz and blues shows. Meanwhile, the Golden State emerged victorious in the rock and blues department and then proceeded to trample any competition with a seemingly nonstop procession of nationally known acts– country legend Willie Nelson, longtime rockers Los Lobos, acclaimed songwriter Randy Newman, ’70s hit makers the Doobie Brothers, etc.
Thankfully, the Golden State shows no signs of slowing down in 2009. Already scheduled at the venue in the coming year are folk legend Joan Baez, Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna and ’60s icon Donovan.