I've long theorized that San Diego's music scene is hindered by the weather. In Seattle, people are forced inside by the rain. Thus, their rock clubs thrive. In San Diego, people expend their energy in the sun during the day. Why would you want to go inside when the reason you're paying astronomical rent is the freakishly temperate weather outside?
But there is a way to do both: outdoor concerts. In San Diego, the phrase "The event will happen rain or shine" is almost laughable. As summer swelters into its second month, we offer a few of our choice spots to catch a concert without a roof over your head.
"Four O'Clock Fridays"
Del Mar Racetrack
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar
Fridays, 7:30 p.m.
Four O'Clock Fridays may be the ultimate summer concert experience in San Diego. Within one square mile, you can have brunch on the brim of the Pacific Ocean, watching rich people throw sandy tennis balls to their expensive dogs, as surfers molest the beach break. By 1:30 p.m., you're poring over tip sheets under the Spanish awnings of the Del Mar Racetrack. You bet. You lose. The girl you're with picks the horse because the jockey's jersey is "totally Cher, circa Heart of Stone" and wins boatloads. As the sun sets, the girl with the money buys a round of margaritas and you join the 5,000 or so others in front of the stage in the plaza. And there you will see:
Pinback: Aug. 11
The underground has long hailed singer-songwriter-guitarist Rob Crowe as an underground genius. But when "Penelope" from Blue Screen Life became a sleeper radio hit, Pinback became the sort of band who headlines events like this.
Alice in Chains, Aug. 18
They were the druggiest of the grunge bands-and singer Layne Staley eventually fixed himself into oblivion, as expected. A band without their lead singer is like watching Raiders of the Lost Ark with Lorenzo Lamas in place of Harrison Ford. But guitarist Jerry Cantrell had always been the main songwriter, and reportedly new singer William DuVall nails it. Their recent San Diego show sold out quickly.
>Matt Costa, Aug. 25
Once Jack Johnson hit it big, he brought his pals along with him in the form of pro surfer Donavon Frankenreiter and ex-pro skater Matt Costa. You could write it off as action sports nepotism if the music weren't so groovy. Costa's nothing groundbreaking-just sweet, good love songs in the vein of Matt Pond PA or Rhett Miller.
Louis XIV, Sept. 1
San Diego's reigning kings of STD-rock are currently working on their second album for Atlantic Records, and this hometown showcase will be a litmus test of their pulling power and a sneak peak at the new material. Our guess is that they'll glam it up to a full house of hyperventilating jailbait singing along to radio hit "Finding Out True Love Is Blind."
"Summer in the Park"
Trolley Barn Park (University Heights)
Adams Avenue and Florida Street
Fridays, 6 to 8 p.m.
Judging by how unsuccessful the trolley has been in San Diego, maybe the city should just put all the trolley cars in the park and let the kids role-play conductor-and-passenger. This series is where center city busts out the picnic baskets:
Lady Dottie & the Diamonds, Aug. 4
Lady Dottie has become the top cover band for discerning hipsters who usually would rather attend a "Fans of The O.C." convention than listen to a cover band. Full-figured and full of life despite being eligible for senior discounts, Lady Dottie leads some of the city's best underground musicians in some sweaty rock and blues classics.
Clyde and The Moonlighters, Aug. 11
This one's for anyone who decorates their apartment in that minimalist mid-century décor that comes in strange, greenish colors. Clyde and his band do 1950s music exclusively, whether it's Elvis, Chuck Berry or girl-group stuff that doo-wahs all over its la-las.
Sue Palmer, Aug. 18
She's the queen of boogie-woogie in San Diego. Maybe because she's the only musician who's still giving CPR to the genre, but no doubt the woman can swing.
"El Cajon Concerts on the Green"
Main Street, El Cajon
Fridays, 6 to 8 p.m.
Prescott Promenade is in the middle of El Cajon's main street, a sort of artistic center for the city, with farmers' markets and an arts center nearby. Keep an eye out for the 84-year-old dancing woman cold rockin' with the help of her walker. The highlights:
Whisky Tango Sessions, Aug. 4
Another nominee for "Best Americana or Country Album" at this year's San Diego Music Awards. A bunch of La Mesa hicks who've worked with the genre's best (Lucinda Williams, Shooter Jennings) and do bone-simple, hard-livin' country of their own.
Candye Kane, Aug. 25
The cliché "large and in charge" has rarely been more apropos with San Diego's top female blues artist. Recap: a former adult film star with a booming voice does the blues so well that national media are forced to give her kudos beyond the film credits.
Tribute to The Farmers, Sept. 8
The Beat Farmers were and are the biggest thing San Diego has ever contributed to the national roots-rock scene. Now with the deaths of two hard-living members-Country Dick Montana and Buddy Blue-people are starting to realize just how integral this band was to our music history.
"Viejas Bayside Concerts"
Embarcadero Marina South
Marina Park Way, Downtown
One of the most idyllic venues in San Diego-a patch of grass perched behind the Convention Center, surrounded on both sides by the San Diego bay. By the time Radiohead took the stage last month, freeloaders-both sitting on the rocks outside the venue and the rich people on their yachts-were lined up to watch the sun dip into the Pacific. The highlights:
Ben Harper w/ Damien Marley, Aug. 13
Taking cues from the blues masters (and looking prematurely decrepit for it), Harper rips Jimi Hendrix-like while sitting down the entire damn show. Few people can pull it off like he can. Damien Marley should steal the show, though-his recent album, Jamrock, is one of the best things to happen to reggae since his papa came Stateside.
Death Cab for Cutie w/ Spoon & Mates of State, Aug. 15
Holy indie-fag party! Your tender friends with the ironic T-shirts who told you years ago that "Omaha is the next Seattle" will be out in droves. Death Cab will serve as The O.C.- and MTV-knighted indie-pop kings, while Spoon should steal the show with Britt Daniels' great songs. Mates of State are phenomenal on record, a bit shrill live.
Matisyahu w/ Gomez & Street Drum Corps, Sept. 12
Seeing as how San Diegans single-handedly made Sublime go multi-platinum, it figured that the bearded Hasidic Jew doing dub would go huge here. Groan. But this show has a phenomenal supporting cast with the U.K.'s rootsy soul-rockers Gomez and interesting STOMP rip-offs, Street Drum Corps.
"Concerts in the Park" Viejas Casino
5000 Willows Road, Alpine
Yeah, it's "out there in the sticks," but Viejas' outdoor venue is one of the nicest in the area. The concert series is a lot like the one at Humphrey's-mostly geared toward the "adult alternative" genre, where concession stands sell more chardonnay than Coors Light. The highlights:
Ziggy Marley w/ Sinead O'Connor, Sly & Robbie and Ozomatli, AUG. 10
Besides Dwight Yoakam, probably the best bill in the series. Ziggy's new album, Love Is My Religion, is atrocious, but he's got some classics to share. Sinead is Sinead-a conflicted quasi-spiritual Irish lass with a booming Celtic voice-on this bill because her latest was a decent stab at dub. Sly & Robbie represent the genre legend in the lineup, and Ozo bring the funk en español party vibe.
Credence Clearwater Revisited, Aug. 12
Two ways to look at it: they penned more road-trip rock classics than anyone. But is it worth seeing it without John Fogerty on vocals?
Randy Travis, Aug. 25
Travis was a ray of hope in mainstream country (read: non-glitzy traditionalist who didn't write pop songs with a slide guitar) until Garth Brooks and Clint Black took over in the '90s. Plus, a reason to wear that silly ten-gallon hat you impulse-bought on a road trip through New Mexico.
John Fogerty, Aug. 29
If you chose not to hear CCR classics without Fogerty (as mentioned above), then this is the show for you. The famed frontman plays both solo standouts and his old band's Vietnam-era hits.
Dwight Yoakam, Sept. 14
This is pure country-wallowing, whiskey-makes-me-cry laments. Yoakam is the anti-Nashville, and his last album, Blame the Vain, was a rebel classic of the genre. Probably the best country show this year.
Live, Oct. 6
Shhhh... don't tell anyone, but the overly earnest and melodramatic do-gooders in Live actually put on one heckuva rock show. Put on a disguise and go.
"Concerts by the Bay"
Humphrey's by the Bay
2241 Shelter Island Drive, Point Loma
Humphrey's is a nice venue-one you can take your fancy relatives to without having to suggest they get inoculated beforehand. Cabana-style hotel rooms surround the stage on three sides, while the freeloading boaters and the bay flank the other. The highlights:
Randy Newman, Aug. 9
Simply one of the funniest songwriters of the last four decades, Newman still floors audiences, who will no doubt shout "I'm dead! I'm dead!" along with his hit, "I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It)." Short people welcome.
Dave Brubeck Quartet, Aug. 20
Time Out is in the top 100 jazz albums of all time-it's signature tune, "Take Five," an instantly recognizable classic. Brubeck took a lot of flak for writing "popular" jazz music, meaning it wasn't so complex that it sounded like a math problem. A living legend.
Etta James, Aug. 22
Another living legend who's inching closer and closer to the end of her performing career. The woman has survived seven lifetimes worth of abuse (both self-inflicted and otherwise) and can still nail soul classics like "Tell Mama" and "I'd Rather Go Blind."
Rosanne Cash, Aug. 28
Sure, Reese Witherspoon gave a shot in the arm to Rosanne's career when Walk the Line documented her befallen legendary papa. But Rosanne didn't need the help-since 1979, she's put out 11 fantastic albums of her own. Her latest, Black Cadillac, was haunted by the memories of Johnny and June. Sad and beautiful.
Los Lobos, Sept. 8
There are very few mid-level artists who can enjoy a two-decade career without becoming tired or passé. Los Lobos is one of those-these vatos have been infusing traditional Latin folk music with the punk spirit since Reagan's first term.
Emmylou Harris, Oct. 3
Yet another in the line of "living legends" that Humphreys brings out every year. Emmylou proved that just because the world knows your name doesn't mean you can't be recklessly creative. The ghost of Gram Parsons approves.
Frank Black, Oct. 15
Yes, the Pixies were one of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll bands. Yes, we hated that they broke up. But Frank Black has quietly made some of the most varied solo albums in their absence. Here, it's just him, which is good enough.