Monterey County's Most Memorable Music Moments of 2011
December 15, 2011
In 2011, the live music scene in Monterey County had some grand moments—Jackie Greene played a free show in Sand City and Ozomatli played The Mello in Watsonville—but it was also a reminder that we need more. Over the past few years, the local live music scene has suffered somewhat. The economy may be a factor but even in desperate times, music is important and healing; it’s a shame that Monterey Live still sits vacant and the now-defunct Eddie’s on Fremont Ave. (a perfect spot for live music) hasn’t been reinvented as a new space for live music. Monterey should continue to embrace its undying legacy: 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival set a lifelong table for outdoor music festivals. Don’t get me wrong, I love the annual jazz, blues and reggae festivals, but there is room for much more in between the plethora of food, wine and golf events peppering the Peninsula year after year. A big thanks to all the players that continue to bring good music to Monterey County.
Here are my top three shows of the year revisited through my blog posts. What are yours?
Red Hot Chili Peppers at HML (July 27) On Wednesday, July 27, a secret show was held at the Henry Miller Library. Everyone from Beach Boy Al Jardine and former Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully to Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke and mastermind producer Rick Rubin, wore big smiles under the celebrated redwoods. The secret: The Red Hot Chili Peppers (arranged by Britt Govea of (((folkYEAH!))). The beloved rockers, who recently finished recording their forthcoming album I'm With You with Rubin, jammed for nearly two hours in front of about 300 people under the redwoods. Library director Magnus Toren explained that the show was a taste of what the band would be up to on its upcoming tour in Europe, Asia and South America. The show was also the live debut of the Peppers' new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who replaced John Frusciante, and new percussionist Mauro Refosco. Klinghoffer and Refosco proved to be stellar additions. And Flea, Chad Smith and Anthony Kiedis sounded just as good as the Blood Sugar Sex Magik days. "You guys could probably rob my house right now," Flea, who has a house in Big Sur, joked. The seminal rockers melded new tunes—including the hypnotic "Ethiopia"—with the ones we grew up on, like the funky-punky "Give it Away" and "Californication." For most of the show, Kiedas wore a tuxedo jacket to help brave the Big Sur nighttime chill. By the end, he was shirtless. The Chili Peppers can still exude some powerful heat—steam literally wafted from their bodies—after three decades of delightful chaos.
Fleet Foxes at HML (Sept. 11) Thanks to the Henry Miller Library and (((folkYEAH!))), big-time acts appearing in Big Sur have become a commonplace occurrence at this late stage of the summer. On Sunday night, the trend continued with the vintage indie rock of The Walkmen, followed by a dynamic set, courtesy of Fleet Foxes. Beach Boy Al Jardine was on hand to watch the Foxes, whose tight harmonies have often been compared to the Beach Boys. Behind a screen of projected fractals and stars, the Seattle-based folk rockers, led by the bearded Robin Pecknold, played through a solid set of tunes from their recent Helplessness Blues and several songs from their self-titled, masterful debut. s amazing and Big Sur-centric as Helplessness Blues is, the songs from the Foxes' first record—"White Winter Hymnal" and "Ragged Wood"—were the sell-out crowd's obvious favorites. There's something very enjoyable about hearing lyrics involving little creatures wearing scarves to keep their little heads from falling in the snow.
Furthur at the Fairgrounds (Oct. 7 & 8) Day 1: As I walked the length of Fairgrounds Road at noon, the familiar smell of pot, patchouli and dirty dreads had already started to permeate the air. Heads of all ages were busy settling into what would be their makeshift homes for the next couple of days. "Doses," "boomers" and "nugs" was the common mantra as I wove in and out of a tie-died mecca of hand-blown pipes, Grateful Dead memorabilia, acid blotter art, vegan grilled cheese sandwiches and the occasional guy taking a leak between two parked cars. By 5pm, the crowd had grown exponentially as showtime was just around the corner. Phil Lesh and Bob Weir were about to play on the same stage they first played on back in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival. And that sense of nostalgia was definitely present for the folks attending that were at the festival more than 40 years ago. One concertgoer, who attended the event when she was just 13, remembered when the Dead played because she and her buddies breached the back fences of the main arena so they could get in for free. Furthur hit the stage a little after 7pm and didn't disappoint the nearly 7,000 folks in attendance. "Candyman" was as ethereal as it was with Jerry and their rendition of "Dear Prudence" was the unexpected jam of the night. Lesh and Weir have put together a solid band: John Kadlecik (below) smokes on lead guitar and his voice sounds eerily close, in a good way, to Garcia's. And Jeff Chimenti—who's appeared regularly in the past at the Monterey Jazz Fest—has chops on the keyboard that rival the late Keith Godchaux. After four decades, Weir and Lesh haven't really lost a beat and I think that's a result of how much fun they continue to have on stage. Day 2: As I walked down Fairgrounds Road around 2pm, the scene had grown even larger than Friday. It was like semi-organized chaos under the influence and armed with a herd of docile pitbulls. That night, I had never seen the arena as full as it was. From the seats on the sides of the arena, a sea of dreadlocks and glow sticks twirled steadily like whirligigs blowing in a faint breeze. The energy had to have transferred to the band because their performance was even better than the previous night. In my interview with Weir, he said it might be interesting to revisit the set the Dead played in 1967. Furthur didn't revisit the set but they did pluck a couple tunes from the set: "Viola Lee Blues" and "Golden Road." See entire set below. The second set of the second day was something very special from start to finish, highlighted by "Shakedown Street," "Truckin'," "All Along the Watchtower," "Morning Dew," "Let it Grow," "Franklin's Tower" and "One More Saturday Night" for the encore. At this point, Bobby and Phil are running a well-oiled machine and if all the freaks, geeks, old hippies, trustafarians and young dirtballs trying to find themselves can come together peacefully to listen to their music, I don't think it will ever stop.