High Notes

Between songs at Folktale Winery, Fantastic Negrito spoke about how doctors told him how injuries to his hand in a 1999 car crash would prevent him from pursuing a music career.

It was a great year for music in Monterey County. So as we leave 2019 behind, here’s a look back at just a few of the memorable local concerts of the year – a short list that cannot make room for all of the powerful performances and festivals.

Fantastic Negrito in the Barrel Room at Folktale Winery, April 30

Brought in as part of KRML Radio’s Live in the Vines series, this Oakland-based double Grammy winner bombarded the crowd with a personal life story of tragedy and redemption, together with a long set of pulverizing blues, Lenny Kravitz-like guitar sonics and gutsy vocals that make Robert Plant sound tame.

Jackie Greene Band at Golden State Theatre, June 7

Last heard here in 2016 when he also gave a “Best Of” show, this Salinas-born, Sacramento-bred multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, banjo, blues harp) and his energetic six-piece band pranced through a long set of tasty blues and slide licks, rockin’ soul, gospel-infused arrangements and straight-ahead rock, all delivered with his trademark enviable vocal ease.

Feleboga at Carl Cherry Center, July 12

Making their seventh local appearance, this Oslo-based father-son-mom trio is the real deal as far as old-timey authentic Nordic folk played on traditional instruments like the hardingfele (aka hardanger fiddle – a specialized, multi-stringed, ornately decorated violin). Drawing from traditional Norwegian dance tunes as well as folk music of the Appalachian Mountains, the trio used the music’s power to make the walls of this intimate theater swell as they transported the audience to a simpler time.

Michael Franti and Spearhead at Golden State Theatre, Oct. 14

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This San Francisco-based bandleader forsook a full basketball scholarship for a career in music and we’re thrilled he did. He and his group burned through a mesmerizing display of pure positivity that left us wondering just why we’ve been feeling so down about current events this past year. That’s what music is for.

Robert Cray at Golden State Theatre, Nov. 15

Why Cray continues to fly under most listeners’ radars and Best Of lists eludes us, and this lengthy set proved that shouldn’t be the case. A more-than-capable blues guitarist, he also possesses a soul-infused tenor voice that rivals the late, great Marvin Gaye, together with trenchant and concise lyric writing, as seen in originals like his anthemic “It Takes Two to Heal a Broken Heart.”

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