“I’ve still got it,” Patti Smith told the packed house at the Golden State Theatre back in 2012. The punk rocker’s rare acoustic birthday tribute show to John Lennon, featured excerpts from the multi-talent’s memoir Just Kids alongside thoughts on culture and fashion and selections from Lennon’s catalog, including “Oh Yoko.” While the music was acoustic, Smith’s punk edge was intact.
With audience members shouting requests, she replied, “Fuck you, you’re not going to get that.” Smith did bust out fan faves “Pissing in a River” and “Because the Night.”
The Golden State Theatre’s 90-year history is flush with indelible moments like that. The past decade alone overflows with brilliant performances from a barrage of music luminaries: Brian Wilson, B.B. King, Bob Weir, Joan Baez, KRS-One, Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lyle Lovett, Mumford & Sons, Philip Glass, Merle Haggard, Band of Horses, Randy Newman and, most recently, Dr. John among them.
The aesthetic of the building helps yield such greatness from performers. The theater’s vibrant muqarnas, arches and decorative tile work represent the trademark architectural intricacies of the Reid Brothers, also known for designing San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel.
Shortly after the announcement that Lori and Eric Lochtefeld purchased the GST in 2014, the couple began to grasp the depth of the community’s relationship with the theater.
“I had people come up to me on the street crying,” Eric said. “They had their first date there, their first cigarette there, and you realize over time what a responsibility it is to the community.”
On Monday, the six-day Golden State Theatre 90th Anniversary Celebration kicks off with a free showing of Citizen Kane followed by a free Monterey County Pops performance on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Michael McDonald (Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers) returns. Meanwhile, Thursday’s Local Band Night is a free four-band showcase that includes psych prog-rockers Strawberry Girls, free-spirit jammers Valley Soul, pop-punk outfit The Bloody Kerouacs and indie rockers the Cowboy Starr Project.
On Friday, Aug. 5, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, original members of The Monkees, will bring their multimedia spectacle The Monkees – Good Times: The 50th Anniversary Tour to GST. And Saturday, Aug. 6, the Alvarado Street Block Party takes the celebrating outside.
In the meantime, here are five of GST’s top musical memories of recent years:
Etta James (2007)
Along with a dynamic voice, the late great Etta James delivered some of her quintessential on-stage raunchiness, with suggestive tongue action and backside thrusting lining her entertaining GST set. The legendary blues vocalist seamlessly worked through her catalog of hits, including “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and her sentimental “At Last” (the most popular wedding song of all-time).
Weird Al Yankovic (2007)
It wasn’t enough for the most renowned song satirist ever to perform his beloved alternate takes on some of pop music’s biggest hits. He became the characters. From the Segway-riding geek in “White and Nerdy” to the angst-ridden wastoid who leads “Smells Like Nirvana,” Weird Al required a costume change before every song. And he transformed GST into his own personal funhouse, complete with confetti explosions that had enough velocity to reach the balcony.
John Prine (2012)
The then-66-year-old consummate singer-songwriter led his band through a three-hour program. Wearing his signature all-black getup, Prine wove classic nostalgia (“Angel From Montgomery”) with somber anti-war ballads (“Sam Stone.”) Prine returns later this year.
How to Destroy Angels (2013)
Trent Reznor’s arsenal of laserbeams, glittery trails and 16-foot LED wall blended with the fluid electronica layered in dramatic dissonance. The Nine Inch Nails frontman’s atmospheric electronica side-project How to Destroy Angels, which also features his wife Mariqueen Maandig, longtime collaborator Atticus Ross and Rob Sheridan, is a visually intoxicating spectacle.
Darlene Love (2014)
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love delivered a pair of soulful 45-minute sets punctuated by industry stories and gratitude to the audience. “Every time I’m on stage, my desire is to make you happy,” Love professed to the sell-crowd. GST was one of several shows Love performed on a summer tour that followed the 2013 Oscar-winning documentary, 20 Feet From Stardom, which made the world fall hard for Love, who had humbly spent decades singing backup on some of rock and roll’s most iconic tunes, including the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” Highlights included a Roberta Flack medley that kicked off with “Killing Her Softly,” a Marvin Gaye medley featuring “What’s Going On” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and The Crystals’ early ’60s gem, “Da Doo Ron Ron.”
GOLDEN STATE THEATRE 90TH ANNIVERSARY 8pm Monday-Saturday, Aug. 1-6. 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. www.goldenstatetheatre.com
- 8pm Monday, Aug. 1 Citizen Kane. Free;
- 8pm Tuesday, Aug. 2 Monterey County Pops. Free.
- 8pm Wednesday, Aug. 3 Michael McDonald. $49-$97;
- 8pm Thursday, Aug. 4 Local Band Night. Free;
- 8pm Friday, Aug. 5 The Monkees . $53-$97 (VIP packages $137, $385);
- Saturday, Aug. 6 Alvarado Street Block Party. Free.