New music, new traditions this year for cities’ summer concerts

Thousands head to Todos Santos Plaza each Thursday for the summer of Music & Market, which features traditional farmers market fare plus a concert. Concerts in Clayton are every other Saturday through August and in Pleasant Hill, lakeside concerts are on Sundays. (Pete Cruz photo)

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (June 24, 2024) — From Pleasant Hill’s 25th anniversary season, to the weeknight tradition in the heart of Concord and Concerts in The Grove bringing families together in Clayton, a robust summer concert scene is sure to please musical tastes from one end of the Pioneer readership area to the other.

New acts in Concord

This marks the 35th season for Concord’s Music & Market concert series in Todos Santos Plaza. From its humble beginning, the Thursday evening combination of music and food has grown into a huge affair – with crowds arriving early to put dibs on nearly every bit of the available green space.

While Lisa Roeber, the downtown program manager who oversees organizing the event, would love to bring in other activities, she also recognizes that would mean taking space away from folks who bring their blankets and lawn chairs to the plaza.

“It is a blessing to have so much interest,” said Roeber, “but we are limited on space. We are full. “That is why this year we have focused on just bringing in new music,” Roeber added.

Broadening the selection

The Rockers performed to a huge crowd on June 13, 2024. (Pete Cruz photo)

Sixteen concerts are on this year’s card, running through the end of September. The city had to whittle down from the hundreds of acts that again reached out to be part of the series.

Among the new notables Roeber sees attracting big crowds include a Taylor Swift cover act called Twist on Taylor Swift scheduled for Sept. 12 and Queenology on Sept. 26.

Prior to that, a fan favorite will be My Latin Roots performing a salute to Selena on Aug. 15.

“We have always had the main tribute (acts) and local bands, but we have tried to broaden the musical genres and offer more,” Roeber said. “Concord is a diverse city, and we are trying to have our music reflect it – something for everyone.”

She hopes the takeaway from this season is a family-friendly experience the community enjoyed, “something they will look back on.”

Heading down to the lake

Van Goat’s Swing Punk sound rocked Pleasant Hill on June 9. (Pete Cruz photo)

Meanwhile, this year marks the 25th anniversary of Pleasant Hill’s Sunset by the Lake summer concerts. These have drawn bigger and bigger crowds to the grounds of City Hall on Sundays through the years.

“We had no stage and no sound system or sound guy. The band set up on the sidewalk against the wall of City Hal,” recalled community relations manager Geoff Gillette. “About two years later, the city hired a sound engineer for the concerts and the music got even better.”

A few new acts coming to the stage include The Uninvited, Dirty Cello and Zebop, who join local favorites such as The Big Jangle representing a range from cover bands to some originals.

“We have a good selection of bands this season covering different genres like bluegrass and Latin roots,” said Gillette. “There should be something for everyone over the course of the season.”

Coming out of COVID, the number of applications has increased each year. The city selected performers from 125 acts that applied for this year’s eight slots. “The whole season is top-notch,” said Gillette.

Good food

Picnic fare has long been a tradition for attendees drawn to the lake site, with food vendors and local restaurants providing other alternatives. Post-COVID concerts have included a beer/wine truck.

“This year marks a full return of food vendors, with two food trucks and a beer/wine truck from Taste of the World at each concert,” Gillette said.

The goal has always been providing an event for the whole community. Following the success of a pilot program last year, the Civic Action Commission is holding a Family Fun Zone at the June 9, July 7 and Aug. 4 concerts this season. The area will feature a bounce house, face painting and more.

At the June 23 concert, the Bay Area Metropolitan Car Club will show off some of its rides on Trelany Road.

Groovin’ in The Grove

Clayton's summer Concerts in the Grove return July 17

Clayton has been welcoming folks to the Concerts in The Grove on Saturday evenings for 17 summers.

Vice Mayor Kim Trupiano described the current season as “eclectic and something for everyone. Lots of fun dance music with favorites from the past and today’s current pop tunes.”

The event kicked off May 25 and continues June 22. The season includes two additional concerts in July before three concluding the season in August. Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers perform July 20, along with returning favorites like Pride & Joy on Aug. 3 and East Bay Mudd on Aug. 31.

Working with a promoter, Trupiano said they did not have any issues lining up an exciting season again this year. The city is partnering with the Parent Faculty Club from Mt. Diablo Elementary School to collect donations, which will in turn provide support for the school.

“Lots of fun for the entire family, with music and dancing in Clayton’s idyllic Grove Park. It’s something our community at large looks forward to every year,” Trupiano said.

Related topic: Local concerts.

David Scholz
David Scholz

David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.